Conchagua Volcano Camping: Everything You Need to Know

You should absolutely add Conchagua Volcano to your El Salvador itinerary. One of the most unforgettable experiences I had during my year traveling Central America was a Conchagua Volcano camping trip in El Salvador.

If you’re confused where to start and how to even get to Conchagua Volcano, then I have everything you need to know in this article.

Consider this your complete guide to everything Conchagua Volcano – let’s go!

conchagua volcano sunrise el salvador
Sunrise views on Conchagua Volcano – one of my favorite travel experiences ever!

Why Should You Go on a Conchagua Volcano Camping Trip in El Salvador?

I firmly believe that everyone visiting El Salvador should consider going on a Conchagua Volcano camping trip.

Personally, I’d never even heard of Conchagua Volcano before I arrived in the sandy surf town of El Tunco, El Salvador. But as soon as I saw a photo of the sunrise views from the peak of this volcano, I knew I had to visit. Maybe you can relate?

So much about El Salvador surprised me and it’s no secret that it became one of my favorite countries I’ve ever visited. My epic overnight camping trip to Conchagua Volcano was a big part of that.

You will LOVE Conchagua Volcano if you:

  • Appreciate sunrise and sunset views
  • Want to go a bit off-the-beaten-path
  • Are a photographer or just want to get a great insta shot
  • Enjoy camping, but don’t want to rough it too much
  • Have a week or more in El Salvador
sunrise conchagua volcano in el salvador
Views over the Gulf of Fonseca from Conchagua Volcano at sunrise.
gulf of fonseca el salvador
Beautiful islands in the Gulf of Fonseca.

About Conchagua Volcano

Conchagua Volcano is an inactive volcano in El Salvador. It’s particularly special because at its peak, you get panoramic views over the stunning Gulf of Fonseca.

The bay is dotted with islands and from this unique vantage point you can see El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua all at once! It’s particularly gorgeous at sunrise.

Some interesting facts about Conchagua Volcano in El Salvador:

  • 1,225 m (4,019 ft) tall
  • Two summits: Cerro del Ocote and Cerro de la Bandera 
  • Located in El Salvador’s eastern La Union department
  • The name means “flying jaguar”
  • Originally settled by the indigenous Lenca people
  • No known eruptions in the past
  • The best views anywhere in El Salvador!!!
car view driving to conchagua volcano
Those first views of Conchagua Volcano as we drove toward it!!
conchagua volcano sunrise
Stunning sunrise on Conchagua Volcano.

Camping on Conchagua Volcano

The best way to visit Conchagua Volcano is by an overnight camping trip. This is because of its remote location in eastern El Salvador (most touristy spots are on the western side of the country).

Distance to Conchagua Volcano:

  • San Salvador: 3.5 hours
  • El Tunco: 4 hours
  • Santa Ana: 4.5 hours

As you can see, those are all a long drive, and wouldn’t be very fun as a day trip.

Additionally, the BEST views on Cochagua Volcano are at sunrise. You look east over the Gulf of Fonseca and as the sun rises over the islands, it’s just stunning. You will need to camp overnight to experience sunset and sunrise.

Can You Visit Conchagua Volcano as a Day Trip?

Yes, it is possible to visit Conchagua Volcano as a day trip. However, I really recommend an overnight camping trip if you have time.

The views are otherworldly at sunrise and sunset, and it’s less crowded at these times.

Is it Safe?

Yes, it is quite safe to visit Conchagua Volcano in El Salvador.

conchagua volcano camping tent
Our lovely tent, home for the night!
view over gulf of fonseca from tent
Talk about 5 star views…

Conchagua Volcano Camping: Independently vs. Tour

Like most travel in El Salvador, there are two ways to visit Conchagua Volcano: independently or via an organized tour.

We chose to visit Conchagua Volcano on a tour because logistically, without our own form of transport (a 4×4 is necessary), no camping gear of our own, and being based in El Tunco, it was going to be downright impossible to visit on our own. I’m really glad we did and I share all the details about our tour below.

How to Visit Conchagua Volcano Independently

It is much more complicated to visit Conchagua Volcano independently, but it’s possible if you plan enough. Your first challenge is to get to La Union, the closest city to Conchagua Volcano. Check out hotels in La Union here.

