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The Wondrous Places of Fantastic Honduras

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Hello all, I know it’s been a long time (I feel a slight feeling of déjà vu!) so please forgive me! Time to tell you about my fabulous time in Honduras. This country has a terribly sad history and has never really accomplished a true democratic, economical and safe society. One small area, Copan, was a dominant Mayan city in the Classic Period but came into decline by the 9th century. When the Spanish arrived at the beginning of 16th century, it only took around 30 years for all resistance to be completely crushed. In 17th century, regular attacks by the British were occurring, causing regular conflict between the British and Spanish, with the local indigenous people being caught in the middle.

In dependence came in 1821, when Honduras became part of the Central American Federation before proclaiming a separate independent nation in 1838. From this point on liberal and conservative factions wrestled for power and control alternated between civilian governments and military regimes. At the end of 19th century US traders bought up lots of land and soon came the rapid growth in banana exports for Honduras. However this did not really help the people, as only the US traders really profited from the new export and gave the traders extreme powers over policy and politicians.

Democratic elections finally came about in 1981, but this did not create much reprieve for the population as political issues dominated as people from neighbouring countries, who found themselves in civil wars, crossed into Honduras and US increasingly used Honduras as a military base, maintaining their political control of the country. Finally in the 1980’s the Honduras government refused to continue the military agreement with the US and they soon left. But again this did not improve issues within the country; presidents never gained control of the gangs within the country, corruption grew within governments and the economy never really progressed.

Today’s Honduras is a sad example of a failing state; violence and crime between gangs, drug cartels and the military is still paramount, the Government is insanely corrupt, pilfering so much money that hospitals and other state establishments are under-resourced, and it has been the main transport route for drugs from South America to the US. Saying that, when I visited things were improving, ever so slightly, and tourism was increasing, mainly due to the fact that travellers were becoming aware that they are mainly safe in the country if they stay in the tourist areas and do not visit the more poverty stricken areas. Unfortunately, soon after I visited (about a month) things got bad again with major protests and riots after an election, that many believed was fraudulent, which saw the current President remain in power. This rioting has yielded the country unsafe once again for tourists to visit which is such a dying shame as the country has so many wonderful sights and the people were overwhelmingly friendly.

So that’s the history, let me tell you about my visit. I finally crossed the border after my long stay in Antigua and right on the other side was the town of Copan, my first stop. This was a nice ample sized town, nothing hugely special about it but with a lovely central plaza and some got shops and restaurants. The main reason to visit was to see the nearby ruins, one of the most important Mayan sites that dominated the region from 250 to 900 AD before falling into demise, the reason for which is still today unknown. When I arrived I was greeted by a plethora of Scarlet Macaws, these birds are so stunning it was a gorgeous sight and I was able to get quite close to take some great photos! There are two main reasons that Copan stands apart from the other Mayan sites I had visited, firstly for the amount of truly astounding stelas (beautifully and intricately carved huge statues). There were so many and each and every one was so exquisite, they really did take your breath away. The second reason is the hieroglyphic stairway, a flight of 63 steps that bears the history of the royal house of Copan through thousands of ornately carved glyphs. Of course this was incredibly impressive, even if you couldn’t get too close to take a proper look at all of the individual carvings.

Rio CanGrejal & Pico Bonito
After Copan I took two buses to the coastal city of La Ceiba, I was incredibly lucky as I got the last bus out of San Pedro Sula to Le Ceiba due to monumental rains which had caused major flooding in the region (and given San Pedro had the highest ho9micide rate in 2012 it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to hang about!) La Ceiba is a nice city but has nothing of great interest to see so I simply stayed overnight before heading off into the Jungle. I was picked up in the morning by my tour company and taken to my jungle lodge, it was a simple place on the side of the river surrounded by a beautiful jungle forest with a small stream running through the complex. Soon I was kitted out and ready to hit the river for some rafting. Unfortunately, due to the major rain, the rapids were no longer Grade 4 which I was expecting but Grade 2 and 3 instead. Still I had a great day crashing through the waves and taking in the wonderful surrounding with my groups of guides as there were no other tourists.

After spending a glorious night in my jungle tent I headed out in the morning to venture further into the jungle of the Pico Bonito National Park. I crossed the suspension bridge over the river and hiked the three hour return trail through the jungle to the enormous El Bejuco waterfall. The hike was wonderful, although a little difficult as several trees had fallen over the trail in the recent bad weather. I hiked through dense jungle, past wonderful viewpoints and across small rivers and waterfalls before approaching the magnificent waterfall. This waterfall was so big and I was standing right next to it as it cascaded down a very deep Cliffside, I can say I was certainly careful with my footing when taking photos. The hike back to the bridge was just as stunning and I was sad to have to leave my jungle hideaway and return to the big city.

After returning to La Ceiba and spending another night I hopped on a boat to visit the small Island of Utila. I was here for one reason only, diving, and spent the next four days hitting the sea each day and one evening to explore the reefs underwater. The diving here is dirt cheap, nearly as cheap as in Asia, and was pretty good as well, definitely not the best I have seen but there were still some wonderful sights and a few new species for me to find which is what I love! The corals were well kept, which meant they were just stunning, much like big beautiful gardens underwater. Some of the great creatures I got to see included file fish, barracuda, angel fish, trumpet fish, juvenile batfish, flamingo tongue and lettuce sea slug, the amazing neck crab and a bright yellow sea horse! I really enjoyed my dives here (I always enjoy diving regardless where I am) but I was a little disappointed with the dive shop I chose. Some of the guides were good but most were a little inattentive and we also had to dive with a huge group of researchers wh9o, whenever we spotted something good, invaded our space and scared away the creatures which was a real shame and careless on their part.

