Santa Rosa de Copan

Set in one of the most beautiful regions of Honduras, Santa Rosa de Copán has a friendliness that makes you long to linger. (The pleasant springlike climate—the town sits at 1,150 meters (3,780 feet) altitude—is a real plus, too.) It is the kind of highland town that still feels like a village—you get the sense you would know everybody in town within a week or so. The hilltop casco histórico (historic center) has been declared a national monument and is being renovated with care, with much work being put into preserving the splendid colonial-era buildings with their tiled roofs lining the narrow cobbled streets.

Santa Rosa is the town that tobacco built. The Spanish crown named it the site of the Real Factoria del Tabaco (the Royal Tobacco Factory) in 1793, a role that allowed it to set prices for the newly important crop and would propel it to wealth and prominence. Tobacco is still cultivated here, although it has been joined and surpassed these days by coffee, another signature Honduran export. With its 42,000 people, Santa Rosa is today the largest city in the highlands and the capital of the department (province) of Copán. There is not a list of must-see sights here to check off, but you may find yourself staying a couple of days to soak up the town's colonial past.

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