Sights of Honduras
Ruin sites, rainforests, colonial cities, island archipelagos and dream beaches – a Honduras trip has it all. Here are the top 10 sights.
1- The Mayan ruins of Copán
The site in far western Honduras is one of the most famous and oldest Mayan ruins anywhere. They are said to have lived here as early as 1,200 BC, taking advantage of the fertility of the small valley. The Río Copán, which caused slight flooding there until the 8th century AD, provided fertile soil. The mountains surrounding the valley, up to 2,000 meters high, protected the inhabitants from adverse weather and unwanted intruders. In addition, tuff, granite and jade deposits provided the best conditions for the people’s architecture. From this the impressive temples, stelae, altars and hieroglyphs were created. For example, the longest Mayan hieroglyphic record describing the history of the kings of Copán was discovered on the steps of a staircase. The Mesoamerican ballcourt is second only to the one at Chichén Itzá in Mexico. For all of these wonderful landmarks, it’s definitely worth making an arduous detour to the remote village of Copán, near where the ruins are located and itself also very charming with old, colorful buildings and cobblestone streets.
2- The Islas de la Bahía: Roatán, Guanaja and Útila
The Bay Islands, located between 30 and 100 kilometers from the Honduran mainland coast, are a natural paradise. They are particularly well known among diving and snorkeling tourists from all over the world, since the second largest coral reef in the world is found off their white-sand beaches. While divers are mainly found on Roatán, Útila is especially popular with backpackers, while Guanaja is popular with more demanding travelers, especially from the United States. The distinctive flora and fauna are also interesting; some reptile species, for example, are found only here. But whoever arrives on the islands will first be surprised by the different culture and language of the people. The mixture of peoples, which consists partly of Garifuna and Creoles, speaks a Creole mixed language, or often a very simplified English, which probably goes back to the pirates, who were always up to mischief on the islands.
3- The Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve
The area of this reserve, which is one of the last tropical rainforest areas in Central America, extends over 5,000 square kilometers from the Caribbean Sea to the mountains at an altitude of over 1,300 meters. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List particularly because of its biodiversity, although its existence has long been threatened by illegal logging, agriculture and cattle ranching, and introduced new species of animals and plants. The reserve is home to pumas, tapirs and jaguars, among others. Also worthy of special protection is the traditional way of life of the approximately 2,000 Miskito and Pesch Indians, who still go about their simple lives untouched by modern civilization.
4- Tela and the Punta Sal National Park
The town on the northwestern coast of Honduras has great attractions. The beach alone – the most popular and visited in all of Honduras – is a highlight. But also the old town in colonial style and the nearby national parks like the Jeanette Kawas (also called Punta Sal) are popular sights and destinations. Just as on the Bay Islands, the Garifuna have settled here, descendants of African slaves of the conquistadors, who cultivate a lively culture and cuisine, excerpts of which should not be missed.
5- Lago de Yojoa
Unlike its neighbors Guatemala and Nicaragua, Honduras has only small inland lakes to offer. The largest and most beautiful of these is Lago de Yojoa, only about 90 square kilometers in size. But birdwatchers get their money’s worth here in particular: up to 750 bird species nest on its shores, which are otherwise lined mainly with pineapple, coffee and citrus plantations. Hiking trails and archaeological sites near the lake complete the picture of the perfect excursion destination from San Pedro Sula.
6- The Cayos Cochinos
Only about 100 people live on the small two islands of Cochino Mayor and Cochino Menor off the Honduran coast. This is partly because the archipelago, with its additional 14 coral islands, covers only about two square kilometers, but also because of the marine reserve that surrounds it. Here the preservation of the underwater world has priority, so that also the number of tourists is rather limited. Whoever gets lost on this Caribbean island paradise will be rewarded with wonderful white sandy beaches, turquoise water and mostly best weather – of course best outside the hurricane season.
7- Semana Santa in Comayagua
Comayagua is a medium-sized city with wonderful colonial architecture, which is visible, among other things, in the oldest clock in the Americas, located at the local cathedral. The city is also famous for its Easter processions, which come close to the spectacle in Antigua Guatemala, but are celebrated on a smaller scale. The early morning marches through the old streets of the city, where The Coffin of Jesus is carried at a slow pace, are a goosebump experience not to be missed. Also famous are the beautiful sand and flower carpets that are prepared for hours on the cobblestones on Good Friday of Semana Santa, among other days, over which the procession then proceeds.
The capital of Honduras is one of the most dangerous cities in the world (the second largest city, San Pedro Sula, is even more dangerous), but that doesn’t mean you should necessarily avoid it completely. Despite violence and crime, it is worth a short trip to the old town, where you should visit the former presidential palace (now a museum), as well as the cathedral San Miguel Arcangel at Plaza Morazán – certainly best during the day and never alone, without attracting much attention with expensive clothes or jewelry. From Parque La Leona you have a magnificent view of the old town.
9- La Ceiba
La Ceiba is not only the gateway to the Islas de la Bahia, but also has a lot to offer itself. The typical checkerboard pattern of a colonial city with cobblestone streets runs through it, in front of the door the warm, Caribbean sea and a nightlife that is unparalleled in Honduras. A proverb even says: “Tegucigalpa thinks, San Pedro Sula works, La Ceiba celebrates”. In addition to the ships to the Bay Islands, the small boats to the idyllic Cayos Cochinos also operate from here. Furthermore, the Pico Bonito National Park can be reached from La Ceiba, as well as the first-class rapids of the Río Cangrejal.
10- Río Cangrejas
Even for the more adventurous, Honduras has a natural gem in store: the Cangrejal River has one set of rapids after another, making it a real highlight for rafting enthusiasts. Shortly after the three rivers Río Viejo, Río Blanco and Río Yaruca unite within 100 meters to form the mighty Río Cangrejal, it drops into a deep canyon. From this point, it flows for 25 kilometers, almost 300 meters in altitude, towards the sea level and finally pours into the Caribbean Sea. This drop in such a short distance makes it one of the steepest rivers in Central America. Break a leg!