Once in La Union, there are a few options for getting to the peak of Conchagua Volcano:

  • Drive your own vehicle. Note that you NEED a high clearance 4×4 and the road up the volcano is crazy rough to drive.
  • Book a spot on a 4×4 shuttle up the volcano. They depart from La Union twice daily (more details below).
  • Hike up the volcano. There is no separate trail so you’d just be walking up the road the whole time, which is a bit dangerous.

To camp or take the shuttle, you’ll need to make a reservation in advance. And of course bring your own camping gear (there is food available on site).

To make a reservation, contact the people who run the campsite at the peak of the volcano. This is called Mirador Espiritu de La Montaña. Message them on WhatsApp (+50374849950) or on their Facebook page.

As you can see, visiting Conchagua Volcano independently as a tourist to El Salvador can get VERY complicated. That’s why I recommend a taking a tour instead.

Mirador Espiritu de La Montaña campsite on conchagua volcano
The Mirador Espiritu de La Montaña, before the tents got set up!
Mirador Espiritu de La Montaña
Tents starting to get set up on the platform at Mirador Espiritu de La Montaña.

Conchagua Volcano Tours

A number of companies offer Conchagua Volcano tours. Honestly, most local Salvadorans visit Conchagua Volcano by a tour, too, since it’s so much easier than visiting on your own. So, you’ll be in good company!

Some tours are obviously better than others; it depends what you are looking for.

Club de Mochileros de El Salvador is the cheapest option (usually around $65 all in) but you will be leaving with an absolutely HUGE group and limited to weekends and San Salvador departure only.

Tunco Life is a more expensive option ($125) and this is who we went with. They offer a much more bespoke, private, small group experience with high quality camping gear and lots of different departure points. It’s very relaxed and personalized.

I share about our trip below.

conchagua volcano sunrise
There’s really nothing quite like the sunrise views from Conchagua Volcano.
conchagua volcano in el salvador views
(Although the dusk and sunset views are pretty good, too!)

Our Experience Camping Overnight on Conchagua Volcano

Below is a quick look at our experience visiting Conchagua Volcano with Tunco Life. It will give you a good idea of the itinerary.

Keep in mind that Tunco Life is pretty flexible, and you can add on other side stops to beaches, a monkey sanctuary, and other things along the way. They can also pick you up most places in El Salvador. We were coming from El Tunco, but you could start from San Salvador, Santa Ana, and other places, too.

9:30am | Depart El Tunco and Start Drive

Salva (the owner of Tunco Life and our tour guide for our Conchagua Volcano camping trip) picked us up at our accommodation in El Tunco around 9:30am.

From there, we started the drive to Conchagua Volcano! It is about a 3.5 – 4 hour drive from El Tunco to Conchagua, but we made some stops along the way.

Our first stop was after about 40 minutes of driving. Salva stopped for us to buy some roadside coconuts. A kid in a red Superman shirt leaned in the car window and asked Salva to teach him how to drive the car! So cute.

We drank our coconuts in the car and continued along our way.

driving in el salvador
Had to pull over when we saw all these coconuts!
coconut in el salvador
Coconut for the road.
Dan drinking coconut in el salvador
Dan and I shared one between us!

11am | Rio Lempa Stop

At around 11am, we stopped on the bridge over the Rio Lempa.

Salva told us this is the biggest river in El Salvador. It divides El Salvador into east and west, and separated the indigenous tribes.

rio lempa bridge in el salvador
The bridge over Rio Lempa!
view to conchagua volcano driving in el salvador
Then, we could see Conchagua Volcano herself!

1:45pm | El Cuco Beach Stop

Around 1:45pm we reached El Cuco Playa, a tiny beach town. Salva said that in time this will become “surf city 2.0” but it’s currently not anywhere near as developed as El Tunco.

We had a long break here and Dan and I walked along Las Flores playa. It was low tide so the beach was huge, with some cool cliffs and rock formations to explore. There were a couple shack-type restaurants and fishing boats moored in the sand.

el cuco beach el salvador
El Cuco Beach.
sarah on el cuco beach el salvador
I loved exploring the cliffs and caves along El Cuco beach.
fishing boat on beach in el salvador
Lots of colorful boats here!

3:30pm | Conchagua Town and Pupusas Stop

From there, we got back in the car and drove onward to Conchagua, the small town at the base of Conchagua Volcano. We reached it around 3:30pm and took another exploration (and food) break.

