Hooray… Honduras travel is changing
Honduras travel suggestions, Maya snippets, things to do
Honduras travel article written by Travel Journalist Solange Hando
Hooray… Honduras travel is finally changing for the better. After decades of social and political turmoil, Honduras is slowly emerging on the tourist map. Cruise ships call in Roatan Island or mainland Trujillo on the Banana Coast where the rainforest meets the sea. Meanwhile more intrepid travellers venture along the trails in search of mountains and jungle, wild life and deserted beaches.
Some Honduras travel info
Bordered by El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, Honduras is hemmed between two coasts, the Pacific to the south lapping the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north, the longer Caribbean shore lining the Gulf of Honduras. Shaped like a triangle, it is the second largest country in Central America with a population exceeding 8 million, over a million of them in the capital Tegucigalpa or Téguz for short. Tucked in the southern central highlands, Téguz sits on the banks of the Choluteca river in a valley surrounded by open woodlands but prone to floods during the rainy season. In the historic centre, churches, museums and pastel-hued buildings bear witness to the Spanish colonial past while thriving businesses and embassies share the modern district with upmarket residential areas.
But the city’s poor safety record, coupled with the attractions of the natural world, soon see visitors on their way, starting perhaps in La Tigra, the oldest of Honduras 20 national parks, climbing up to over 2000 metres. Criss-crossed by hiking trails to suit different abilities, the forest greets you with pines, oaks and ceibo trees – the latter sacred to the Maya – and a profusion of bromeliad and ferns mingling with orchids, lichen and vines. Streams and waterfalls gurgle in the shadows and you might spot some of the wildlife, deer, monkeys, armadillos or agoutis, though pumas – after which the park is named – keep to remote areas. Tread softly to see a few of the 350 species of birds, including mocking birds and hummingbirds and the sacred quetzal.
Honduras travel adventures
But top of the list for birdwatching is Yojoa, the largest lake in the country and a popular stop on the highway from Téguz to San Pedro Sula in the north. Ringed by mountains and forests, largely undisturbed, it boasts 485 species of birds. There’s sailing and rowing, tubing or ziplining for adrenaline seekers, hiking in the forest or visiting the renowned coffee plantations… unless one prefers to check out the microbrewery. On the edge of the rainforest near La Ceiba, the Rio Cangrejal claims some of the best white water rafting in Central America but if this isn’t for you, the cool mountain scenery and the call of tropical birds are a treat.
Along the Caribbean coast, on the spot where Christopher Columbus landed in 1502, Trujillo is a colourful place, most lively when a cruise ship comes in. Relax on the beach, enjoy the laid-back Caribbean ambience, lunch on succulent seafood and see the Spanish fortress of Santa Barbara with its cannons pointing out to sea. Some 20 to 60 km offshore, Roatan and the smaller Bay Islands beckon with the largest coral reef in the Caribbean, second only to Australia’s Great Barrier. You can snorkel or dive among shoals of tropical fish, lounge on the white sands of West Bay or explore the mountainous interior. Long before the Europeans arrived, the Paya (or Pech) people had set up trading communities on these islands but only a few artefacts in the museum recall their ancient civilisation.
It is a similar story on mainland Honduras where little is known of the early settlements. There is however one major exception, for just a few km from the border with Guatemala archaeologists uncovered the ruins of a Maya city, dating back to the Classic Period (250-900 AD). This was the golden age of the Pre-Columbian Maya civilisation when some 60 city-states flourished, among them Copan from 400 AD onwards with a 20,000 strong population and a total of 16 rulers. Copan does not have the grand monuments of better known sites but it is unique in the Maya world for the abundance and quality of its hieroglyphs and sculptures on stelae, walls and altars, such as stone skulls, jaguars or kings in full regalia. Respected for their knowledge of astrology which elevated them to near-god status, kings and high priests ruled supreme and wherever you turn, every inscription, every carving or frieze reveals another facet of the fascinating, yet often cruel, Maya culture. Then as you wander through the trees, gazing at the Acropolis, the Great Plaza, the temple ruins, the ball game court or the long staircase, the past seems to haunt every corner of the land and the sudden squawking of a red macaw sends shivers down your spine. The site is protected by UNESCO and with few visitors around, it is one of the most atmospheric of its kind.
Just along the road, the namesake village is a picture postcard of steep cobbled lanes and brightly-painted façades leading to a quiet square where locals watch the world go by. Red tuk-tuks rattle here and there, a few craftsmen set up trade on the pavement and there’s a sprinkling of souvenir shops and eating venues draped in hibiscus and bougainvillaea. Lush mountains rise all around, the river babbles in the valley and you couldn’t dream of a better place to take a break before the next leg of the journey.
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Copan Maya ruins
Honduras national bird
Maya ruins, Copan
Images on this Honduras Travel page are copyright of Travel Journalist Solange Hando and Editor Linda Jackson