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Honduras Outdoor Adventures

 

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 warm smile.

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.

Language

Spanish is the official language of Honduras. Caribbean English is spoken on the Bay Islands, as well as Spanish.

Main Attractions

Honduras possesses two world heritage sights, the Copan Ruins and the Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve.

The 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.

The 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 lodges.

The 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 http://www.roatanet.com.

North Coast

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.

La 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

On the 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.

Colonial History

Comayagua

If you 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

For the history buff, San Pedro Sula, the industrial capital of Honduras; and Tegucigalpa, the capital city, provide a medley of museums.

San 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 trails.

How to get there

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.

About the Author

Maria is a freelance writer living in Honduras who writes for http://www.travel-to-honduras.com, which provides detailed Honduras travel information.

Learn more about Honduras by visiting our other Honduras Pages

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Honduras Attractions

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Last modified: April 15, 2009