Villages near Santa Bárbara
The department of Santa Bárbara is filled with colorful colonial villages infrequently visited by foreigners. Many, such as Gualjoto, El Níspero, Los Bancos, and San Vicente, are known for producing good quality artesanías (handicrafts). Ilama, on the road toward Ceibita and San Pedro Sula, is famous for its junco goods. Unfortunately, its lovely colonial church was severely damaged by an earthquake in May 2009. San Luis, also off this road, is a pleasant little town set in the cool hills 1,000 meters above Santa Bárbara. Also well known for handicrafts are La Arada and Nueva Celilac.
Set high on a mountain divide separating Santa Bárbara from the Gracias region is San Rafael, a scenic town dating from colonial times. A daily bus from Santa Bárbara travels past El Níspero up the dirt road to San Rafael, and the adventurous can continue onward to Gracias by hitchhiking down the far side of the mountains. No hotels exist in San Rafael, but locals will rent rooms for a night.
Up in this direction, south of Santa Bárbara toward Gracias, is Cerro Pucca, one of the highest mountains in this part of Honduras and reportedly affording some of the finest views in the country, across five departments on a good day. The mountain is reached through the community of El Cile, via a 12-hour hike from the village, or El Lepaera. In both villages, you’ll find locals more than happy to guide you the right way for a negotiable fee (usually US$8 a day or so).
Trinidad, on the highway toward Ceibita, has a lovely central park where a marimba band plays live every Sunday evening after Catholic mass. The town hosts a number of festivals throughout the year, including beautiful colored sawdust carpets for Holy Week as well as unusual papier-mâché “chimneys” in mid-December, which are ritually burned to make way for the new year.
Just outside of Trinidad is La Estancia El Pedregal (tel. 504/552-6365, www.estancia-elpedregal.com, US$35 d cabin, US$55 cabin sleeping up to eight), a working farm on a beautiful hillside that also takes guests seeking a taste of rural Honduran lifestyle. Rooms are in log cabins with porches with hammocks, air-conditioning, and hot water, and some come with a kitchen. The restaurant also serves tasty locally produced food. There’s great hiking all around, and plenty of activities on the farm if that’s your thing. The owner will collect you in Trinidad if you arrange beforehand.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition