Think of Western Honduras as a lopsided triangle with a mountainous center. Near the northern apex sits the city of San Pedro Sula, likely your first encounter with the region. At the southwest point of the triangle lie the Mayan ruins of Copán. Along the eastern edge are the colonial city of Comayagua and the Lago de Yojoa, the country's largest natural lake. In the center of the region are the colonial towns of Gracias and Santa Rosa de Copán. The lack of decent roads east of Gracias means that Western Honduras gets thought of as two distinct regions, with Comayagua and Lago de Yojoa frequently visited as a separate trip from one that would include Copán Ruinas, Santa Rosa de Copán, and Gracias. Although everybody uses the term montañas (mountains) to describe the region, there is nothing here much over 9,000 feet, and most of the terrain you'll have to negotiate is in the mile-high range. These are not the Andes.

San Pedro Sula. The country's economic boomtown will likely be your first and last encounter with this region because a large airport is here. This is big-city life Honduran style, and there is no better place to take care of those odds and ends like shopping and getting cash.

Copán and Copán Ruinas. They're two attractions for the price of one: The ruins of the famed Mayan city sit in the southwest part of the country near the Guatemalan border. Next door is the fun tourist town of Copán Ruinas, with its terrific selection of lodgings, restaurants, and non-archaeological activities.

Santa Rosa de Copán. The highlands' largest city is really just a big small town at heart. There aren't really any specific must-see sights here, but visitors still find themselves lingering a couple of days and soaking up the colonial vibe.

Gracias. A visit to the lovely colonial town of Gracias would be worthwhile on its own, with its cobblestone streets and restored pre-independence buildings. But the small city anchors an area of natural and cultural wonders in the form of the Parque Nacional Celaque and nearby Lenca villages, respectively.

Lago de Yojoa. The name of the country's largest lake defines a small region rather than a specific town. Birders, especially, get a dreamy, far-off look in their eyes when the name is mentioned. It's one of Central America's premier bird-watching destinations.

Comayagua. Honduras's first capital sits smack-dab in the center of the country and has preserved its colonial heritage better than any other city here. It's closer to Tegucigalpa than San Pedro Sula and can be accessed easily from either direction.

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