Trekking under the canopy: a condensed guide to Honduras
by Maria Fiallos
A trip to Honduras, the
quintessential banana republic, conjures visions of endless fields of fruit
ripening under a tropical sun and sweat browed laborers. An image that until
recently was not far from the truth. Although its lacks the comforts of mass
tourism destinations, and banana plantations are still aplenty, this small
country is fast becoming a favored eco-tourism destination. Exotic wildlife,
free-flowing rivers, mist-covered cloud forests, coral reefs, and mile upon
mile of white sand beaches are attracting those with a hankering for nature.
Complementing the effusive natural surrounding are historical small towns
featuring central plazas, colonial architecture, and white-washed adobe
homes with red tiled roofs that blend harmoniously into the landscape. The
friendly inhabitants, who are known as ladinos or mestizos due to their
European and indigenous mixed ancestry, will invariably greet you with a
Whether you're in search of a luxurious nature retreat, a beach resort, a
Spanish school, a dive vacation, a bird watching expedition, or a bare-bones
trek through the jungle, the country's burgeoning tourism industry caters to
all tastes and budgets. Geography, Location, and Weather
Flanked by both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Honduras is a small nation
with an area of just 43,281 sq mi (112,100 sq km). It is situated in the
middle of Central American isthmus, and bordered by El Salvador, Nicaragua,
and Guatemala. Central and Western highlands enjoy a temperate climate,
while the north coast region is typically hot and humid and the south coast
is hot and dry.
Spanish is the official language of Honduras. Caribbean English is spoken on
the Bay Islands, as well as Spanish.
Honduras possesses two world heritage sights, the Copan Ruins and the Rio
Plátano Biosphere Reserve.
Copan Ruins are a definite must see with the longest hieroglyphic stairway
in the Maya World as well as the most intricately carved sculptures.
Archaeologists have deciphered most of the hieroglyphs, which recount the
history of the 16 rulers of the Copan Dynasty. The Maya ruler's tradition of
erecting new structures on top of a previous king's temples provides a
fascinating view of the lost culture, as well as a couple of ghostly tunnel
tours. The archaeological site includes a large museum that contains many of
the park's original sculptures. The picturesque adjacent town of Copan
Ruinas offers accommodations ranging from rustic to sophisticated.
Activities in and around town include hiking in the nearby mountains or to
the waterfall, visiting the Macaw Bird Park, a coffee farm, or an indigenous
community where you can watch artisans at work.
Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Central
America, with an area of 3,300 sq miles (8,500 sq km.), is a vast tropical
rainforest located in the isolated northeastern part of the country commonly
known as the Moskitia. The reserve is very hard to get to as no paved roads
lead into the region. If you're in search of the ultimate eco-adventure,
you've come to the right place. Water vehicles are the preferred mode of
transportation in this area of coastal lagoons, floodplains, and
free-flowing rivers. Inland mountains shrouded by broadleaf forests house
mysterious petro-glyphs and native villages. Three indigenous groups inhabit
the reserve: the Miskito, the Pech, and the Garifuna. All speak their own
languages (as well as Spanish) and live traditional lifestyles. Many also
offer lodging and guide services. Accommodations are usually basic riverside
Bay Islands of Honduras
Located from 20 to 40 miles off the north coast of Honduras, the Bay Islands
are a well-known diving destination with their clear, warm waters and
pristine, white sand beaches. Utila, Roatan, and Guanaja -the three large
islands- offer a complete array of diving packages and dive certifications.
Accommodations range from bunking at the dive shop to luxury hotels on the
beach. You can go fishing, sailing, kayaking, swimming with the dolphins,
and diving with the whale sharks. For more Bay Island travel information and
online reservations visit
Honduras's Atlantic shoreline stretches nearly 500 miles (800 k) offering a
myriad of tropical eco-adventures through broadleaf forests and coastal
lagoons, as well as cultural immersion in Garifuna (Afro-Caribbean) villages
dotting the beaches throughout the region.
Ceiba, a major port and the third largest city in Honduras, is graced with
two outstanding protected areas, the Pico Bonito National Park, a mountain
reserve with heights of up to 7900 ft (2435 m); and the Cuero y Salado
Wildlife Refuge, a manatee reserve. Activities include whitewater river
rafting, mangrove canoe tours, rainforest treks, a butterfly farm, a
butterfly museum, horseback riding, bicycle tours, and bird watching.
Accommodations in the city include a full range of hotels. Along the
Cangrejal River and on the Pico Bonito Mountain there are several
eco-lodges, including two luxury ones. La Ceiba is also the gateway to
travel to the Moskitia and the Bay Islands.
smaller city of Tela, located an hour west of La Ceiba is home to the
Jeannette Kawas National Park, which covers a large lagoon system and
extends into the ocean at Punta Sal (Salt Point), where you can even go
snorkeling. The Lancetilla Botanical Gardens, the second largest botanical
garden in the world, is also located here. A bird watcher's paradise, over
400 of the nearly 700 species of birds found in Honduras have been seen in
Tela. For the avid bird watcher, the Audubon Society sponsors an annual
Christmas bird count here.
western highlands, home to the Copan Ruins, also boast a trove of small
villages that were originally settled by the Spaniards between 400 and 500
years ago. Colonial forts and churches with gold-filigree altars are amongst
this region's treasures. Cultural activities can also be found amongst the
Lenca Indians, the largest ethnic group in Honduras, who reside in this
region. Lenca women produce beautiful handmade pottery of varying hues,
using methods that have been passed down through the generations. Sacred
ceremonies, which are an eclectic mix of Indian and Catholic traditions, can
be observed during religious celebrations.
Celaque National Park, the country's highest peak at 9,347 ft (2,849 m),
towers above the colonial town of Gracias, the very first capital of
Honduras. Celaque is an indigenous word meaning "box of water." And indeed,
this wondrous mountain forest contains 11 watersheds. Trekking under the
forest canopy to the summit takes a couple of days, but you will be rewarded
with a unique cloud forest experience.
edge of the western highlands, located about an hour south of the city of
San Pedro Sula, is Lake Yojoa, another favorite bird watching destination
with more than 400 species of birds. The lakeshore also houses Los Naranjos
Eco-archaeological Park, an early Lenca settlement.
have the time, a half-day detour to the colonial city of Comayagua is highly
recommended. Although the process is ongoing, the city has been largely
restored, and it contains several interesting sights, which include: one of
the oldest working clocks in the world, a cathedral, four colonial churches,
an archeological museum, and a religious art museum.
Museums and more parks
the history buff, San Pedro Sula, the industrial capital of Honduras; and
Tegucigalpa, the capital city, provide a medley of museums.
Pedro Sula is the gateway to travel in Western Honduras and by land to
Antigua, Guatemala. In the city's backdrop is the Cusuco National Park,
which is famous for quetzal sightings.
Tegucigalpa is usually a necessary stopover for those traveling by land to
either Nicaragua or El Salvador. Much of the city's water is supplied by La
Tigra National Park, an easily accessible cloud forest with well-marked
Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and Roatan in the Bay Islands have
international airports. Taca and Continental fly daily into cities of San
Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa.
Continental, Delta, and Taca Airlines have direct weekend flights from and
to the United States and Roatan from Houston, Miami, and Atlanta.
Maria is a
freelance writer living in Honduras who writes for
http://www.travel-to-honduras.com, which provides detailed Honduras
Learn more about Honduras by visiting our
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