Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Mexico & Central America
Reload this Page >

Trip Report. Honduras Travel Part 2: Colonial Gracias

Trip Report. Honduras Travel Part 2: Colonial Gracias

Old Mar 9th, 2023, 11:54 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2022
Posts: 131
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Trip Report. Honduras Travel Part 2: Colonial Gracias

Trip Report. Honduras Travel Part 2: Colonial Gracias
February 2023.

[Note: do not confuse the town of Gracias, discussed below, with the Honduran department (state, province) of Gracias a Dios, located on the opposite, eastern end of the country.]

Gracias is rather like the historic city of Comyagua, which I discuss in another report, but Gracias is smaller and more remote — and therein lies its appeal, for some of us anyway. Thanks in part to the Celaque National Park nearby, tourists do come here, but the town has not be jaded by them. It’s still a quaint, safe, and friendly town, and if offers a small but decent selection of lodgings and restaurants.

Gracias dates back to 1537, shortly after Gonzalo de Alvarado and his army, exhausted by the seemingly endless mountains they had just trekked through, arrived in the area and gave thanks (“gracias”) to their God for having finally led them to a spot level enough for a Spanish town. However, the real hero of the town is not Alvarado, but the native war leader Lempira, who came close to sending the Spaniards back to Spain. Though one Spanish solider claimed to have killed Lempira in battle, the consensus version is that unable to defeat him, the conquistadors invited him to a conference, then assissinated him. (One of history’s oldest tricks.) You’ll see an image of Lempira on the unit note of the currency named ater him, and if you make it to Gracias, you’ll see his statue in the central plaza.

With its attractive, Spanish-colonial aesthetic, the town itself is its major attraction, but there are a few particular tourist sights as well, one of them the San Cristobal fort, on a hilltop just a short walk out of town. Building started in the 1780s, and one or two of the cannons date from then; but most of what you see will be restorations from the19th-century, when the fort was recalled into service to defend Honduras from Guatemala. (It didn’t do too well at the task; Guatemala successfully invaded twice.) The fort provides some great views of the town below, and the mountains beyond.

Elsewhere in town, the Galeano House, and the tree-garden behind hit, give some insight into middle-class life in the mid 19th century. And of course there are a few old churches in Gracias as well, with La Merced, about a block north of the central plaza, being perhaps the most impressive. A few blocks south of the plaza, you may want to seek out the large wall mural showing a native Honduran, perhaps Lempira himself, aiming his arrow directly at a mounted Spanish conquistador whose conquering days appear to be over.

For nature lovers, the major draw of Gracias will probably be the Celaque National Park, centered on the Las Minas mountain. (The entrance is just a short ride out of the city.) There are several hiking trails, from an easy one that even I could do, to a challenging one that goes to the summit of the mountain at 9400 feet (above sea level, not from the trail head); that latter hike may require an overnight camp.

Some specific recommendations: For lodgings, consider Guancascos, with many decades of acclaimed service behind it, offering a cluster of tidy cabins on the hillside below the fort; or Posada de Don Juan, closer to the town center, a fine hotel with a charming old-fashioned style that goes nicely with the local ambience. There are several restaurants and cafes in town; a few we managed to get to include the restaurant in Posada de Don Juan, and the justly popular Kandil Pizza Cafe. Two pleasant coffee shops are Coffee-Books, near the Galeano House; and Don Marquitos, across the street from the La Merced church.

There are also public hot springs a short distance out of town — I didn’t visit them myself, but two of my companions did.
Faedus is offline  
Old Mar 9th, 2023, 12:15 PM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2022
Posts: 131
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Gracias Honduras: Photos

Gracias Honduras: Photos



San Cristobal Fort, looming over a reminder that you're in Gracias.

Colonial Gracias, seen from the fort, dominated by San Marcos church, and the mountains beyond.


From the central plaza: in the background, San Marcos church; and in the foreground, the Lenca war leader Lempira, who led the local resistance against the Spanish conquistadors.

Typical street in Gracias, leading to the central plaza and the San Marcos church.


Street alongside the central plaza.

The Galeano house.


The La Merced church.
Faedus is offline  
Old Mar 9th, 2023, 06:10 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,474
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks Faedus,

Gracias first crossed my radar when I was in not terribly far away Copán Ruinas a few years back. Nice to see your trip report on it and Comayagua. Both sound like places that would appeal to me; I look forward to exploring Honduras more some day.

All the best

Daniel
Daniel_Williams is online now  
Old Mar 10th, 2023, 05:15 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,317
Likes: 0
Received 3 Likes on 1 Post
Thanks for the report and photos. They really whet my appetite for travel in the region, as did your reports of a few months ago. Even among such company as the Spanish conquistadores Alvarado stands out for his brutality. I believe he is the red-haired figure with a piggish face depicted in Rivera's mural at the National Palace in Mexico City.
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Old Mar 10th, 2023, 08:08 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2022
Posts: 131
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Daniel: Do keep Gracias on your radar. If you're interested in Honduras, as you appear to be, Gracias is a great place to visit, the kind of place where I feel more like a traveller than a tourist.

Fra Diavolo: Thank you for your comments — I’m never sure how much history I should lay on forum readers, and I’m always glad when someone steps in to take up the task. And of course you’re right; among a rough lot of conquistadors, Pedro de Alvarado appears to have been one of the meanest. It was actually his cousin Gonzalez de Alvarado who founded Gracias — unless maybe it was Juan de Chavez, as at least one source asserts — but it’s true that Pedro had been appointed governor of Honduras by a confused King Carlos I (who had also appointed de Montejo), and Pedro did found a town himself in Honduras, San Pedro Sula — close to which, I might add, he met fierce resistance by the native war leader Cicumba, who appears to have been as skilled a military leader as Lempira. (The conquistadors generally had a hard time of it in Honduras.)

The story of the Spanish conquest of Honduras is unusually complicated, with dueling conquistadors coming into the country from all directions, and fighting each other as often as they fought the native resistance. To complicate things more, in addtion to a cousin named Gonzalez de Alvarado, Pedro de Alvarado also had a brother conquistador named Gonzalez. In my reading, I’ve sometimes been puzzled over which “Alvarado” a writer is talking about in any given instance. To illustrate, I’ll point out that one of the books on my shelves asserts that it was Gonzalez de Alvarado the brother of Pedro, not Gonzalez de Alvarado the cousin (as I mentioned above), who founded Gracias. Anyway, you’ll understand why, in travel-forum commentary, I try to keep my historical assertions to a minimum!

Last edited by Faedus; Mar 10th, 2023 at 08:13 PM.
Faedus is offline  
Old Mar 11th, 2023, 06:00 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,317
Likes: 0
Received 3 Likes on 1 Post
Thank you for the history lesson, Faedus -- interesting how much uncertainty about who-did-what remains.
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
Faedus
Mexico & Central America
4
Mar 13th, 2023 01:49 PM
Casual_Cairo
Africa & the Middle East
5
Jul 16th, 2008 05:54 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -