Honduras gets a bad rap. And perhaps rightly so. San Pedro Sula, on the Caribbean coast, held the title of murder capital of the world for several years, until being surpassed by Caracas, Venezuela in 2016. Bus hold ups are common, with bus drivers and passengers killed every so often, and there are plenty of other horror stories to keep the newspapers busy. But those murders and horror stories apply to a few hot spots. Once you get away from the big cities and highways, and get out into the countryside, you find a sleepy, serene, and altogether safe side of Honduras. Lago de Yojoa, just 160 kilometres northwest of Tegucigalpa (the capital), is exactly that.
Picturesque landscapes. Tranquil lake setting. Safe to walk around the countryside by yourself. No aggression or extortion of tourists. It lacks the volcanic peaks of tourist-Mecca Lago de Atitlán in neighbouring Guatemala, but Lago de Yojoa is definitely my favourite of the two.
What is there to do in Lago de Yojoa?
Well there’s the lake…
Lago de Yojoa
Take a sunrise cruise on the lake. Go by rowboat if you can; gliding silently over the still, glassy surface is a superb way to start the day. Sunrise is also the best time to be out on the lake if you wish to engage in a little bird spotting.
If you’re lucky you’ll get a glimpse of a toucan – we heard their frog-like calls, but weren’t able to see them. You’re almost certain to spot grackles, kingfisher, kiskadees, and Montezuma birds (Montezuma oropendola).
Los Naranjos Archaeological Park, Lago de Yojoa
Take a walk to Los Naranjos Archaeological Park. It’s a small park, and the bridge to enter is a little on the rickety side (the bridge is actually the rear entry into the park, there is also a more stable road entry if that’s what you would prefer), but the trails are well maintained and the jungle is satisfyingly jungle-y.
There are plenty of armadillos inside the park, ambling this way and that over the forest floor. They take off like a stream train, ploughing through everything in their path, if you try to sneak up on them for a photo.
There are Mayan ruins in the park, but they’re just grassy mounds to the casual visitor. Don’t get your hopes up.
Pulha Panzak Cascades, Lago de Yojoa
Pulha Panzak Cascades are the biggest and best falls in Honduras. That’s what the guidebooks say anyway.
The falls themselves are pretty, but I wasn’t so taken with the kitschy picnic ground surroundings, or with the web of zip-lines that crisscross the falls and canyon below. The loud American tourists clinging to the ziplines, with their screams of yeaaaaaaah and you go girl as they zip back and forward over the falls, also somewhat detract from the experience. As do the celebratory screams and fist pumps of the tourists scrambling over the rocks at the bottom of the falls. But if you can ignore these elements (they’ve been carefully excluded from my photographs), then the falls are worth a visit.
Paradaiso Biosphere Park, Lago de Yojoa
If it’s colourful, stunningly-beaked birds that you’re after, then I’d suggest an early morning venture to Paradaiso Biosphere Park, a part-coffee-farm-part-hotel-part-nature-park. Even if you’re not into birds it still makes a nice outing.
We saw toucans and aracaris while in the park, but both species clung to perches high up in the canopy, and were un-photographable. (If you want a close up view of these birds, I’d suggest a visit to Macaw Mountain.)
There is also a natural blue pool inside the park called Poza Azul. Ami and sat on the banks of the blue pool for so long, and sat there so quietly, that an otter swam past without noticing us. It darted away as soon as I got up to try and take its photo. I think there’s a lesson to be learnt there.
Honduras gets a bad rap, but it’s really just a few rotten apples ruining it for everyone. Come to sleepy, serene, safe Lago de Yojoa and you’ll see what I mean.