Tegucigalpa is the capital and largest city of Honduras, known as the city of “silver hills”. This moniker comes from the Spanish colonists who found silver when they arrived centuries ago. For some reason, many tourists complain about Tegucigalpa, but it is surprising considering how beautiful the city is. Located in a valley amidst beautiful pine-forested mountains, Tegucigalpa is also surrounded by national parks teeming with exotic flora and fauna. The climate in Tegucigalpa is also among the most pleasant in Central America – tropical yet comparatively less humid.
Tegucigalpa’s history dates back to the late 16th century when it was founded by Spanish settlers. The city was a mining center for silver and gold, much of it looted and brought back to Europe. In 1880, it became the country’s capital after President Soto moved it from Comayagua. During much of the 20th century, Tegucigalpa remained a small and rural city until the 1970s when immigration brought a flux of residents. Tegucigalpa has since developed and sprawled rapidly.
Today, Tegucigalpa is very exhilarating to explore with its winding, steep streets lined with colorful, hillside houses. The city’s squares and main streets are crowded with rows of souvenir stalls. The neighborhoods are a mix of different barrios and colonias that are easy to navigate through; the avenidas run north and south while the calles run east and west.
The heart of Tegucigalpa is at Plaza Morazán. It is a great place to begin exploring the city. This square is always crowded, whether at night or during the day, and serves as a meeting place for the entire city; the square is a great place to strike up conversations and meet new people. In the afternoons, you’ll sometimes find free concerts at the square.
Near the Plaza Morazán is the Catedral San Miguel, one of the prettiest churches in the capital; it is located on Plaza Morazán’s eastern edge. This church was completed in 1765 and displays an impressive gold and silver altar sculpted by the famous Guatemalan artist, Vicente Galvéz.
Other sites include the Museo del Hombre, which is a few blocks east of the Plaza Morazán. The Museo del Hombre houses works by contemporary Honduran painters, arranged around a lovely, open courtyard.
The Galería Nacional de Arte is another art gallery close by Plaza Morazán; it exhibits artifacts, pre-Columbian ceramics, religious and colonial art, and Mayan sculptures. More great paintings can be found at the Iglesia de la Merced, Iglesia de San Francisco, and Iglesia Los Dolores – churches whose interiors feature stunning religious works of art.
There are also a few popular destinations for tourists just outside of Tegucigalpa. Valle de Angeles, just east of the city, is the best place in the entire country to buy handcrafts, souvenirs, and famous woodwork. Santa Lucia is another popular town, known for its beautiful views and its iconic little church. The El Picacho national park is north of Tegucigalpa, home to the iconic large statue of Christ. The park also offers spectacular views of Tegucigalpa, a Confucius garden, and a national zoo, which features interesting specimens like the coatimundi, agouti, and big tapir. La Tigra is another national park near Tegucigalpa; it is a cloud forest just north of Tegucigalpa that rises up to 7000 feet above sea level and can be ascended using the well-marked hiking trails.
Tegucigalpa is relatively safe as long as you dress modestly and avoid walking out at night. Flashy jewelry, watches, and cash should not be worn or flaunted in public. There are also pick-pocketers, so it is not advisable to carry a lot of cash around. Purses and handbags should be held close to the body; it is common practice among local thieves to slice the bottom of bags and catch the contents from below.