The Colonial City of Gracias a Dios, Lempira in Honduras
This sounds more like a religious expression, but is actually the name of a colonial city in Western Honduras. I first visited Gracias back in 1993. It was a small, unknown town in the middle of nowhere. I found it was charming, and with a lot of potential. Well preserved colonial architecture and access to Celaque national park. You will also enjoy some great hot springs. If you dig a bit deeper, you find nice rural surroundings, with lovely colonial towns. Friendly people, and a strong influence of the Lenca people.
Yes, Gracias is an important part of the Lenca Route. Coffee plays a central role in the local economy. Best of all, getting to Gracias is actually quite easy! Take the CA4 highway that leads west from San Pedro Sula to Santa Rosa de Copan and Ocotepeque. You will come to the junction with highway CA11-A about 3 km before Santa Rosa de Copan . From here it is only 45 km to Gracias. If you are taking a bus from San Pedro Sula, take the Gracianos bus line, they will take you to Gracias. Another alternative is to take a bus to Santa Rosa de Copan and from there another bus to Gracias.
Highway CA11-A connects Gracias with La Esperanza and on to Siguatepeque. This highway is the backbone of the Lenca Route. It is also an scenic route you will enjoy traveling on.
Gracias has grown much in tourism infrastructure. Many hotels have sprung up in town and surroundings. As a general rule hotels are good, clean and affordable. I can say the same restaurants and bars.
The Most Important Celebrations in Gracias
There are many different thing to do and see in Gracias. Perhaps the most popular celebration is the Guancasco. This celebration goes back almost 5 centuries. It is a sort of peace celebration between the Lenca people that have lived here for centuries and Aztecs that came with the Spaniards. The Aztecs where left to established themselves here. There are several different Guancasco celebrations in Honduras. But the original Guancasco took place in Gracias. It was between the communities of Gracias and Mexicapa, a small village close to Gracias. This celebration usually takes place every January in Gracias.
Another important celebration is in honor of national hero Lempira. The national ceremonies take place in the city of Gracias a Dios. This important national celebration is not an official holiday. Yet it is an important part of the civic calendar in Honduras. Lempira is remembered on his day, which Honduras celebrates on the 20th of July.
Things You Must do in Gracias
A walking tour of town is a great way to enjoy the city. Visit the colonial churches and the site where the Audiencia de los Confines once existed. The Casa Galeano, which is across the street from the Church of San Sebastian is home to a small museum. The first botanical garden in Honduras is also here.
The Archilaca Hot Springs just outside of the city are worth visiting. If you happen to be in town during a full moon, this is a great time to visit the springs. Nothing like bathing in natural hot springs under a full moon!
The Gracias Chamber of Tourism has an information center. You can find it in the old teachers school building. (Antigua Escuela Normal). Another great source of information is at the Hotel Guancasco’s. This hotel is run by Froni, a Dutch lady who made her home in Gracias over 25 years ago. Froni speaks fluent Spanish and English as well as Dutch!
Much has changed over the last twenty years in Gracias a Dios, capital of the department of Lempira in Western Honduras. I can generally say that changes have been good. Locals hope that soon they will see scheduled flights into Gracias’ new aerodrome. This would make it easier to visit their city. In the meantime, I can say that visiting the city is worthwhile if you want to see more of rural Honduras.