Honduras by region: where to go
Tegucigalpa and the East
The capital, Tegucigalpa, known locally as Tegús, has a pleasant climate because of its altitude of 3,000 feet, and is the gateway to the Pacific coast. The eastern extreme of the country is known as Moskitia, or the Mosquito coast (the name comes from an Indian tribe rather than the insect!). Sparsely populated, with vast tracts inaccessible except by boat, much of the area is protected and any serious exploration takes dedication and time.
Close to the Guatemalan border, the town of Copán Ruinas is charming, with cobbled streets and very friendly people. The principal attraction here is the Maya site of Copán, known for its intricate 3-dimensional carvings, unique hieroglyphic stairway, and fully restored Ball Court. Inhabited up until the late 900’s or so, archaeologists have identified 4 distinct phases, or levels, in the construction of the most impressive structures. The archaeological work involved has been immense: after nearly 100 years’ work (it was rediscovered in 1839) only 25% of the site has been investigated.
A few hours’ drive north is the commercial capital of Honduras, San Pedro Sula, a useful gateway for international flights. The coastal road heads east from here, past banana and pineapple plantations, to Tela and La Ceiba, the country’s third largest city. Places of interest within easy reach include the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, salt and freshwater wetlands with many birds and some manatees, and the Pico Bonito National Park, cloud forest with jungle trails and tumbling rivers, waterfalls and streams.
The Bay Islands were for many years the haunt of pirates, and subsequently home to marooned slaves (so English is widely spoken). The Bay Islands were for many years the haunt of pirates, and subsequently home to marooned slaves (so English is widely spoken). Nearest the coast are the islands that include Cayo Cochino, a National Marine Park. Further north Utila is popular as the cheapest place in the world to learn to dive (although it also has the most sand flies!). Guanaja has no roads, and the main town, built mainly on stilts, is often referred to as the ‘Venice’ of Honduras. Colombus landed here on his fourth and final voyage to the Americas and called it Los Pinos because of the large population of pine trees (most of which were knocked down by hurricane Mitch).
Roatan, the largest of the Bay Islands, is about 40 miles long and hilly. The airport is at Coxen Hole (where cruise ships dock), which together with French Harbour are the largest towns. The western part of the island is the main tourist destination, with West End the most vibrant spot with a variety of bars, hotels and restaurants. Most visitors are here to dive or snorkel as the whole island is surrounded by a reef with wonderful coral. All the islands are afflicted to some extent by sand flies, which affect sandy areas near the ocean and are active during the day. They leave a small red mark which usually disappears within 24 hours and does not normally irritate. A strong wind helps keep them away (the months with least wind are July and August). There is plenty to see and do apart from diving, including visits to an iguana reserve, botanical gardens, or to see bottlenose dolphins, which are studied here. For the intrepid there is even a zip wire which descends in 11 stages to West Bay, the prettiest beach on the island.