Trip Report: Honduras, Los Naranjos (Lake Yojoa)

Old Apr 10th, 2022, 12:34 PM
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Trip Report: Honduras, Los Naranjos (Lake Yojoa)

Trip Report: Honduras — Los Naranjos (Lake Yojoa), Late November. 2021

(Nature, history, beer)

You probably would not travel to Los Naranjos just to see Los Naranjos, pleasant as this plain little village may be. Rather, you go there for great outdoor activities of various sorts that can be enjoyed in the area, an introduction to a little-known ancient society, and some good beer and coffee. I’m more of a city, culture, and history type, not an outdoors person, so I may not be the most qualified reporter for the great Lake Yojoa area (apart from evaluating the beer — we’ll get to that), but since no one else seems to be reporting on it, I’ll give it a try.

“Nature or Culture? You decide!”

This very question was posed at a bilingual sign at a fork in the footpath inside the Los Naranjos Park. Visitors without much time were advised go left for a nature walk, or to the right for more nature, along with the archaeological section. Though in truth, nature is pretty hard to miss anywhere in this large park — ideally, you’ll plan a for a lot of time there.

The main point is that Honduras offers a lot for nature lovers, and the area north of Lake Yojoa is a good place to enjoy a lot of it. Hiking, camping, kayaking, bird-watching, and a fine waterfall (Pulhanzapak) — all of this is available around humble little Los Naranjos.

Though I’m not a nature type myself, I did enjoy my day’s commune with it all in the “Los Naranjos Bird-Watching, Nature, and Archaeological Park.” The huge park is divided into two ecological zones — a dense forest, which you encounter first, and then a swamp and marshland area as the park descends towards the lake. A plain dirt path takes you through the forest, and a long, long elevated boardwalk through the marshland, parts of which reminded me of Louisiana bayou country. There were birds of all sorts in both zones, which I could not identify myself, but dedicated bird watchers should have no trouble occupying themselves fully here. And then, in the forest zone, there were the ancient ruins.

Note that besides the Los Naranjos Bird-Watching, Nature, and Archaeology Park, there are many additional opportunities for outdoors activities all over the area.

Lencas

The ruins were not nearly as spectacular as Copan, or other major Mayan sites, nor were they even Mayan (I’ll get to that). Unless I missed something, they consisted of two large man-made mounds with some stonework visible. But anyone with an interest in the ancient Ameicas may want to see them anyway — and you probably won’t have to share them with big tourist crowds. My late November visit may have been exception, but apart from a Honduran family I enclountered at the site museum, I seemed to be the only visitor in this vast park, always a valuable experience for me. At times I had the delightful sensation of being one of those Victorian-era explorers, the first European to see the place, and thereby “discover” it!

Settlement in this area goes back at least 2500 years, though the ruins, if I remember correctly, date from the 7th and 8th centuries AD. And though rather modest, they are particularly interesting, as according to the current consensus among scholars, they were built not by the Mayas (who put up the more famous city of Copan, also in Honduras), but by the ancestors of another society little known outside of Central America, the Lencas.

You could fill libraries with books on Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas; but to learn about the Lencas, going to Honduras may still be your best option. The Lencas are unique to Honduras and El Salvador; their language (nearly extinct, if not completely so) is said to be an “isolate” — it has no known relatives. The Lencas are still in Honduras today, mostly towards the west, in the area around the historic town of Gracias. In the sixteenth century, one Lenca general, Lempira (whom you’ll meet on the country’s unit of currency) came close to kicking the Spanish forces back to Seville— unable to defeat Lempira, the valiant conquistadors invited him to a diplomatic conference, then killed him. (Though one Spanish soldier claimed later to have killed Lempira in hand-to-hand combat.) I could go on about the Lencas’ post-conquest history, though this is not the place — but I will mention another courageous Lenca, Bertha Caceres, who was active in social and pro-environmental efforts, and was assassinated in 2016 for her efforts. (Her duaghter, Bertha Zuniga Caceres, continues her mother’s efforts, no doubt with equal courage.)

In the woods

I stayed for several nights at D&D Brewery and Lodge, a short walk from the entrance to the Los Naranjos Park. Without getting too effusive, I can say that after many years of travel, this was one of the best places I’ve ever stayed in. D&D offers a variety of clean, attractive lodgings — cabins, private rooms, and dorm rooms, scattered around the wooded grounds, and all of them much more reasonably priced that you would think.

The people at D&D — the American owner, and his Honduran staff — can provide information, guides, or tours and transportation, for the various natural attrctions in the area, which include several hiking routes, kayaking on the lake (D&D rents kayaks), bird-watching locations, the Pulhapanzak waterfall and associated zip-line, a cave system, and perhaps more. (The Los Naranjos Park is just a short walk away.) In addition, they are Honduras-travel enthusiasts; if you arrange to get here early in your Honduras trip, you can get honest advice about your other intended destinations. Furthermore, the outdoor lounges and patio-dining areas encourage guests to mingle, which may be all the easier as travellers who make it this deeply into Honduras are likely to have much in common.

I’m not a "foodie," but I enjoyed everything I had at D&D, especially the traditional Honduran “comida tipica.” And as you might have guessed from the name, D&D Brewery and Lodge not only provides lodgings and activity guides, but beer. I’m not great with trees or birds, but beer is a different matter — I know tastes differ, but I loved every variety I tried, especially the porter.

