Concepcion de Ataco
Favored by abundant water, lavish nature and the certainty of being the only place where people can actually live in peace when it comes to the being in the farthest spot on the face of the earth, the first dwellers of these lands settled down in this location in the Ahuachapan province.
As time rolled on, the first Spanish explorations washed ashore and the first settlers came in, mixing their blood with that of the indigenous inhabitants, building a shrine to worship the Immaculate Conception and shaping that place into some kind of main square and main street. This picture-perfect small town throve thanks to coffee plantations –penciled in among the finest in all Central America– and put itself on the maps with the weaving of motley fabrics in homemade looms, as well as the making of earthenware artifacts and other handcrafts.
The Salvadorans say this is the only place in the entire country that preserves its cobblestone streets and where the millenary culture of the Nahualts –the nation’s original inhabitants– is best exposed. And this is owed to isolation and the uphill trek they embarked on for centuries, leaving mountains and rivers behind, sauntering down long pathways jam-packed with snags, sprinkled by extreme moisture and constant rainfall that seemed to get worse off with each passing year.
Today, the town can be reached through an excellent thoroughfare –the CA 8– designed to put all those drawbacks in the back of the traveler’s mind. The ride lets visitors watch typical towns on both sides of a road the country’s tourism promoters first marketed as the Route of Flowers, a clear allusion to the stroll’s major values: nature and landscapes.
Place of High Springs. That’s the name the Pipile Indians gave to this city of northern El Salvador, in the heart of the Apaneca Sierra, and that has lived out as one of the most charming places to feast eyes on in this entire region.
What to See in Ataco
The first thing that meets the eye in Ataco is the vivid colors the neighbors paints their houses with –many façades are decorated with flower murals and other details like tiles. Even the lamp posts have been artistically intervened.
It’s a small city dominated by a lovely church on one side of the main park, a bustling place always teeming with locals who gather there to jaw it up and enjoy the quiet and pleasant atmosphere. A beautiful fountain spruces up the heart of the plaza, featuring a statue of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception.
People are humble and friendly, there’s abundance of manufactures and handcrafts that are directly sold in porches and small in-house stores. There are restaurants dishing out great food at unbeatable prices and many outlets where travelers could sip a cup of coffee in a variety of recipes. There are also small and intimate hotels with everything it takes to make you feel at home.
In addition to an array of trails, nature-oriented tours and visits to coffee-making estates or other towns in the vicinity, Ataco’s listtopping attractions are the socalled Atzumpa Pools, a place boasting breathtaking waterfalls and ponds of crystal-clear water in
IN THIS SMALL TOWN OF NORTHERN EL SALVADOR, THE EXPLOITATION OF HOMEMADE LOOMS AND COFFEE ARE BY FAR THE MAIN POWERHOUSES
the middle of the tropical forest, yet outfitted with all necessary services and conveniences to spend the whole day there.
Another must-see is the so-called Cruz del Cielito Lindo (The Pretty Little Sky Cross), a watchtower that lets visitors watch the city and the surrounding scenery all day long. The Pio Pietrelcina Square is one of kind due to its height and curious origin. It was built by the Caliche Moran family atop the Ilamatepec Apaneca Sierra in appreciation for a miracle granted as a space for both relaxation and worshipping, closer to heavens, by the town’s saint patron.
Despite being a humble city, the nights of Ataco are as charming as they get. The downtown area opens its variety of bistros, the colonial lamp poles light up around the main park, visitors walk out of their hotels and people from any part of the planet show up, as probably nobody ever thought that could actually come to pass just a few years ago