Western Honduras marries its indigenous and colonial heritages like nowhere else in the country. Small communities tucked into the green mountains of the Highlands maintain their old religious, cultural, artistic, and medicinal traditions. As you explore, you'll find yourself whisked back to another era.
For 2,000 years the Maya resided in the region that Hondurans call El Occidente ("the West"), creating the distinctive art and architecture that can still be seen at the ancient city of Copán. The Lenca, who are believed to have lived alongside the Maya, had an equally vibrant, although less-well-known, culture.
Yet it is the Lenca who are the indigenous group most in evidence in western Honduras today, especially in small villages near the cities of Gracias and Santa Rosa de Copán, where residents live much as their ancestors did.
The city of Copán, one of the world's premier archaeological sites, lies in the jungle near the border of Guatemala. Often dubbed the Paris of Central America, Copán is known for its soaring pyramids, mammoth stelae, and an intricately carved staircase that tells the story of the highly advanced civilization that thrived here for hundreds of years. For good reason, it is Honduras's number one tourist attraction (though residents of Roatán in the Bay Islands might disagree).
But not all is human-made in this region: Lago de Yojoa is the country's largest natural lake and a haven for birders (there are some 400 species of birds to be spotted). Near Gracias sits one of the isthmus's largest reserves, Parque Nacional Celaque, a land of pine trees and cloud forests that contains Honduras's highest peak within its boundaries.
Anchoring the region is San Pedro Sula, Honduras's second largest city and the engine that propels the country's economy. Aeropuerto Internacional Ramón Villeda Morales, located here, is the country's busiest airport and makes an easy gateway to the region. San Pedro Sula will always be the region's pocketbook—and major airport—but never its heart and soul. If you're like most visitors, San Pedro will be your classic first-night, last-night destination, with the rest of your time spent elsewhere.
The people here are more outgoing than in many parts of Honduras, and they are more than happy to converse with newcomers.