Gracias Lempira, one of the oldest cities in Honduras
Any website about Honduras must include some information about one of the oldest cities in Honduras, we´re talking about Gracias, in the department of Lempira. Our website is no exception to this rule, so here we go, let´s talk a little bit about this beautiful colonial city in the western region of Honduras. The city is located near Copan Ruins in western Honduras as you can see in the following map:
As we have just said, the city of Gracias is one of the oldest cities in Honduras since it was founded in the year 1536. There is a curious fact about the foundation of Gracias that not many people know about.... the city was founded three times, the first time was in the year 1536 as we said before, and the original location was in a nearby community called Opoa which is very near to the actual location of the city at the present time.
For several reasons, the original location was moved one year later, that was in 1537, to another nearby place, and two years after that the city was moved again in 1539 to the current location. Since 1539 the city has been there and the location was not moved anymore. After the third and final foundation, Gracias quickly growed and consolidated as an important city due to the great amount of natural resources found in that region, up to the point that in 1544 Gracias became the seat of the "Audiencia de los Confines", which was the main administrative authority from Spain in all territories from Mexico to Nicaragua. So you can imagine we´re talking about a really important city back then.
With the significant importance the city had back then in 1544, over the next few years Gracias received many visits from merchant traders and important church authorities as well, so the city architecture in general was transformed, a lot of colonial houses, churches and buildings were constructed in the city. Everything was going well, the city was getting bigger and bigger, but a few years later the spanish authorities suddenly decided to move the "Audiencia de los Confines" from Gracias to Antigua in Guatemala, and after this happened the city didn´t grow anymore and many people left Gracias and moved to Antigua. However, the few years Gracias was the seat of the "Audiencia de los Confines" were enough to have the rich colonial architecture we can admire now in the city of Gracias.
For several centuries Gracias has been like a city that has been sleeping and has stayed apart from the main touristic destinations in Honduras. However, over the last 30 years the city has had like a slow but steady waking up, and slowly has been included in the touristic map of Honduras.
At the present time, Gracias is definitely an important touristic destination in Honduras. For people who enjoy and love colonial towns, colonial architecture and history, Gracias is a place to visit, there's no doubt about it. Another important thing to know about Gracias is that the city is located right at the base of Celaque National Park, where we have the highest mountain in Honduras which is "Cerro Las Minas" or "Celaque Peak" with about 9500 feet high. Being so near to Celaque National Park is an important reason for Gracias to have a hugh potential for scientific tourism and ecotourism. Also with the magnificent colonial churches, houses, streets and colonial farms, Gracias has an architectural richness that only a few colonial cities in America have.... how about that?
And finally but not less important, Gracias is like the heart of the Lenca indigenous people and culture. From several centuries ago when the Spanish came to Honduras, the Lencas were the most important indigenous culture and group of people they found in Honduras, the legend of Lempira the famous indigenous hero has its origin in this region. Lenca culture has been able to survive for many centuries, and the spirit and culture of Lenca people is all over Gracias and the nearby mountains in the department of Lempira.
In order to get to Gracias, you can drive from San Pedro Sula taking the road that goes west to Copan, at the town of La Entrada you continue your trip going to Santa Rosa de Copan. Before you get to Santa Rosa de Copan you will find a deviation to the left. All the road is a paved road and is in pretty good condition. This is the way to get to Gracias if you´re coming from San Pedro Sula. If you´re driving from Tegucigalpa, you can take the road that goes to the city of La Esperanza and go all the way to Gracias.
There is much more to say about Gracias, Celaque National Park and several other places to see and visit if you ever go to Gracias. We'll be talking about all these destinations and things to do in separate posts, so please stay tuned.