This is a guest post by Tom Mcloughlin. If you’d like to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read more here.
People travel all over the world on their backpacking trips and Central America is often on the list of places to go. Mexico draws in people for its array of beaches, Guatemala pulls in those looking for an insight into its Mayan past and Costa Rica offers jungles and pristine beaches side by side. But Honduras is rarely mentioned and often used as a simple stopover as backpackers work their way down through the continent.
This is a major oversight. For all its recent political difficulties, Honduras has a wealth of stunning places to visit, most of which are yet to be tainted too heavily by the tourist development brush. From beautiful beach destinations to historical monuments, there’s plenty to keep the backpacker entertained in this troubled country.
The Bay Islands
The Bay Islands are usually atop the traveler’s list, with Utila and Roatan the most popular of the three.
Utila is the place to go for your scuba diving exploits but offers little else outside of happy hour. If it’s the paradise island experience you’re after then you should head to Roatan. It’s beginning to get more developed as American tourists become increasingly aware of its idyllic setting, but that is for good reason. Stunning beaches, crystal clear waters and wonderful marine life make it the perfect beach getaway.
West End is where backpackers flock to, and this is where most of the hostel accommodation is found, though it’s worth venturing to the eastern end of the island at some point to soak up some of the Garifuna culture. This is characterized by brightly coloured local dress, the beating drums and maracas along with outrageous, hip shaking ‘punta’ dancing, you won’t believe how high the Garifuna girls can shake it!
Outside of the Bay Islands, Copan Ruinas is another common destination.
Home to Mayan ruins that are worthy of a day’s exploration, its real beauty is in the surroundings; rolling hills which play host to coffee plantations and hot springs amongst others. There’s plenty to explore and the best way to do it is on horseback. I’d never ridden a horse before I visited, but before I knew it, I was knee deep in a gushing river and galloping along the banks! It’s a real adventure and one I’d recommend to any traveler who has stopped in to see the ruins.
The town itself is beautiful as well; a labyrinth of cobbled streets and pristine monuments, you could sit out for hours on end with the best coffee you’ve ever tasted, watching the world and its horse go by.
The Eastern Jungles
But the real diamond in the rough is a road rarely traveled by tourist feet. The eastern part of the country is made up of near total jungle: the area known as “˜La Mosquitia’ (“˜the mosquito’). This is a place that is borderline inaccessible and has no roads, all transport is via the interlinking rivers flowing between the trees.
To get there, you have to fly in a small biplane which touches down on a strip of grass hidden in the foliage. On my visit, there were kids playing football on the runway as we came in to land!
From there, you jump on a “˜cayuco’ (a dugout canoe) and head into the jungle on the river, not knowing when you’ll next step on dry land. As you chug along the vast waters you can see monkeys jumping from tree to tree, hear birds singing, and very occasionally see a crocodile’s eye sparkle in the undergrowth of the riverbank.
After what seems like an endless amount of time you come across villages dotted along the rivers, populated by people who haven’t been outside the jungle walls. They know the 30 people who live in the huts around them and have seen few other faces in their lives. Depending on the length of your trip you’ll stay in various villages along the way and get further into the jungle, getting to know the people and feeling more like an explorer every day. It’s an amazingly rewarding place and I doubt that I’ll ever visit anywhere as remote again.
So there you have it, Honduras should be on your list! And that’s just the half of it. There are great towns sprinkled across the country, National Parks that will take your breath away (“˜La Tigra’ to name but one) and beach towns littered along the north coast.
Find the adventurer in you and give Honduras a go.
About the Author: Tom Mcloughlin is editor of Top Backpacking Destinations, a guide to the best places around the world for travelers to visit. He first caught the travel bug teaching English in Roatan, Honduras and has been on the road as much as possible ever since. You can follow him, @BackpackerBoy, on Twitter for more info on destinations around the world.