Founded in 1537, Santa María de Comayagua was the first capital of Honduras. It was also one of the last bastions of resistance by the Lenca and Nahuatl people, who staged a revolt two years later. President Marco Aurelio Soto moved the seat of power to Tegucigalpa in 1880, allegedly to avenge repeated snubs by the city's haughty upper classes. (Historians today agree the true reason was less colorful: Soto thought it important to move the capital to Tegucigalpa, whose mining industry was then the fulcrum of Honduras's economy.) After a century of decline, Comayagua was declared a national monument in 1972. The focus now is on preserving its colonial-era character as part of a program known as Comayagua Colonial. The impressive project is evidenced in the gleaming-white facade of the Catedral de Comayagua and the immaculately clean Parque Central.

The city of 60,000 doesn't register on most visitors' radars, and that's a shame. With its colonial-era treasures and one of the best museums in the country, Comayagua must not be missed. (A second museum is undergoing reconstruction following a 2009 fire.) Close to Tegucigalpa, you could see its major sights in a long day trip from the capital, but staying overnight here lets you take everything in more leisurely. No doubt, some people here lament that their city was stripped of its role as the country's capital over a century ago, but many more say, "Thank goodness. We could have turned into … Tegucigalpa!"

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