Central America's smallest country (tinier than the US state of West Virginia and just a bit bigger than Wales) gets a bad, exagerrated rap because of gang violence that's limited to a handful of the capital's rougher neighborhoods. But in fact El Salvador does offer visitors a safe a varied menu of beaches (including some surprising surfing), ecotourism, adventure, charming colonial towns, and even several interesting Mayan archaeological sites such as San Andrés, the "Pompeii of the Americas" - and without the crowds you might encounter in some of its more touristed neighbors, such as Costa Rica.

And will all of that to choose from, many visitors find themselves flying into the capital, then heading out to those beaches, rain forests, small towns, volcanoes, and more (not unlike the situation in Costa Rica, actually). But if you do come to visit, capital San Salvador is definitely worth at least a couple of days of your time, as well, and it's very close to most of the rest of the country's attractions (30 to 40 minutes from the beaches, for example). Here's why.

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