Honduras was the original banana republic and is still one of the least developed and industrialized countries in Central America. Despite its turbulent political history, the poor cousin of the region has barely registered on the Western radar, apart from its short role in the 1980s as a breeding ground for US covert operations. The slow pace, natural beauty and low-profile tourism make it particularly appealing to travellers (well-armed with insect repellent) who enjoy getting off the beaten track. However, the country was devastated by one of the strongest hurricanes of the 20th century - Hurricane Mitch in October 1998. Thanks to international relief efforts, much of the infrastructure has now been repaired and tourism has returned to pre-Mitch levels.
Warning: Violent crime escalated in 1999 and 2000 in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, particularly in the cities of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. Throughout Honduras, street crime is the principal concern. Incidents involving armed robbery, purse snatching and pickpocketing have been on the rise. Travellers should steer clear of the El Rubi waterfall near Santa Rita de Copán, and exercise extreme caution in Tela, as there have been numerous reports of robberies, assaults and rapes in these areas.
Full country name: Republic of Honduras
Area: 112,492 sq km (43,870 sq mi)
Population: 6,249,598 (growth rate 2.5%)
Capital city: Tegucigalpa (pop 1 million+)
People: 90% mestizo, 7% Indian
Language: Spanish, Creole English and Indian dialects
Religion: Predominantly Roman Catholic, plus other Christian sects and indigenous forms of worship
Government: Constitutional democracy
GDP: US$14.1 billion
GDP per head: US$2,050
Annual growth: -3%
Major industries: Coffee, bananas, beef, sugar cane, tobacco, forestry
Major trading partners: EU, USA, Japan
Visas: Citizens of most Western European countries, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US can stay 30 days without a visa. Extensions giving a total stay of 90 days are possible.
Health risks: Chagas' disease, cholera, dengue fever, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, malaria
Time: GMT/UTC minus 6 hours
Electricity: 110V and 220V
Weights & measures: Metric
When to Go
May through June are great times to catch several town fairs and celebrations, including a weeklong carnival held in La Ceiba during the third week of May. The coastal lowlands are warm year-round, while the mountainous interior can be cool and rainy, especially between May and October. On the Caribbean coast it rains practically all the time and floods can occur on the north coast, impeding travel.
LAND & CLIMATE
Region: Central America
Neighbours: The Caribbean Sea is on the country’s north coast, Nicaragua is to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean and El Salvador are to the southwest, and Guatemala is to the west.
Area: 112,492 square kilometres (43,433 square miles)
Size Comparison: Slightly larger than Guatemala
Except for two coastal stripsone extending about 640 kilometers (about 398 miles) along the Caribbean Sea and the other along the Pacific OceanHonduras consists of a plateau, with broad, fertile plains broken by deep valleys and traversed by mountain ranges. The mountains, volcanic in origin and rugged, rise to more than 2,800 metres (more than 9,186 feet).
Major Rivers and Lakes
Most of the country’s rivers drain to the Atlantic Ocean. These include the navigable Ulúa, which drains approximately one-third of the country, and the Coco, which forms part of the border with Nicaragua. The largest inland lake is Lago de Yojoa. Laguna de Caratasca is an inlet of the Caribbean on the east coast.
Weather and Climate
The tropical climate of Honduras is tempered by the higher elevations of the interior, which maintain a mean annual temperature of about 21°C (about 70°F). The low-lying coastal regions, however, are warmer, with the mean annual temperature averaging 27°C (81°F) with oppressive humidity. Annual rainfall averages 1,016 millimetres (40 inches) in some mountain valleys and more than twice that amount along the north coast. The dry season prevails from November to May.
Although Honduras is the poorest country in Central America, access to safe water, sanitation, and health services has improved markedly in recent decades. Rapid population growth and migration to the towns are putting these services under increasing strain, however. Honduras is rich in natural resources, but its exploitation of its forest resources is not sustainable, and nearly 2.31 percent (1990-1996) of the remaining woodland disappears every year. In addition, heavy metals from mining activities pollute Lago de Yojoa, the country’s largest source of fresh water.