After glancing at a topographical map of Honduras, one is tempted to say that the entire country is one big mountain range and leave it at that. In Mexico and other Central American countries, the cordilleras are long, parallel rows. But because Honduras is at the junction of the Caribbean, North American, and Cocos Plates, its landmass has been geologically squeezed, resulting in a jumble of small mountain ranges and isolated massifs zigzagging across the country in all different directions and in no apparent order.
In fact, however, the mountains are divided fairly clearly into two “groups.” The first, caused by the pushing between the Caribbean and North American Plates, consists of several ranges roughly trending west to east or southwest to northeast. Forming the border with Guatemala, right on the south side of the Motagua Fault, is the ancient and well-worn range known variously, over the course of its run from the southwest corner of the country to its plunge into the Caribbean Sea by Omoa, as the Cordillera del Merendón, Sierra del Espíritu Santo, and Sierra de Omoa. The Bay Islands are actually an expression of this same range, where it pops its head up again offshore and forms the edge of Honduras’s continental shelf in the Caribbean.
In northern Honduras, the Sierra Nombre de Dios parallels the north coast between Tela and Trujillo, forming a narrow coastal plain and reaching an elevation of 2,480 meters at Montaña Corozal in Parque Nacional Pico Bonito.
Farther east, Sierra de Agalta begins in the center of the Olancho department and extends northeast into the Mosquitia, though its name changes to Sierra del Carbón and Sierra del Río Tinto as it heads north. This range, along with the smaller Sierra La Esperanza to the west, forms the principal boundary on the western side of the Mosquitia, an isolated lowland region in northeastern Honduras. Branching off from the Agalta range just to the east is a jumbled cluster of mountains and high ridges known as the Montañas del Patuca or Montañas de Punta Piedra. Beginning in the El Paraíso department is the aptly named Cordillera Entre Ríos, which runs northeasterly between Ríos Patuca and Coco. Farther north into the Mosquitia, this range is known as the Montañas de Colón.
The second group of mountains in Honduras is a series of short, rugged ranges running parallel to one another roughly northwest–southeast, extending from El Salvador into the center of the country. Closest to El Salvador is the tallest, Sierra de Celaque, topped by Cerro de las Minas, the highest peak in the country at 2,849 meters. Farther northeast are the Cordillera Opalaca, Cordillera Montecillos, Montaña Meámbar, Montaña de Comayagua, and Sierra de Sulaco in Yoro. Beyond Sierra de Sulaco, these mountains run into conflicting geological formations, resulting in the crazy labyrinth of ridges and valleys in western and central Olancho.
Except for a few eroded cones in the Golfo de Fonseca, none of the mountains in Honduras are volcanic—in sharp contrast to neighboring Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition