Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Travel Secrets -

You know… Pom­peii, Italy

The sites of Pom­peii and Her­cu­la­neum are hum­bling experiences. Noth­ing in travel cap­tures so bluntly the power of na­ture that re­sulted in these two towns be­ing smoth­ered in vol­canic ash. Some 2.5 mil­lion vis­i­tors a year ar­rive to glimpse the frozen lives of Ro­mans in 79 AD. But it isn’t unique…

But what about… Joya de Cerén, El Sal­vador

Un­like their tragic Ro­man com­padres, the res­i­dents of the Maya vil­lage of Joya de Cerén (32km from San Sal­vador) got a lucky early warn­ing sign that dan­ger was im­mi­nent. When El Sal­vador’s Loma Caldera vol­cano erupted in 595 AD, a quake gave the lo­cals no­tice that it was time to make a swift exit, but in do­ing so they aban­doned their be­long­ings and homes to the ash. The re­sult was a mo­ment in Maya his­tory cap­tured in car­bon, from a dish where you can still see the fin­ger­prints in an in­ter­rupted meal, to painted books, household ob­jects, even a corn on the cob.

Ob­jects sur­vive in their car­bonised form or as casts, of­fer­ing an peek into early Me­soamer­i­can life, as you wan­der their ex­ca­vated homes in peace. Com­bine with a visit to El Bo­querón (Big Mouth) Na­tional Park for hik­ing trails up its 5km-di­am­e­ter crater, to just get a feel­ing for how dev­as­tat­ing that erup­tion must have been.

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