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.

Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras

Honduras has several national parks and natural reserves, almost in every region in Honduras there is a natural reserve nearby. However, one of the most famous natural reserves in Honduras is the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve, which is located in the North-East region of Honduras, between the departments of Gracias a Dios, Colon and Olancho, but mainly in La Mosquitia region in Gracias a Dios. The biosphere runs along the Rio Platano basin, from a town in the department of Olancho called San Esteban and goes all the way to the Caribbean Sea in La Mosquitia region.

The Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve is about 5350 Km2, all of it is preserved land. If you are looking to visit and experience nature and unexplored regions, this is a place to go, definitely. You must know that 25% of the reserve is mostly a coastal region covered with mangrove swamps, and the remaining 75% is a mountainous region. The highest mountain is MorraƱanga Peak which is about 5000 feet high. The reserve is a huge rain forest with hundreds of endangered species and thousands of tropical plants.

This reserve was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage site since 1982, and it is somehow very similar to the Amazon region in Brazil, not as big as the Amazon region but the biodiversity and tropical wildlife is very diverse. A curious fact to know is that the Rio Platano Biosphere has more than 3 times the amount of species by hectare compared to the Amazon region, this is something that can give you an idea of how rich in biodiversity this region in Honduras really is. This is just amazing, isn´t it?

The reserve is also populated by indigenous people, about 2000 people live in this region, most of them are from some native cultures like Miskitos, Pech and Garifunas. Most of them live along the Platano River, mainly in the north area of the reserve.

One thing about the reserve that many people don´t know is that there are several archaeological sites in there, including some Mayan ruins. They are spread all over the reserve. There is algo a mythological site called Ciudad Blanca, or White City, it is like a lost city in the middle of the jungle. No one really knows for sure if this White City really exists, it´s like a myth, very similar to the famous city of Atlantis. Some people say that many explorers have lost in the jungle looking for this White City and never came back. Scary, isn´t it?.

We may not know much about this White City, but we do know that the Rio Platano Biosphere is a very beautiful reserve, it´s an ideal place to visit for people looking to have a real experience with mother nature. You really don´t need to go all the way to Brazil to the Amazon region in order to experience what is like to be in the middle of a real jungle, everything you can ever imagine about a tropical jungle you will definitely find it in this reserve.

One good piece of advice if you ever go to visit this reserve: please don´t go alone by yourself or you will get lost in the middle of the jungle. You need to go with a guide or a group of experts who are familiar with this particular region. You don´t want to get lost here, trust me. Not even Indiana Jones could survive by himself if lost here.