Where to Go
One of the first cities ever founded in Honduras, Trujillo was favoured by the Spanish thanks to the depth of its bay, which was used for the famously giant Spanish merchant ships. As a result, Trujillo is the place to go for lovers of the past, with a history that spans the ages: from pirates to conquests, banana companies, corsairs, and pre-Columbian antiques, Trujillo is unique.
The centre includes the beautiful San Juan Bautista Cathedral, as well as the Santa Barbara Fortress, while a little outside the town backpackers will find the Capiro and Calentura National Park, as well as the famous Banco de Estrellas de Trujillo which is home to over 30 different types of starfish, all in one tiny spot.
The ancient town of Copan Ruinas is famous for its Mayan ruins, but it offers up so much more than that; with beautiful cobbled streets and bright white buildings with contrasting red roofs, Copan is a charming place to get stuck into.
The locals are always friendly with the tourists, and there are a number of restaurants and cafes to try the local delicacies. Nearby, travellers will discover the chocolate factory of Tjokomaya, designed to bring back the ancient tradition of making chocolate that was first used by the Mayans over 1000 years ago.
There are also local coffee plantations, Macaw Mountain – which rescues and rehabilitates the endangered macaw bird – and, of course, the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Mayan Ruins of Copan.
La Ceiba is the best place in Honduras if you love the environment, and you’re looking for an eco-trip this is the spot to head to.
Considered the ecotourism capital of Honduras, La Ceiba has four different, diverse National Parks, as well as the Cangrejal River Area that’s perfect for white water rafting, and the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge offers the opportunity to paddle through mangrove canals and spotting monkeys in their natural habitats.
Plus, La Ceiba is known as Honduras’ “good-time town”, with a buzzing nightlife that can be found in Barrio La Isla, the city’s nightlife district.
Gracias is great for both cultural and historical tourism, with historic buildings dotted through the colonial town, sandwiched between local stores and restaurants offering delicacies not found anywhere else.
Once the home of war chieftain and leader of Honduras, Indio Lempira, Gracias can be found at the foot of the Celaque mountain, and has been an important part of the landscape since the time of the conquest.
The historic centre includes the Fort of San Cristóbal, and nearby is the Cerro de Celaque National Park which includes several trails that visit the Cerro de las Minas.
Right in the heart of the country, Comayagua was first founded in 1537 in the name of the King of Spain and was once the capital of the Province of Honduras during the colonial times.
An important religious and political centre of Honduras for over 300 years, travellers can wander past the ancient churches, through the colonial plazas, and witness the fantastic procession of the Holy Way of the Cross on Good Friday for the town’s Easter celebrations.
The town of Comayagua is also home to a regional museum which depicts the human occupation of the area that stretches back thousands of years, as well as the Museum of Religious Art.
What to Do
Bay Islands Underwater Museum
Near the island of Roatan, off the coast of Honduras, avid divers can find up to four eras of history under the surface of the blue Caribbean waters. The museum is home to countless artefacts and sculptures, from Spanish galleons to canoes that were once used by settlers of African descent. If you look hard enough, you can even spot a submerged Mayan cemetery.
Beautiful gardens with a number of different trails taking travellers through the 40 acres of protected forest, all of which descend on the Carambola Mountain. The top of the mountain can be accessed via a 1km trail, and from there you can see all the way to Utila if it’s a clear day. The Carambola Gardens are also home to the Iguana Wall, where hikers can spot a number of iguanas and parrots.
Found along the northern coast of Honduras, Cayos Cochinos is a small archipelago that has been designated a Marine Biological Reserve. Here, backpackers will find two islands covered in lush forests, with coral cays dotted around the coastline. Plus, the Cayos Cochinos coastline forms part of the second largest barrier reef system, the Meso-American Barrier Reef System.
Explore the National Parks of Honduras
There are a number of beautiful national parks in Honduras to explore, like the Pico Bonito National Park in the Nobre de Dios mountains, bordered by pinapple plantations, cattle farms, and gushing rivers. The park’s wildlife varies because of its high altitude, so it has tropical forests along the valley floor and then cloud forests among the peaks of the mountains.
Another fantastic National Park is the Jeannette Kawas National Park, named after an environmental activist who was murdered after fighting to get this land a protected status, and therefore designated as a national park. The park is home to all sorts of wildlife, from howler monkeys to manatees and marine turtles, and over 100 different species of birds.
The Cave of the Glowing Skulls
The official name is the Talgua Caves, the Cave of Glowing Skulls is known as this because of the way the light reflects off the walls and skeletal remains that can be found here. Once used by the Mayans, it’s one of the most extensive cave sites discovered which was used specifically as a resting place by Mayans.
Go on an Expedition Through the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve
A national park first established in 1982, the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering 1,300,000 acres. The reserve is home to thick rainforests, open savannahs, mountains, and a number of important archaeological sites, as well as over a thousand different species of animals.
Eat Street Food
Backpacking around Central America is often not great on the food front, but Honduras is different. In fact, some of the best food can be found at the street food vendors, for broke backpacker prices – what more could you ask for? Just make sure you try the baleadas.
Read More About Honduras
Best Time to Visit Honduras
There isn’t really a bad time to visit Honduras, but if you want to try and avoid the rain then the dry season typically sits between December and April. This is the best time as it’s less humid, although the average temperature of Honduras doesn’t tend to vary throughout the year.
No matter when you go, you can pretty much guarantee weather between 27 and 32 degrees Celsius.
In terms of festivals, Honduras really can pack a punch when you visit – if you go at the right time. April sees the Punta Gorda Festival, an annual event celebrating the first Garifuna people arriving on the island of Roatan which involves a lot of traditional music, costumes and food.
Alternatively, May sees the San Isidro Fair, a buzzing carnival with numerous parades and traditional costumes making up the number one event on the Honduran calendar.
How Much Does it Cost
Budgeting for Honduras can be tricky; some things are very cheap, like food and drink, while others can cost a pretty penny, like transportation and accommodation. Similarly, most of the tours and scuba diving trips can cost a lot.
A typical budget would be between $25 and $45 a day on the mainland, but if you plan on spending a lot of your time on the Bay Islands this could go up to $50 to $75 a day.
Typical costs while backpacking across Honduras:
Although it is a fairly cheap country, there are still plenty of ways to save a bit of extra cash when backpacking through Honduras.
Travelling during the off season is the best way, when flights and hotel prices are cheaper, and also travel light to avoid paying extortionate baggage fees.
Planning your meals can be a big money saver as well; eating out is fun, but it can quickly add up, so plan where and when you’re going to eat, and take advantage of complimentary breakfast at your hotel, or any cooking facilities your accommodation may have.
You can also often find deals for various tours and attractions online.
What to Pack
Backpackers need to pack light, but you also need all of your essentials – which can be a tricky line to balance. The heat in Honduras means lightweight clothes are best, such as linen, cotton, or silk, as well as a mixture of shorts, capri pants, and short-sleeved shirt.
Bug spray is a must, as are good walking shoes for the number of hiking trails, a waterproof jacket to protect from the Honduras rain showers, and a US plug adapter.
You’ll also need a towel and soap – especially if you’re staying in hostels – a swimsuit for any water activities, a first aid kit, a sweater for the chillier regions in the centre of Honduras, high-quality sun cream (at least SPF 35), a flea collar to wear around your ankle and keep the sand flies at bay, and, of course, your passport.
Another handy thing to pack is toilet roll, and a Spanish translation book. Also, remember that you need $40 to exit the country (if it’s not already included in your flight ticket price).
There are a number of different accommodation types across Honduras that are just perfect for backpackers. Sure, you could stay in the typical hotel or bed and breakfast, but these are often unnecessarily pricey – and when you’re travelling, you want to keep costs as low as possible.
Instead, why not stay in a typical backpacker hostel; a very popular option, they’re typically more basic than the average hotel, with simple bunks in dormitories – or private rooms for a slightly higher price.
In some of the more popular tourist spots such as the Bay Islands or Copan, the hostels have better facilities, and are often just a bit nicer than in the more rural areas.
Honduras is also fantastic for activity hostel and eco-lodges, if you’re looking for something a bit extra from your stay. For anyone looking to scuba dive, snorkel, or enjoy their time in the water a bit more, many of the scuba diving centres in Utila and Roatan are also hostels themselves.
Plus, given that the country is full of lush forests and jungles, there are a number of high-quality eco-lodges for the environmentally conscious travellers. Head to any of the national parks – like the Pico Bonito National Park just outside of La Ceiba – to make the most of these.
The main way to get around is along the main highways that connect the major cities. Driving conditions tend to be fast and erratic, so it’s probably not worth renting a car, but instead use one of the several coach companies that offer short and long-distance travel between major destinations.
Within cities, taxis offer a flat rate so they’re handy to get around, or there are buses in many of the major towns and cities that offer tickets at a reasonable price.
There is also pretty decent air travel across the country, with Avianca and Aerolíneas Sosa that operate daily services between Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and other towns.
