Tegusi what??? Tegucigalpa!
Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ tongue twisting capital can also be considered one of the most twisted cities in the World! Its name actually comes from the now extinct Nahuatl Language and means something like Silver Mountain or silver hill. Locals refer to their city as “Tegus” which is certainly easier to pronounce! This is certainly an appropriate name, as Tegucigalpa and environs were the most important silver mining center in Central America.Because of this, you can find important Catholic temples, as well as a variety of old homes that to this day are testimony of the grandiose past of this city. Tegucigalpa became the capital city of Honduras in 1880, when then President Marco Aurelio Soto moved the capital of Honduras from Comayagua to Tegucigalpa. Although common lore says that this decision was based on the fact that the Comayagua society rejected the presidents young wife, who was not part of the local aristocracy, the truth is that President Soto wanted to be closer to his interests as a partner in the Rosario Mining Company, that used to operate the mines in San Juancito, located very close to Tegucigalpa. It is interesting to note that before being the Capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa was honored by being the capital of the Central American Federation, an effort to create a Central American country with different states, which would have been the 5 countries involved in the effort: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The effort was well worth the try, but in the end, individual interests prevailed, and the efforts to create the federation collapsed.
Tegucigalpa has grown much since those days, and it is now a bustling city; the second largest in Central America. Because of its geography, surrounded by mountains, many of the poorer areas are clearly seen from the valley, as poor people settle high in the mountains around the city. Personally, I love the downtown Tegucigalpa area, where the Central Park, the metropolitan Cathedral and most of the old buildings are located. The Paseo Liquidambar is my favorite area, a pedestrian street that connects the Central Park with the Bonilla Theater about 5 blocks away. Here you will see some of the most iconic buildings in town, many different shops and restaurants and the nicest museum in Honduras, the Museo de Identidad Nacional (MIN). Within one block from the Cathedral you will find an interesting colonial cluster formed by the Las Mercedes Church and the National Art Gallery, both of them adjacent to the National Congress building. Both of the above mentioned buildings are worth visiting if you are interested in history and art.
Originally two different cities: Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela, Tegucigalpa was for the middle and upper classes and Comayaguela more for the less fortunate. Separated by the Rio Grande or Choluteca, these cities have merged into one big city, and are now part of one county with one city mayor that administers them as one big city. The municipality is called Distrito Central, and includes both cities. There are many different bridges over the river interconnecting both sides.
The main commercial areas in Tegucigalpa are the Boulevard Morazan, and the Boulevard Suyapa.
There are two different hotel districts in town, the older one is around the Historic Honduras Maya Hotel, and is known as the Distrito Hotelero San Martin. This district is very close to the Boulevard Morazan. The second hotel district in close to the Boulevar Suyapa, and includes the main franchise hotels in Tegucigalpa: Intercontinental, Marriott and Clarion.
Because of its winding streets, it is extremely confusing to drive in Tegucigalpa. As a general rule, if you are not familiar with the city or have someone that is familiar with it in your car, stay away from renting a car and trying to get around. You are better off in a cab. All of the hotels have taxi drivers that they know that are safe and reliable, and will gladly help you get a cab for you.
One of the icons of Tegucigalpa is the huge statue of Christ that sits up on the mountain at El Picacho. You can easily get a cab to drive you up the hill to the site, and the view is truly spectacular. The road to El Picacho takes you to an area known as “El Hatillo” one of the most exclusive residential areas in Tegucigalpa. This is were the USA ambassador’s residence in located. It is also one of the two accesses to the La Tigra National Park, one of the best preserved National Parks in Honduras which provides drinking water to Tegucigalpa. IF you are looking for a hotel in this area, you will find several options, including Casa Xochicalco, a small, boutique bed and breakfast in a nice historic home.
Another great view of the city is from the Parque La Leona, this is much closer to town, and within a 5 minute drive from Central Park. The view is spectacular, both during the day as well as at night. The park is safe during the day, and pretty much so at night, but if you take a cab, make sure he waits for you to take you back down! The view from La Leona is one of the best views of a city in Honduras, and possibly even Central America!
As the capital city, Tegucigalpa is home to most of the museums, theaters and art venues in the country. Take your time to enjoy the city, the great restaurants it offers the charm of its people.
If you are interested in local traditions, a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Suyapa is a must. This is considered the holiest spot in Honduras, and every year millions of people visit this shrine in search of favors from the Virgin of Suyapa. Although a new, large temple has been built, the small statue of Our Lady of Suyapa usually is in the old original temple that was built for her. This is a site with a lot of folklore and religious fervor. Pilgrims come here from throughout Honduras and Central America and offer prayers, flowers and all sorts of promises in exchange for guidance and miracles. The shrine is open regularly and it is a worthwhile visit while in Tegucigalpa. As in any place in the World with a high volume of people, keep your wallet close to you, as pick pockets love crowded venues to pick your pocket!
Getting to Tegucigalpa is easy, as it has one of the four international airports in Honduras: Toncontin International Airport, (TGU). If you are in search for an adventure filled holiday, you will be pleased to land in Toncontin International Airport. The best description I have heard of it was from a British pilot who called it “a rather sporty runway!” Although it has a reputation for being very dangerous, the truth is that accidents are very rare, and your biggest threat will be to find the airport closed to operations due to low visibility.
Last, but not least, as in any modern city, Tegucigalpa has many ATM machines where you can get cash from your credit or debit cards. Machines are to be found just about anywhere: the airport, the mall, in bank offices, etc. There are even ATM machines in some hotels and gas stations. Credit cards are widely accepted in most establishments.