A sleepy colonial town, its days of glory as the capital of Central America more than four centuries in the past, Gracias makes a great base to explore this beautiful region of western Honduras . Formerly just a destination for backpackers, Gracias is these days attracting more tourists of all varieties, drawn by the town’s colonial architecture; the cloud forest  atop the Celaque mountain range, southwest of town; and nearby Lenca villages, including La Campa  and San Manuel Colohete .
Fossil hunters will be interested to learn that in the vicinity of Gracias are Miocene-era fossil beds. Though picked over by major foreign expeditions in the 1940s, plenty of fossils remain to be discovered.
Summer in the area is March and April, when it can get quite hot and air-conditioning becomes a good investment. Not even a fan is necessary for a visit October through January.
A couple of buses run between Gracias and Santa Rosa de Copán  every hour (90 minutes, US$2.15).
The 80-kilometer dirt road from Gracias via San Juan  to La Esperanza  is slowly, very slowly, being paved. Work has gone on for years, and it is only about half done. The unpaved stretch can get pretty rough in the rains, particularly right in the town of San Juan. It is a very beautiful drive through pine-forested country, and the quickest way to Tegucigalpa , instead of returning toward Santa Rosa and San Pedro Sula. There are several points where the road forks and there’s no signage, so be sure to ask frequently if you are headed the right way (there is even a point at which one sign points left to La Esperanza and right to Los Dolores, contrary to the actual directions).
From San Pedro Sula , there are three buses: Cooperativa Transportes Lempira (tel. 504/656-1214) at 1 p.m.; Gracianos (tel. 504/656-1403) at 2 p.m.; and Toritos y Copanecos (tel. 504/662-0156, or 504/516-2086 in San Pedro) at 3 p.m., charging US$5.25–5.75.
See the tourist office website at www.colosuca.com/como-llegar  for details on bus service. While bus service between the villages is limited, it is easy enough to get a jalón, a ride in the bed of a pickup. Many travelers prefer to use Gracias as a base, to take advantage of the city’s hotels and restaurants, but each of the villages has at least a comedor, and a few simple, small hotels as well. If you don’t mind the limited creature comforts, the villages offer unique opportunities to experience Honduran mountain life.