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La Mosquitía, also spelled Moskitia or the Mosquito/Miskito Coast, covers around 22,000 square km (8,500 square mi)—or 20 percent of Honduras—in the northeastern department of Gracias a Dios. On the western edge of the territory, the Garífuna port towns of Palacios and Batalla are a gateway onto a bounty of crystalline lagoons and pristine rain forest. Raista/Belén and Plaplaya, all tiny Miskito villages, lie slightly to the east on the shores of Laguna de Ibans, which bleeds into the Río Plátano. South down the river are scattered indigenous villages like Las Marías that populate the impressive Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve. East of the river on the Caribbean coast is Brus Laguna, a popular access point into the region for its airport. Still further east is Puerto Lempira and Laguna de Caratasca, the largest lagoon in La Mosquitía.
Jungle trekking, cultural exchanges, and Caribbean beach escapes are among the biggest draws to this autonomous region—which includes reserves of the anthropological, wildlife, and biological persuasions, plus a national park.
Batalla. Garífuna dancing and drumming liven up this small waterfront town at the region's western entrance. Traditional home stays offer a glimpse into the African-influenced culture, and mangrove forests in the nearby Bacalar Laguna house Caribbean manatees and myriad species of endangered birds.
Laguna de Ibans. Hazy mountains and velvet canopies reflect off the glittering lagoon as dugout canoes zip across the water to surrounding villages. The locally run Sea Turtle Conservation Project takes place each summer in Plaplaya, a Garífuna village on Iban's western fringe.
Raista/Belén. A quiet nook of the jungle skirted by sandy beaches is the home of these Miskito hamlets on Laguna de Ibans. Cozy ecolodges and a friendly local community make it easy to immerse yourself in both nature and culture.
Brus Laguna. Scrubby pine savannas and breezy Caribbean waters envelop this commercial center on either end. Fishing from Cannon Island and excellent bird-watching are the main draw to this remote waterfront retreat.
Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve. This ecological paradise is one of the largest natural reserves on the planet. The diverse array of ecosystems and a burgeoning ecotourism industry make for a broad selection of unique outdoor adventures.
Las Marías. Rugged hikes and jungle treks head out from this tiny indigenous village, a must-see in the Río Plátano reserve. Tourism here is a community effort: locally trained guides lead excursions to the Walpaulbansirpe and Walpaulbantara petroglyphs up the river, and artisans proudly share their crafts.
Puerto Lempira. An airport, basic hotels, and La Mosquitía's only bank make this capital city on Laguna de Caratasca a preferred place to start before heading into the wilderness. Fishing and beach escapes await in the nearby Miskito villages of Mistruk and Kaukira.