There were some pupuserias by the town square. We stopped for some delicious hot pupusas for .75 cents each. I bought five, and all of the pupusa ladies laughed at me, but I took two as leftovers to eat for dinner!

What can I say? I love pupusas.

mural that says CONXAGUA
Conchagua is a tiny town with a lot of beautiful street art.
pupserias el salvador in conchagua town
The pupuserias in the main square of Conchagua Town.
pupusas in conchagua town el salvador
We ordered a late afternoon feast!
pupusas in conchagua town el salvador
A great stop before driving up the volcano.

4pm | Drive Up Conchagua Volcano

By 4pm, it was time to drive the road up to Conchagua Volcano summit, and to the Mirador Espiritu de La Montaña campsite.

At first the road had good pavement, but pretty soon it became bumpy, twisty, and I could tell why the 4×4 was absolutely necessary.

Salva was a great driver and I was very grateful for him because I would not have wanted to drive that “road” myself.

Another thing I should mention here is that the Tunco Life car is extremely nice. It is new, air conditioned, spacious, and high clearance. I mention this because I spent a lot of time clinging on for dear life in the bed of old rusted-out pickup trucks in Central America, and this was not one of them!

car in el salvador
The Tunco Life car – sooo nice.

4:45pm | Set Up Tents

Once we got to the top of Conchagua Volcano, we parked the car and then set up our tents on the wooden platform overlooking the Gulf of Fonseca. Thankfully, we’d arrived earlier enough to get “front row seats” directly overlooking the water.

Salva had some very high quality tents and sleeping bags that he brought, and we rented the sleeping mats at the campsite.

The view was unbelievable and it was only going to get better!

Salva setting up tents
Salva, owner of Tunco Life, helping set up the tents!
Tunco Life tents on summit of conchagua volcano
Our tents – we got a PRIME spot with stunning views.
campsite on conchagua volcnao
The campsite has a panoramic wooden platform for tents. Best spots go to those who arrive early!

6pm | Sunset

As the sun began to set, Salva took us on a short hike to a mirador (viewpoint) where we could actually see the sun set through the plants.

A big fluffy, husky-type dog accompanied us on our hike and I became quite attached to him! Salva told us he has seen this dog since he was a tiny puppy. You will probably meet him, too!

sunset on conchagua volcano
As colorful a sunset as I’ve ever seen.
sunset on conchagua volcano
Sunset on Conchagua.

7:30pm | Dinner

After the sunset, Salva went to order our dinners from the snack hut. Dan and I relaxed in our tent for an hour, and then around 7:30pm we went to pick up the dinners, some hot chocolate, and ate together at a picnic table.

Personally, I just ate my leftover pupusas (I have celiac disease and have to eat gluten free and wasn’t sure what options would be available – so thought it was better to pack some food! You may want to do the same if you have any dietary restrictions).

dinner for conchagua volcano camping trip
This is the classic dinner offered at the campsite. Bread, eggs, beans, cheese, and plantains.
These are the pupusas that I brought with me for dinner!

8:30pm | Stargazing

After dinner we all lay down on the wooden platform by our tents and stargazed. There is a bit of light from La Union city, but the sky was still star studded with a visible milky way. I spotted Orion’s Belt, the little and big dippers, and Pegasus. Just stunning.

10pm | Bedtime

Then, it was time for bed. We brushed our teeth in the sinks by the bathrooms (it’s VERY useful to have a headlamp at this point because it’s so dark).

The campsite bathrooms are super simple but have all you need. I found them clean which is the most important thing. There is one stall for women, one for men, and an outdoor sink.

After that, we read our books and fell into a deep sleep. It was windy up on the peak of Conchagua Volcano, but didn’t get too cold. Inside the tent, I wore leggings, a tank top, and a long sleeve shirt. Outside the tent, I wore a fleece, hat, and waterproof jacket (I found Tunco Life’s tents and sleeping bags warm enough that I didn’t need them in my sleeping bag!).

sarah and dan inside tent
Pardon our delirious faces from the camera flash inside our tent… but we were soo happy!

5:30am | Sunrise on Conchagua Volcano

At 5:30am Salva called to wake us up. The tents were quite opaque so Dan and I thought it was still dark out – we slept so deeply.

