Central America is emerging as a popular holiday destination. And while travel companies have been offering trips to Mexico and Costa Rica for many years, it’s now the turn of the second largest country in the region, Honduras, to step into the tourism spotlight. So what does it have to offer?
I spoke to Rafe Stone from tour company Journey Latin America, to find out. “It’s a little known country but there’s a lot to see,” said Rafe. His company offers a tour called ‘Jungle, Islands and Mayan Ruins’ and I asked him what travellers could expect to see on the trip. “There’s a Mayan citadel called Copán that’s absolutely spectacular. It has Mayan ball courts, stelae, which are Mayan totem poles and it’s set in thick jungle.”
Rafe says unlike many Mayan ruins in the region, Copan is a place that has much more to offer. “It’s the sort of place where you can spend several days,” he explained. “The adjoining town of Copán is a beautiful small colonial town. You can walk to the archaeological site and then from there you have all the lush coffee plantations and jungle.”
Most people will visit Honduras for the wildlife and scenery and Rafe told me there’s plenty to see. “There’s a coastal area where you’ve got over 350 species of bird. There are also three or four different types of monkeys.” And Rafe said there are some trips that let you view the wildlife in a more unusual way. “I’ve done one or two night hikes where you see snakes, different types of reptiles, spiders and beetles that glow in the night. It’s quite spectacular.”
If you enjoy plenty of activities on your holiday, then Honduras should keep you happy. “There’s a mountain range called Pico Benito, which is not only good for wildlife and bird spotting but is also very good for active adventures,” said Rafe. “You’ve got rivers there for rafting, there’s self-guided trekking and you can do horse riding.” Rafe said the underwater activities in Honduras are stunning too. “It’s got some of the best reef in the western hemisphere for diving. There are the Bay Islands, which are an archipelago just off the coast and are fantastic for snorkelling, diving and those who basically just want to crash out on the beach.”
Some of the Bay Islands, such as Roatán have been undergoing rapid development recently, with direct flights introduced from the USA. But Rafe says you can still find peace and quiet there. “Roatán as an island is popular and there are direct flights from Miami. It has seen some development but I was pleasantly surprised when I went there. Because of the topography, with high ridges dipping down into bays, you can be in one area and not see any developments going on in another bay.” And if you really want to escape the crowds, Rafe told me there are plenty of other islands to choose from. “There are quieter, more laid back islands, such as Utila. It’s very popular with backpackers. The infrastructure is more basic but there’s less development.”
Rafe said Honduras has a fascinating and diverse culture, mixing both Latin American and African ancestry. “There’s an area called Punta Sal, which is home to the Garifuna Indians. They’re descendants of African slaves. They have their own music – it’s more African than Spanish. You’ve got the Spanish roots mixed in with that so there’s a lot going on.”
So how safe is Honduras? The UK Foreign Office says Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world and warns against travelling on public transport. But Rafe says his company’s tours avoid the most dangerous parts of the country. “There are areas of concern. They tend to be in the cities, but there’s no real reason to spend any time there. Most visitors to Honduras shouldn’t have any problems. By travelling with a reputable company, we rely on good contacts within the country to keep our clients safe.”
You can find out more about visiting Honduras at Journey Latin America.