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Trip Report. Honduras Travel Part 4: Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

Trip Report. Honduras Travel Part 4: Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

Old Mar 10th, 2023, 02:02 PM
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Trip Report. Honduras Travel Part 4: Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

Trip Report. Honduras Travel Part 4: The big cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

You can visit Honduras without going into either of it its two big cities, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, the capital; and that is probably how many visitors will choose to do it. In fact, fly into the impressive new Palmerola International Airport (XPL), just outside Comayagua, and you won’t even have to go near either one.

Still, I wouldn’t write them off entirely. You can have a safe and enjoyable time in either of these two cities, and travellers with an interest in Central American history; who happen to be very curious; or who just like big cities may want to consider them. Still, I realize that neither is an “easy sell” these days, so I’ll offer just a few general comments for those who might be interested.

[] Tegucigalpa, Feb. 2023

Nearly every travel guidebook will tell you that the city’s unique name is Nahuatl for “silver hill,” and that may well be true, though some notable Honduran scholars have disagreed. Historian Leticia de Oyuela proposed “painted rocks,” while folklorist Jesus Aguilar Paz advocated “house of the nobles.”

At around 3000 feet, Tegucigalpa (whatever that may mean) has a moderate climate and several tourist attractions; its nicer neighborhood, Colonia Palmira, really is nice; and about 12 miles out of town to the northeast is the colonial town of Valle de Angles. I didn’t make it to the last-mentioned on my recent trip, but when I saw it 30 years ago it was an aesthetic old town and arts-and-crafts center, and all my recent research indicates that it still is.

Two other destinations to look into (for I didn’t make to them on my recent visit) are El Picacho Park, on the mountain overlooking the city to the north, which provides great views of the city (you’ll see its large Jesus statue from several vantage points in the city); and several miles further north, the La Tigre National Park, which offers woodsy hiking trails.

Tegucigalpa’s historic center is not particularly charming, but I found it active, busy, and seemingly safe, and I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon’s stroll through it. A major attraction in the historic center is the interestingly-named Museum of National Identity, but for reasons I wasn’t able to determine, it was closed on the Tuesday afternoon I chose to visit. But I did go across the street to visit a museum devoted to three 20th-century Honduran artists. I went in mainly because it was there, for modern art is not really my scene; but several of the exhibits did strike me as rather imaginative, and real modern-art lovers may want to check it out.

More to my personal liking was the boyhood home of General Francisco Morazan, defender and, for a few years, president of the the short-lived Central American Federation that emerged after independence — but while this house is filled with numerous historical momentos and paintings, it may appeal mostly to those with some interest in this history. The San Miguel cathedral, on the central plaza, is an elegant sight, though even more elegant is the La Merced church, just a few blocks away. And a little east of the central plaza, around the humble San Francisco Church, a relatively quaint, quiet area still gives some hint as to what old Tegucigalpa might have been like.

Colonia Palmira, somewhat east of the city center, and the neighborhood where most visitors will want to stay, is dominated be several big, “world-class” hotels, and though they may be too much for “shoe-string” budgets, you will probably find them less expensive than they would be if they were almost anywhere else in the world. There are also a few smaller, quainter looking hotels in the area, and at least one hostel. And yet despite the hotels, and the several restaurants and cafes among them, the neighborhood somehow manages to retain a pleasant, residential ambience.

Practical note: Tegucigalpa’s Toncontin International Airport has been falling behind the times, and prospects for renovation seem poor; and so the new Palmerola Airport just outside Comayagua, about 50 miles to the north, is becoming Tegucigalpa’s “official” airport. As of my recent visit, there were five inexpensive buses going from Palmerola to the Toncontin terminal every day from Monday through Saturday (and three or four on Sunday). From Palmerola they go directly to the Toncontin terminal, for where you can find taxis to your final Tegucigalpa destination. When at the bus desk at Palmerola, try to get the schedule for buses returning to Palmerola from Toncontin; I was unable to find it anywhere else.