If you own an EU, USA, Canadian, Australian, or British passport then you don’t need a VISA to get into Honduras, you just need a passport that’s valid for at least 6 months after you arrive in the country. Tourist visas are valid for 90 days, and an entrance permit will be issued which you must return upon departure.
Food and Drink
The country might not be famous for its local delicacies, but it definitely should be. Although the main foods eaten are beans, rice, and tortillas – you’ll probably find at least one of these in every meal – there are a number of specialities worth trying.
These include plato típico, which is a “typical dish” consisting of steak, plantain chips, pickled cabbage, beans, rice, sour cream, and tortillas, as well as the traditional enchiladas, and tamales (otherwise known as fresh corn cakes).
Another great local dish to try is tapado, a Garifuna speciality that consists of fish and seafood stew, or get the barman to make you up a licuado: a milkshake made from local fruits such as mangoes, pineapples, watermelons, and bananas.
The drinking age is 18, so if you’re old enough then make sure you try any number of the local rums made across the country, including the Pirate’s Grog made in the Bay Islands.
When you’re travelling anywhere it’s polite to read up a bit about the local customs to avoid accidentally offending anyone – and this is even more important when you’re backpacking, and ultimately relying on the hospitality and friendliness of the locals.
A few things to bear in mind when backpacking through Honduras:
- Shake hands and say the phrase “mucho gusto”, which means “nice to meet you”. In the countryside, locals will also lower their heads as a sign of respect.
- Hondurans love talking about the weather, and family. The country is very family-centric, so it’s not uncommon for someone in their 30s to have a teenager.
- Avoid talking about work, as it’s considered poor form and off-putting.
- A 10% tip is the norm for waiters and tour guides, but not for taxis.
While the majority of Latin America speaks Spanish, typically every country has their own unique version of it. So while the basics stay the same, there are a few little differences that could really help you on your way through Honduras.
- Buenos dias / tardes / noches
- Como estás
- Por favor
- Sin bolsa de plastic
- No entiendo
- Me puedes ayudar, por favour?
- Good day / evening / night
- How are you
- No plastic bag
- Excuse me
- I don’t understand
- Can you help me, please?
- Okay / alright / great
- Top notch / cool / amazing
Is It Safe?
Although most of the violence is centred around the big cities, there are a number of warnings associated with travelling to Honduras. The country has a problem with gang activity, armed robbery, drug trafficking, and violent street crime, although the biggest problem facing backpackers is pickpocketing as violence against tourists is fairly limited.
The key is to take steps to stay safe:
- Stay aware of your surroundings
- Stay in at night and avoid overnight bus journeys
- If you’re mugged, don’t physically resist, just hand your wallet over as quickly as possible
- Avoid discussing travel plans in public
- Leave expensive jewellery and watches at home
- Don’t use your mobile in public
- Visit ATMs in safe places e.g. shopping malls
A Brief History
Originally the home of native American tribes from roughly 250AD until 900AD, Honduras was part of the peak of Mayan civilisation, some of the most advanced and powerful indigenous people.
The country wasn’t discovered by Europe until 1502 when Christopher Columbus claimed the land for Spain, which was soon followed by the Spanish conquest in 1523.
In 1821, Honduras gained its independence from Spain and became an independent country in its own right in 1839 after breaking away from Mexico. It was around the same time that the exportation of bananas dominated the Honduran economy, and in 1932 General Tiburcio Carias Andino was elected president, where he established a dictatorship which lasted until 1949.
Today, the country is still affected by the disaster of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, although the return of tourism is helping it to recover.
- Honduras actually has two capital cities: Comayaguela and Tegucigalpa
- It’s historically been known as banana republic because of it’s over reliance on banana exports and the unstable economy
- Local buses are called chicken buses because of their brightly painted exteriors
- It’s home to one of the oldest clocks in the world: originally built in 1100 AD by the Moors in Spain, it’s now in the Cathedral of Comayagua
- It’s illegal for smokers to stand closer than two metres to non-smokers
- Christopher Columbus discovered Honduras, and his first words were “thanks god we got our of these great depths”. As a result, the literal translation for Honduras is: Great Depths
- A lot of Hondurans on the Bay Islands are direct descendants of British Pirates who travelled to the island over 500 years ago, so they’ll typically have blonde hair and blue eyes
- The five stars on the Honduran flag represent the five countries of Central America. The middle star represents Honduras, because it shares borders with every other country
- Honduran money is known as Lempira, named after an Indian chief who died trying to save his land from the Spanish
If you really want to make the most of your time in Honduras, then check out these useful resources. When you’re backpacking, it’s always better to be safe and prepared than winging it.
- Links incoming