If you’re interested in all this, I would strongly suggest that you check out D&D’s website, and at least look at their videos, and their tongue-in-cheeck “Travel Warnings” — and know that you can trust it all. And though I’ve raved about the beer, and quite rightly so, the locally-grown coffee is very good as well. (Also, since I’ve been dwelling on a single lodging more than I normally would, perhaps I should state that I have no financial stake in D&D.)

I’ll append some photos in a note farther below, if I can figure out how. As with my earlier Copan report, I’ll try to keep this short (if it’s not too late for that), and also append some notes, immediately below, on how to get there.

Last edited by Faedus; Apr 10th, 2022 at 01:28 PM. Reason: clarify a certain point
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Old Apr 10th, 2022, 01:30 PM
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Trip Report (addendum): Honduras, Los Naranjos — Getting there. (late November, 2021)

Fortunately, this is easily covered — the D&D Brewery website gives good instructions on how to get there. I just have a little to add — in the event you drive yourself, or hire a driver who hasn’t been there before, you’ll need to know two things:

First, though it’s only about 11 miles, more or less, from La Guama (on the main highway) to Los Naranjos, it’s not your average 11 miles. Unless they’ve done a lot of quick road work in the past four months, those last 11 miles, though technically paved, are not always in very good physical condition. My driver was visibly unhappy about having to take his nice taxi down some stretches of that road. (But don’t worry too much; the trip is worth it — just drive slowly when necessary.)

Second, the D&D website gives driving instructions, but you may want to request something more detailed. As I looked out the window while we went down those last miles, I had a strong suspicion that had I been depending on those instructions alone, I would not have made it. However, my driver, using his GPS, got to D&D without too much trouble, though he did have to stop once or twice to ask someone. (People in the area seem to know where D&D is.)

My helpful guest house in San Pedro Sula, Dos Molinos, arranged the car for me. If I remember correctly (and I’m not sure that I do), I paid arond 65 US dollars, which I thought was quite reasonable. This does not include a large tip, an apology of sorts for the bad shape of those last 11 miles of road. (And luckily, on my reluctant way out a few days later, another guest generously gave me a ride in his car to colonial Comayagua, my next destination.)
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Old Apr 10th, 2022, 03:28 PM
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By the way, the correct spelling of the name of the waterfall is Pulhapanzak -- I seemed to have goofed in one of my references, above. But then, it seems everyone calls it "Pulha."
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Old Apr 11th, 2022, 05:29 AM
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Another interesting report, this time about a place well beyond where I'd previously considered going. Thanks -- looking forward to the pictures. Now off to the D&D website . . .
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Old Apr 11th, 2022, 04:59 PM
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Sorry about no pictures yet; there have been problems, though I'm still working on it. But in the meantime, do check out the pictures, videos, and commentary on the D&D Brewery website.
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Old Apr 11th, 2022, 07:13 PM
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AWESOME! I'm a huge beer guy (as in I'm a big fan, not my waistline) and craft beer where we live is pretty scarce. Only 2 microbreweries in San Miguel & 2 in Queretaro. At least on tap. More available in Baja and CDMX, but that's not close to us. And then there's the coffee! Died and gone to heaven. Our traveling shoes these days will probably keep us in Mexico and Central America, and Honduras is a country we've never been to but yet close enough flight from MEX. What's the altitude/climate in that zone? I'm assuming since it's coffee country, significantly above sea level? D&D now in my favorites. Faedus, you're the bomb!
I can see this as one of our last great trips out of the country.

Last edited by baldone; Apr 11th, 2022 at 07:23 PM.
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Old Apr 12th, 2022, 11:17 AM
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Thanks for the note -- I'm glad you found it appealing. It's interesting, what you can find off the busy tourist trails. The weather around Lake Yojoa during my late November trip was perfect, and I would suspect the rest of the winter generally is the same. However, Honduras can get warm and humid during the summer, which I'm sure you know. The elevation of Lake Yojoa itself is around 2200 feet, which is usually high enough to spare most people the worst of the heat and humidity, though as I am especially sensitive to humid heat, I would usually like to get even higher for a summer trip. And of course, climate change is throwing everyone's predictions off as well.

Back to your part of the world, one of my travel regrets is not making it back to Mexico again since my last trip, way back in 1992. When I finally do return (next year at the earliest), I will likely go to San Cristobal de Las Casas, but that's not definite, and as I enjoy just letting myself get absorbed into aesthetic old colonial towns, I was intrigued by your photos from central Mexico. I've also had an abiding interest in the Mexican Revolution -- have you posted anything on Aguascalientes, where one of the major revolutionary conferences was held? Also, I was trying to figure out what CDMX might be -- I assumed "Cuidad de Mexico" (Mexico City) would be a good guess.

Last edited by Faedus; Apr 12th, 2022 at 11:18 AM. Reason: fix a word
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Old Apr 12th, 2022, 02:33 PM
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You're correct about CDMX. A few years ago the Distrito Federal was formally renamed Ciudad de México, or CDMX for short. There were some political reasons behind it too.
I've been to Aguascalientes, but I've never done a report. Didn't really care that much for it. Maybe I need to try it again. It didn't have the colonial charm that most other industrial cities have in their centro.
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Old Apr 15th, 2022, 10:11 AM
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Thanks much for the reply. There's just so much on offer in central Mexico -- not to mention the rest of the country.
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