[] San Pedro Sula, Dec. 2021

I did not see San Pedro Sula (SPS) on my most recent visit, but I spent a few nights there in December, 2021. At least as of then (and I don’t know whether anything has changed since), the south-western quarter was safe, and in fact I walked all around that area (though not late at night), right up to the city’s central plaza, without experiencing or sensing trouble. (I might just have been lucky; but there were lots of ordinary, normal people out and about as well — men, women, and families -- going about their normal business.) But neither this neighborhood, nor any other in SPS, is particularly attractive. This city developed as the financial and industrial center for the north-coast banana industry, and never put much thought into charm. The city is also hot and humid for a large part of the year.

Visitors travelling by bus may find the large, consolidated Metropolitan Bus Terminal, on the outskirts of the city, to be a convernient “hub”; it serves buses going to, and coming from, most mainland destinations you would want to visit, and many others. At least when I passed through, the terminal was safe, though I assume you would want to be as wary of possible bag-snatchers as you would in any European train station.

Tourists on their way to the Honduran Bay Islands — Utila, Roatan, Guanaja — will often pass right through the San Pedro Sula airport. But if you do find it necessary to spend a night in SPS, your best options will be either a couple of decent hotels in the airport area; or, in the city itself, one of the several good hotels in the area around the south-west arc of the outer ring-road (the Circunvalación). Complete with modern shopping mall, this area seems to be doing its best to imitate a typical US-style commercial suburb, and though you probably wouldn’t quite mistake it for one, it’s not bad; and if it’s still as it was when I visited in late 2021, you’ll be safe there.
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Old Mar 10th, 2023, 02:12 PM
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Tegucigalpa: Photos

Photos of Tegucigalpa:

The eastern side of Tegucigalpa, as seen from a room in the Plaza San Martin Hotel.

The San Miguel church and the central plaza, in the city's historic center.

City center: The La Merced church.

City center: an small, quainter area around the San Francisco church, a little east of the central plaza, gives some hint as to what old Tegucigalpa was like.

A typical street in central Tegucigalpa.
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Old Mar 10th, 2023, 02:30 PM
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Tegucigalpa: more photos

Tegucigalpa: more photos from the city center

Boyhood home of Francisco Morazan, leader of the post-independence Central American Federation.

Villa San Miguel, a unique indoor shopping and dining area.

Notes on these photos:
[1] The boyhood home of Genreral Francisco Morazan. During the first two decades after independence, Morazan was a leading advocate — and for several years, president — of the Central American Federation (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica), and of the progressive, republican ideas it was founded on. Today Hondurans regard Morazan as one of their leading historical heroes, conveniently overlooking the fact that in 1838, Honduras effectively rejected his ideas, withdrew from the Central American Federation (as did Nicaragua and Costa Rica that same year), and soon thereafter put itself under the leadership of a more conservative leader, Francisco Ferrera. In fairness, I’ll point out that through the rest of the 19th century, Honduras was usually an advocate for reestablishing the Central American Federation, though none of the several attempts to do so (nearly 20, I think) succeeded.

[2] Just a block off the central plaza, the Villa de San Miguel houses a sort of indoor shopping center, with several small, pleasant cafes. One of its aims is to help promote appreciation for the city’s past. The attractive building itself is a restored structure, complete with original spiral staircase, that dates from the early 1930s (according to the in-country tourism guide “Hondurastips"). Besides the shops and cafes, you will find large murals depicting scenes from Honduran history, and several old photos of the city.

Last edited by Faedus; Mar 10th, 2023 at 03:16 PM.
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 12:01 PM
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Thanks Faedus for your trip report. I had been curious about both—nice to hear of an uneventful visit in particular to San Pedro Sula given its reputation.
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 08:11 PM
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I would always advise anyone going to San Pedro Sula to get the most up-dated safety information possible. Still, unless I should learn otherwise, I would assume that as long as they stick to the better, south-west area, sensible visitors to this city can have as normal a stay as I did. During my Dec. 2021 visit, the sight of normal people strolling around the central plaza, checking out the market tables, and taking pictures of each other in front of the colorful "San Pedro Sula" sign (see the picture below) dispelled any notion I might have had of a city in "fear." But I understand that San Pedro Sula cannot compete with the many finer destinations in Honduras.

Last edited by Faedus; Mar 11th, 2023 at 08:24 PM.
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