Where to go

With the popularity of the Bay Islands as a diving destination, mainland Honduras is often missed in the frenzied rush towards the sea. And, while the beauty of the islands cannot be overstated, picking a route that takes in some of the smaller towns of Honduras gives a far better understanding of the country as a whole.

The capital,
Tegucigalpa
, has an old, colonial sector and a new section with modern hotels, shopping malls and businesses. Across the Río Choluteca is Tegucigalpa's twin city,
Comayagüela
, the working heart of the city with the markets and bus terminals. Around the capital, there are colonial villages, old mining towns, handicraft centres and good hiking areas, including
Parque Nacional La Tigra
, which will make ideal trips for a day or two.

West of Tegucigalpa
, near the border with Guatemala, is Honduras' premier Maya archaeological site
Copán
, where new discoveries continued to be made, and some fine Maya
art can be seen. A short distance from the site, the well-restored town of
Copán Ruinas
is a colonial gem and, nearby, the site of
El Puente
is beginning to reveal treasures hidden for centuries. Closer to the capital, quiet colonial towns such as
Gracias
and
graceful
Santa Bárbara
are the site of opal mines, Lenca indigenous communities and the
national park
of
Mount Celaque
. There is lots of good hiking in the vicinity of the popular colonial city of
Santa Rosa de Copán
. A good way to explore this more traditional part of the country is to pick a route, travel in short distances and soak up the calm and tranquillity.

From Tegucigalpa a paved highway runs north to
San Pedro Sula
, the second city of the republic and the country's main business centre. The road passes the old colonial capital of Comayagua and beautiful Lago Yojoa. Northwest of San Pedro Sula, the
north coast
has a number of centres of interest to the visitor. The main port is
Puerto Cortés
, to the west of which is
Omoa
, an increasingly popular beach and fishing village with an old fort, from which an overland route enters Guatemala. East of San Pedro Sula are
Tela
, a more established resort, and
La Ceiba
, a good base for visiting the nearby national parks of Pico Bonito and Cuero y Salado, whitewater rafting trips on the Río Cangrejal and departure point for the Bay Islands and La Mosquitia. Further east,
Trujillo
, sitting at the southern end of a palm-fringed bay, was once the country capital.

Curving in an arc off the cost near La Ceiba, the
Bay Islands
of
Utila
,
Roatán
and
Guanaja
, plus the smaller
Hog Islands
, are some of Honduras' main tourist destinations. Travellers visiting just one part of Honduras often pick the islands. The diving is excellent and Utila is currently the cheapest dive centre in the Caribbean. The islands also have good beaches.

Northeast of Tegucigalpa
is the province of Olancho, an agricultural and cattle-raising area that leads eventually to the Caribbean coast at Trujillo. Juticalpa and Catacamas are the main towns, and the mountains of the district have cloud forest, hiking trails and beautiful conservation areas. Beyond Olancho is
La Mosquitia
, most easily reached from La
Ceiba, which is forested, swampy and almost uninhabited. Efforts are being made to promote sustainable development among the Miskito and the Pech. Ecotourism initiatives have been set up in some coastal communities and inland, making for adventurous and rewarding travel where the main ways of getting around are by boat, small plane or on foot.

Honduras' short
Pacific coast
on the Gulf of Fonseca is little visited, other than en route to Nicaragua and El Salvador. The main towns in the region are Choluteca and, in the gulf, Amapala, on the extinct volcanic Isla del Tigre. Another route to Nicaragua is that
east of the capital
through the town of Danlí, which passes the Panamerican Agricultural School at Zamorano and the old mining town of Yuscarán.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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