Alternative Travel Destinations – Honduras
Welcome to the second installment of Alternative Travel Destinations 2014. We began last time in Eastern Europe with Varna, Bulgaria’s summer destination on the Black Sea coast, and this week we are heading over to Central America, to the little country of Honduras.
Located between Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, Honduras isn’t traditionally on the radar for British tourists. Most visitors to the region head instead to Costa Rica or Mexico, countries that are more accessible and probably a little more tourist-friendly. But for those that are feeling a little more adventurous, Honduras is a real gem of a country.
It should be mentioned straight away that Honduras is a dangerous place. In fact, it has the higher number of murders per capita in the entire world (excluding countries at war), though last year the figures did improve slightly. This situation is a relatively recent development, and is a result of Mexican drugs cartels infiltrating the country as they traffic drugs from South America towards the US.
However, this should only put you off if you were planning on getting involved in the smuggling racket. If not (and I would probably advise against it) then you shouldn’t be overly worried, because most of the serious crime isn’t aimed at tourists. Be careful, of course, but there’s no need to avoid Honduras altogether.
Right at the top of the list of reasons to visit the country is for the wonderful opportunities for scuba diving. The Bay Islands – located just off the country’s Caribbean coast – offer some of the best diving in the world. They are home to the world’s second largest coral reef, as well as all sorts of marine life, such as whale sharks, turtles and hundreds of species of fish.
The Bay consists of three islands, Roatan, Útila and Guanaja. Útila is the smallest, only 11km by 4km, and is a vision of tropical paradise. Though it is tiny, it has over 60 sites to dive, including caves and a series of shipwrecks. If you can’t dive then it is extremely cheap to take lessons, which are offered by a whole host of shops on the island.
Back on dry land, the country has some of the best, most unspoilt pre-hispanic ruins that you will ever see. Sites like Chichen Itza (Aztec) and Machu Picchu (Inca) are brilliant and are certainly famous for a reason, but their reputation does mean that they are almost always swarming with tourists. Sites such as Copán (Maya), on the other hand, are far less crowded but equally as beautiful and well-preserved. During our visit it seemed as if there were only a handful of people wandering throughout the entire site, which made it a much more pleasurable experience.
We even managed to bribe our way into one of the temples. To be fair, it sounds a bit more hardcore than it really was – we had been too cheap to pay the extra ticket to get into the temples, and while we were nosing around the main entrance a security guard approached us and basically invited us to bribe him. So we did, and were thoroughly disappointed by the meager offerings inside. Oh well, because despite the relatively poor interiors we were still very impressed by Copán.
If you’re planning to make a longer trip of it then all the countries of Central America aren’t too far away. The best is probably Nicaragua, though Guatemala is also a firm favourite.
Flights are going to cost at least £500 or so, and they usually involve a stop somewhere along the way. The rainy season on the mainland is May-November and in the Bay Islands is roughly from September-December, so it’s best to head sometime after Christmas. Temperatures in the country average about 25-30 degrees throughout the year, getting ever so slightly colder if you head inland and up a mountain. Not too shabby.