How Honduras ‘Ruin’ed Me
First up, I give no apologies to the terrible pun – the worse they are, the better they are!
If you’re not into the diving scene and have no desire to join it, you could be forgiven for thinking Honduras doesn’t offer much else to the regular backpacker. Speaking to fellow backpackers, the general opinion of those who haven’t visited Honduras is that it is dangerous, dangerous, dangerous. After all, it was home to the murder capital of the world (San Pedro Sula) up until last year, until the situation in Venezuela caused Caracas to surpass its homicide rate. So if diving in Utila or being robbed at gunpoint doesn’t interest you – why would you bother?
The answer is the sleepy little town of Copan in the west of Honduras, right on the Guatemalan border. As soon as you jump off the chicken bus and walk through the arch of the main entrance, you will be greeted by colourful colonial buildings, coble stone streets and extremely friendly locals. Penelope (my Canadian travel buddy) and I stayed in Berakah Hostel which was the perfect location with a supermarket on the next block, as well as cafes, restaurants and the centre square all within 5 minutes walking distance. To be fair, Copan is such a small town that literally everything is within walking distance. If you’re a coffee snob, you must, must, must visit Café San Rafael – one of the best, if not the best coffee I have had in Central America.
No doubt if you’re moving your way through Central America you will come across a tonne of ruins – Copan does not disappoint! No tour is required, simply walk through the arch at the main entrance to the town and keep going for a few k’s. The entrance fee was fairly steep at $15 USD (and an additional $15 if you want to walk through the tunnels), but was well and truly worth it. As I was moving upwards through Central America, this was one of the first ruins that I had ever seen and the pure size and real estate these things take up was impressive! You are also guaranteed to see 5-10 red macaws and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to catch them at the feeding stations at ground level
Naturally I wanted to get some aerial footage of the scenery – but being a polite, well raised, responsible drone pilot (props to my DNA donors), I made sure to ask the security if I could fly my drone. As it turned out I needed to get permission from the administration office which involved signing an agreement with various requirements, one of which was that I had to send the footage to the manager – no problemo! After about 45 minutes sorting out paperwork, I was in the air filming the ancient ruins of Copan, see them for yourself just below!
After a full morning of walking, climbing steep steps and posing for photos, the best way to finish the day off was a trip to the natural hot springs. We did some research and couldn’t find too much info on how to get there via public transport. Penelope and I must have looked like a couple of helpless foreigners, as a very friendly local approached us and gave us all the information we needed to get there.
The cheapest way is to catch a mini-van from the corner of the soccer field for about $3 (it leaves at 11AM) which will take you to the Jaguar Hot Springs in just over an hour, where you can enter for $10 USD. As soon as you walk in, skip the big open baths and find the bridge that crosses the river. A short walk up the mountain will lead you to the first of many little pools, each getting hotter and hotter the higher you go. At the highest point there is a massage house where you can treat yo’self to a little TLC, $20 for a half hour massage, $35 for an hour. By the time you decide to head home you will be well and truly relaxed, having sweated out all the tension built up from carrying that heavy rucksack around!
The day’s adventures continued on the ride home as we were caught up in an evening storm, with many of the roads back home inundated by flash floods. I genuinely thought our van was going to be washed away as we crawled over raging river crossings! We made it back to Copan to find a regular weekend night time market/festival with live music and bulk street food. A perfect end to a jam-packed day!
While there are definitely dangerous parts of Honduras, it is such a shame that many skip the whole country to avoid something that is extremely unlikely to happen. If you keep to the general personal safety rules applicable throughout all of Central America you will get to see a country that many people will never see in their lives, which I think is pretty cool.