Situated 1000m above sea level, deep in a mountain valley, the Honduran capital of TEGUCIGALPA is not, at least on first impression, the most welcoming city. The winding, narrow streets are thick with motorized traffic, and the sidewalks full to the gills with shoppers and loafers. That said, unlike other capital cities in the region, Tegucigalpa isn’t totally without charm, and its colonial feel and cool climate actually make it an ideal starting point, allowing you to get to grips with the Honduran pace of life.
Tegucigalpa’s first mention in records is in the 1560s, when silver deposits (“tegucigalpa” means “silver mountain” in the Nahuatl language) were found in the hills to the east. It was given town status in 1768, and named a city in 1807. With wealth from the country’s mines pouring in, the city’s location at the centre of key trade routes became highly advantageous, and Tegucigalpa soon rivalled the then capital, Comayagua. In 1880, the Liberal President Soto officially shifted power to Tegucigalpa, and in 1932 Comayagüela became a part of the capital. Since then, the nation’s economic focus has shifted to San Pedro Sula, but Tegucigalpa continues to function as the nation’s political and governmental centre.
Surrounded by reminders of its past – crumbling colonial buildings and decaying nineteenth-century mansions – the city today is a vibrant, noisy place. A handful of churches and a fantastic history museum will easily keep you entertained for a day or two. That said, street crime is a serious problem, so take common-sense precautions.
The heart of Tegucigalpa’s old city is the pleasant Parque Central, Plaza Morazán; a number of interesting churches and museums, plus many hotels, lie within easy walking distance of the square. East from the centre, two major roads, Avenida Jeréz (which becomes Avenida Juan Gutemberg and then Avenida La Paz) and Avenida Miguel Cervantes (which becomes Avenida República de Chile), skirt the edges of upmarket Colonia Palmira.
Running west from Plaza Morazán, the pedestrian-only Calle Peatonal is lined with shops, cafés and the fabulous Museo para la Identidad Nacional. Further west of the old centre, the character of the city rapidly becomes more menacing as you approach the banks of the Río Choluteca.