I unzipped the tent flap and was stunned by a sky of red streaks along the horizon. The sunrise was incredible, with the contrast of reds, pinks, and oranges at the horizon paired with the glassy blue water of the gulf, and the navy humps of the islands.

Suffice it to say, I took a lot of photos.

sunrise view from conchagua volcano el salvador
Sunrise over Conchagua Volcano… there’s really nothing like this.
sarah sits and watches sunrise over gulf of fonseca
sarah sits and watches sunrise over gulf of fonseca
sunrise over gulf of fonseca
conchagua volcano sunrise
conchagua volano sunrise
conchagua volano sunrise
sarah sits and watches sunrise over gulf of fonseca
Dan watches sunrise from peak of conchagua volcano
Just… epic.

7:30am | Drive Back to El Tunco

After that, we packed up our tents. We took a short break to Salva to record interviews with us overlooking the bay (perhaps you will see our interview clips playing at his new store front in El Tunco! Let me know if you do!).

At 7:30am, we left for the bumpy drive back down Conchagua Volcano – thanks to our fearless driver, Salva.

We took a more direct route for our drive back to El Tunco, but did stop off around 9:30am at a gas station for coffee and a buffet breakfast. (If you’re gluten free like me, I’d recommend you pack your own food or pick up some pupusas).

I think I was still in a daze when we arrived back to El Tunco around 11am. What an absolute adventure!

Dan on conchagua volcano
Sarah on conchagua volcano
Sarah and Dan smile in selfie on conchagua volcano el salvador
Dan and I had such an incredible overnight camping trip to Conchagua Volcano.

What to Pack for Conchagua Volcano Camping

Your packing list for a Conchagua Volcano camping trip will greatly depend on if you visit independently or with a tour, like we did.

Since we visited with Tunco Life, they packed our tent, sleeping bags, and other camping gear. If you are traveling independently, you need to organize your camping gear yourself.

Other items to pack include:

  • Head lamp (this is a MUST have)
  • Portable battery pack and cables
  • Fleece
  • Hat
  • Waterproof jacket (for wind protection)
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Shorts/tank top
  • Pajamas
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, towel)
  • Toilet paper
  • Kindle, cards, entertainment
  • Slide-on sandals for camp shoes (I use these waterproof Birkenstocks)
  • Swimsuit
  • Camera – I use the Canon EOS M6
  • Snacks
  • Cash
  • Sunglasses

If you have any dietary restrictions like me, you’ll also want to pack some food (otherwise, food is available on site). Personally, I brought my favorite travel tupperware and stocked up on pupusas which I ate throughout our overnight trip. I also brought some granola bars, jerky, and bananas.

Another idea is to pack dehydrated camping meals like these if you are coming from home (we were backpacking longterm, so I had to work with what was already available in El Salvador!).

Sarah's legs overlooking gulf of fonseca
As you can see, I switched into socks and my plastic birkenstocks at the campsite!
Sarah smiles on conchagua volcano in front of view of water and islands
I wore a tank top, shorts, and hiking boots during the day because it was very hot with plenty of walking!

How to Book

If you choose to visit Conchagua Volcano with Tunco Life, then you can book your tour here.

Remember that Tunco Life is a 100% locally-owned El Salvador tour company. They specialize in slower paced, private or small group tours and their price does reflect this (but I still think it’s quite reasonable considering everything you get in return).

If you book with them, please tell them that Sarah of Endless Distances says hi!

Salva owner of Tunco Life on Conchagua Volcano camping trip
Salva, our fearless leader!
Salva owner of Tunco Life on Conchagua Volcano camping trip
Couldn’t recommend Tunco Life more highly.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Conchagua Volcano in El Salvador

Not many tourists visit Conchagua Volcano due to its remote location, but it’s DEFINITELY worth the trip.

I hope that this article helps you plan your trip to Conchagua Volcano in El Salvador. Like I said, it’s one of the best things I did in El Salvador and actually, all of Central America at that!

Let me know in the comments how your visit goes, and as usual please let me know about any changes so I can keep this post updated for future travelers!

Pin it for later…
Conchagua Volcano is an inactive volcano in eastern El Salvador. Read here for everything you need to know about Conchagua Volcano camping.
Conchagua Volcano is an inactive volcano in eastern El Salvador. Read here for everything you need to know about Conchagua Volcano camping.

Looking for more?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *