Minutes after my friend and I booked our February vacation to Honduras in 2015, we received the state department warning that we were about to travel through the world’s most dangerous country. Whoops!? Subsequently, our little week long visit to the mecca of murder resulted in my full on move to Honduras 8 months later.
Honduras might have the highest murder rate in the world, but it also has safe neighborhoods, strong ass home grown coffee, green plush and mountainous terrain, baleadas, wilderness DJ parties, gorgeous waterfalls and lakes, Caribbean beaches, every American franchise, everyday mall life, a president almost as controversial as our new president-elect, ancient history, ancient ruins, terrible city traffic, colorful city streets, fun nightlife, organic selections of produce, a thriving art scene, Spanish colonial architecture, cultural diversity, some of my closest friends, and a capital city with the funkiest name to pronounce, Tegucigalpa.
I had the pleasure of a “homestay” experience for almost a month in Tegus. I stayed with my Catracha friend and her family in the capital city and felt right at home. The city is built on rolling hills that give you mountainous views from every angle, day and night. Breakfast views of La Champa and the Mormon Church with a fresh climate was our daily ritual. Markets downtown are like busy labyrinths, and there are so many Churches. We road tripped for a week in our little blue toy rental car that had scooter wheels for tires, drank craft beer (finally), survived Las Vegas, and got to roam the countryside with great company.
Nightlife in Tegus
It’s always a better experience to visit a foreign country through a local’s eyes. In my case a local’s bar scene. We spent a lot of time at the Distrito Hotelero area, a small strip downtown that is the home to a few different bars. Cien Años, Tres Tintas, Tito Aguacate are packed on the weekends and have a local boho vibe, offer chill outdoor hangouts, salsa dancing, live music, DJ sets, and a damn good party. Grab a Caguama of Imperial (40oz of local beer) and hit the dance floor. In a closeby barrio, Glenns bar plays throw back jams and has that underground rock and roll vibe. Hostel La Ronda is a nice mix of backpackers and locals on a rooftop with live music, Centro de Eventos Vista Hermosa in Las Uvas is an open air event space that also throws fun parties with killer views of Tegus by night. All of the lights! There’s never a shortage of partying Honduran style, que pedos majes!
Pupusas, gringas, tacos, baleadas, tortillas, frijoles & pastelitos. Wash them down with Salva Vida, Imperial, Port Royal or a Barena. Catracha desayuno tipico is my #1!
40 minutes outside Tegus you can find the most charming towns with cobblestone streets, tuk-tuks, historic colorful buildings with classic terracotta roofs, local artisan shops, and bars and restaurants surrounded by Catracha street food vendors. Valle de Angeles is a popular destination amongst the city folk. Families can enjoy the quaint restaurants and parks, and party people can enjoy the many music festivals thrown in the nearby forest. It’s got a laid back energy for that quick escape from the Tegus hustle and bustle. I enjoyed Hierro Barro y Verde Café as the menu has specialty pizza and burgers in one of the oldest buildings in Valle (haunted?!) that has a beautiful garden and couples as an art gallery. Ambiance on point! On the drive back from Valle, we stopped in Santa Lucía, another delightful little mountain village with stunning views and historic appeal. Ojojona, Comayagua, all authentic countryside towns worth the visit.
At the start of our roadtrip through the mainland, our little blue toy car could barely make it up the hills in Tegus, I was eager to see how we would fare on the highways, since my friends enjoyed reminding me “if you can drive in Tegus, you can drive anywhere.” Ironically I could drive in Tegus, but the Honduran highway was a real mind fuck! No speed limits, no clear lanes, rubble and construction, narrow twisty roads, cars overtaking buses overtaking cars, no rules, no thanks.
We made it to Lago de Yojoa (YAS!) and immediately hit the D&D brewery for some well overdo craft beer (YAS!). This spot is a backpacker favorite and set in the jungle. Our friends joined us for a cute 10 minute hike through a coffee farm, before we decided we would rather be eating and drinking, so we dipped into the small village of Las Vegas. What happened there………
We swung by Pulhapanzak for some waterfall time before setting sail back to The Capital. What another cool place for a music festival. Honduras has so many festivals set among so many scenic landscapes. Go figure. Fun times.
The Crime Situation
The mainland gets a bad rap for soaring crime rates, and that’s not to be ignored. Statistically, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula rank the top cities in the world for homicides. If you ask locals about their experiences with crime, everyone has a story, but not everyone feels the same threat. Neighborhoods in most communities have 24 hour security, and the little boxes on the hillsides that make up Tegus, line the colorful streets with barrier walls, gates and barbed wire. I followed my friend’s lead and left my purse in the back seat and rolled up my window at certain stoplights. Only one time did I catch her break a sweat when we were driving downtown midday and her car stalled in the middle of a 2 lane bridge for a good 7 minutes. We caused a jam. Buses were honking, bikes were swarming, people were staring, and finally she cracked her window to let some dude help us get the car running. What an adrenaline rush!
I have been held up in New Orleans more than once, pick-pocketed in NYC and was targeted in Jordan. While circumstantial, my intuition has not yet failed me, and I still have never felt unsafe in my one year spent in Honduras. Steer clear of the favelas and gang-infested areas, don’t flash your devices around, just don’t be stupid, duh! For foreigners traveling through, you’ll get a dose of the AK’s on the road, in the back of a truck, or outside a gas station. Police, Military and Watchies all carry.
It’s a shame that travelers graze over Honduras on their routes through Central America. But I realize my comfort and familiarity with Tegucigalpa and the surrounding mainland is in part by local friends in the know-how. The statistics create a perception of fear and horror when millions of Hondurans from all social statuses live very normal lives and make honest livings. Crime sucks, jobs are scarce, and the economy suffers from a corrupt government, but the citizens are proud Catrachos. In a country with so much potential, I am proud to have called it home. Cheque leque panqueque!
All foto cred to @noisybird and her cracked Ipad