Besides the diving I did little else on Utila, I found some great restaurants and got into a daily habit of having scrumptious Baleadas (a tortilla stuffed with cheese, egg, meat, avocado, beans and hot sauce) at least once a day. I also got to chat to some of the local inhabitants who told me a sombre story of the Government giving little investment and support to the islands which lead them leading a difficult life with little decent infrastructure to help. I really enjoyed my time on Utila and although it rained every day, we also got some good sunshine and some wonderful sunsets which is always fabulous.

Lake Yojoa
My next journey was quite tricky and tiresome as it included over three buses and a couple of moto taxis (for those who have been to Asia these are the Latin American version of Tuk Tuks) and at one point I wasn’t sure I wanted to put the effort in but by God I was so pleased I did as Lake Yojoa was truly fantastic. I was only going to spend a couple of days there, but due to the excellent amount of sights nearby and some great friends I made whilst there, I ended up staying nearly a week. I stayed in a lodge called D&D Brewery, basically the only place to stay in the area and an amazing place to stay. The gardens here were just gorgeous and all day you were surrounding in birds and other animals, including literally dozens of hummingbirds at any given time.

I basically spent all my time here visiting different areas to try and spot wildlife, mostly birds (I am such a birder now it’s sad!) First I visited Los Naranjas Archaeological site, not for the ruins because they were rubbish but for the wonderful walk through the forest and along the boardwalk aside the lake which gave great opportunities for spotting birds. Unfortunately the park has fallen into disrepair and, although they still charge you to visit the site, they are doing little to improve things. The worst part was having to walk through muddy wasteland accompanied by two army officers just to find the kiosk to pay! I also went on an early morning boat tour on the lake with an amazing couple called Riv and Dani and our guide who spotted an amazing amount of birdlife, some of which were absolutely stunning. They did laugh at me a lot as on several occasions it took my ages to see the bird pointed out, long after everyone else had spotted it! Along with the brilliant birdlife the lake was just sublime in the early morning haze which we had all to ourselves. Finally I spent two full days exploring Paradise finca, a huge reserve where they had kept the gardens, forests and trails in brilliant condition. The finca was so large, which is why I returned for a second day, and again not only had some amazing birdlife to spot but also several different areas with wonderful plant life, lots of streams and small waterfalls and several great viewpoints of the lake. I really enjoyed my time milling along the trails and, although I am sure I would have seen a lot more with a guide, it was great satisfaction when I spotted a new bird myself.

So some of the birds I spotted (I know these words will mean nothing to most of you but a lot are also in the photos so hopefully you can appreciate how great they are, and besides I want to show off about what I saw!) the Montezuma Oropendola, which is a simple black bird with yellow in it’s tail which is impressive for a few reasons, it travels in groups and makes a hell of a noise, they do this really weird dance when calling for a mate and they make awesome hanging nests. A grey headed kite, a tropical king bird, a wonderful motmot, a broad-winged hawk (I think), grackles, a tiger heron, a crimson collared tanager, a northern jacana, a snail kite, a gartered trogon, a collared aracari, a golden fronted woodpecker, a sharp shinned hawk and many more I do not know the name of. Plus an American squirrel and some absolutely spectacular butterflies, one a vibrant green and black and another called a morphos butterfly which looks a bit like a moth on the outside of its wings and it’s a vibrant blue and black on the inside! So yeah I did pretty well and loved every minute of it! This place was so peaceful and dazzling I was so happy I visited.

After my brilliant time at the lake it was time to move on to a place called Gracias. It was apparently a pretty town and a good stopping point between the lake and crossing the border in El Salvador which was not possible to do in a day. It was another long and convoluted journey taking about 4 buses but luckily this time I had company to make it much more bearable. Riv and Dani were heading in the same direction and we had got on so well at the lake that we decided to spend some more time together travelling to and spending time in Gracias.

In the end Gracias was not an overwhelmingly exciting place but it was a nice enough town and we spent a day walking through the streets in the centre of town visiting lots of different small locally owned shops, one of which had literally pickled everything possible so was quite weird and interesting. We also went to a lovely coffee shop in some nice gardens and tried some locals teas and coffees. As it was Riv’s birthday I bought them some birthday cupcakes and we had dinner and some drinks to celebrate. It was a very nice relaxed day spent with some new friends, having a good laugh and exploring a truly local town in Honduras before preparing to cross into the next country.

Overall I absolutely loved Honduras, yes it has its problems but these do not really affect tourists. The sights you can see in this country are truly gorgeous as they are untouched and treasured by the community. Plus the local people were the friendliest I had met in Latin America so far, always wanting to help, always smiling and always happy to see tourists visiting their country. It saddens me that they have fallen back into a situation which means people cannot visit at this time but I hope things change soon as I truly think people are missing out when they skip Honduras on their travels through Central America which currently many people do.

Anyway that’s enough for now but I am determined to write again soon to get back up to date, so expect another blog soon about all my adventures in El Salvador!

Love you all so mucho! Speak soon people, keep happy and smiling! xxx

Posted by Meg_Nomad 19:08 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

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