Why you need to visit the tiny country of Honduras
At the heart of Central America lies the tiny country of Honduras. But it’s a lot more than a bridge between Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, or the mid-point on your travels through Central America. Population-wise, Honduras may be a small country, with only about 9 million inhabitants, but it offers a diversity of experiences for travellers to enjoy. It also is host to the most bilingual schools in all of Latin America, which means a lot of people speak at least a little bit of English.
In a tiny corner of Western Honduras, about 10 minutes from the border with Guatemala, lies a small town with a big reputation, Copan. The archeological site of Copan was the capital city of a major classical period kingdom from the 5th to 9th Centuries AD. Even if you have been making your way from Mexico, through Belize or Guatemala and seen plenty of Mayan ruins, this one holds something very special. The hieroglyphic stairway is simply “out of this world,” not seen in any other Mayan ruin, and is sure to impress. The jungle setting, with huge Ceiba trees, a steady breeze and scarlet macaws (the national bird of Honduras) squawking overhead, lends to the magic of the site. You will need a couple hours at least, listening to your local guide explain the intricacies of the people who once inhabited this mysterious place. After exploring the Copan ruins, walk back into town and enjoy one of the many incredible restaurants that showcase the local food: exquisite local cheeses, tasty baleadas, tender meats, incredible coffee and, of course, some chilled local beers! Copan is a small, sweet, safe little town with a photo opportunity on every corner. Whether it’s the cowboys hanging out with their horses, women selling their street food or tuk-tuk drivers giving you a wave and a smile from their little green or red machines, the people are as friendly as you’ll find anywhere. After the ruins and a tour of this enchanting town, you’ll want to head off to Macaw Mountain, a refuge for birds such as scarlet macaws, toucans, owls, hawks and more. The birds are normally rescue birds that have been saved from smuggling rings. It’s a beautiful tour, perfectly set up, with an entry price that includes a full English-speaking guide, always a bonus. Other activities in Copan could include a visit to some rustic hot springs, a coffee tour up in the mountains, including lots of tasty samples, or a horseback ride to local villages.
The Bay Islands of the Caribbean side of Honduras are absolutely a hit with divers, snorkelers and those just looking for a bit of down time. The most popular islands are Roatan, Utila and Guanaja. The department capital is Roatan, the largest island, and that includes an international airport. Arriving from mainland Honduras, though, you would catch a ferry from La Ceiba. It’s only an hour-and-a-half ride and, although a little choppy at times, it will feel so worth it when you arrive in paradise! Roatan has so many nice spots, your choice will depend on what you are looking for. West Bay has a few resorts, gorgeous beaches and world-class restaurants. West End, on the other hand, has many dive shops, and some smaller beaches where you can snorkel straight off the shore. Everyone here is a bit more laid back. For a little exercise, you can walk from West End to West Bay in about an hour, or so, picking up some stunning photos along the coastline.
You should really get out and explore not only the beauty of the island, but also its people. It’s an epic mix of Islanders from the Garifuna culture to Miskito Indians. Not a lot of people realize that the island hosts so many different cultures so we really can’t recommend an island tour highly enough. Utila is a smaller island that is very chilled out, more of a backpacker hangout. It has some of the cheapest diving in the world, which is, of course, part of the attraction. If luck is on your side, this is where you might also see whale sharks, year round! Growing up to 40 feet and weighing 15-20 tonnes, it’s a magical experience you won’t ever forget!
Guanaja is for adventurers. It is a little larger than Utila but not as well set up for tourism as Roatan or Utila. Though equally beautiful, it’s definitely more rustic and a little more remote. Daily flights will get you there from both the mainland and Roatan, or you can take a ferry from Trujillo, about 160 kilometres east of La Ceiba. A fabulous hike to the top of the island will ensure stunning views and a hike to the north side of the island will take you to enjoy a lovely local waterfall.
In short, Honduras isn’t just the country where your coffee, bananas or lobsters may come from. It’s a special little country with friendly locals that you should absolutely put on your list of Central American countries to see! West Adventures’ tour, “The heart of Central America,” spends six days in Honduras.