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Description : The busy yet pleasant capital of Olancho
Comments : The city has got some charm (and shops) but the main reason to stop would be to visit
the two nearby national parks.
What to do ? Walk 1km from the bus station to the plaza & hotels / Wander around the few cobbled streets and colorful houses / Go up the hill for a good panorama / Shop for food / Watch an American movie at the cinema (1C, 2-3 Av, L20) / Jump from rocks to rocks over Rio Olancho / Loose your balance and splash into it / Sweat on the way up / Spot lots of birds,
lizards and butterflies / Talks to the kids of an isolated hamlet or to a lady leaving in a cave / Enjoy mountain scenery / Take the bus up to charming Catacamas and explore big Talgua Cave (ask for info in town) / The nicest waterfall of Honduras (El Cardon) was also reported in Olancho, between San Esteban and Trujillo. It requires a 3 hours hike and offers a great camping site. Not something to do without
What you may not like ? The traffic in the narrow or dusty streets / Not having much to see in town / The confusing paths or the lack of path at El Boqueron /
How long ? A few hours for the town, a few days for the parks ?
Where to stay ? There are quite a few acceptable places to stay. Most are located west of the plaza on 1
Av. From south to north :
Hotel Reyes / 50 p.p., w. shower 70 p.p. / Free water / This was the place recommended to me but it was full. Check it out !
Hotel Honduras (8851331) / w. TV & HW 145(1) or 165(2) / Go there for the large & clean rooms, the nicest in their price category.
Hotel Antunez (8852250) / 52(1) or 104(2), w. shower & TV 104(1) or 171(2) / Free water / TV in corridor / Big hotel w. acceptable cheapies
Hotel Juticalpa / 40 p.p. but slightly more basic and no fan / Go there for the cheapest prices.
Hotel Antunez Anexo / 48(1) or 95(2), w. TV & shower 104(1) or 172(2) / Free water / The same kind of room as the original (maybe a bit more basic) but smaller structure, rooms around a small garden and cheaper !
Hotel Rivera (8851154), 2 Av. 1-2C SO, near the Shell Station / 75(1) or 125(2), w. TV 90 & 150, w. shower 105 or 175 / Small bottle of water / Nice atmosphere and OK small rooms but slightly more expensive.
Where to eat ? Cafeteria Bambi, west of
Hotel Antunez, serves good basic dishes at cheap prices : two big tacos for L18, tipico meal L26, etc. If you wish to spend more or are fed-up with local dishes, try
Dirro's or Restaurante Asia, by the plaza.
Internet ? A few places. One near Hotel Honduras charges L20 for 15mn or L60 per hour.
Sico's Internet, opp. Shell Station cost L1.5 per mn but there is no min.
Change ? Quite a few banks near the plaza but most will change cash only. TC accepted at Banco Atlantida. Cash advance on plastic also available.
Shopping ? The small market is a few blocks west of the plaza. Two
supermarkets also on 3 Av. You need provisions (and lots of water) for the walk !
A day walk in a canyon ? El Boqueron may not be the highlight of your trip but it is a nice enough way to spend a day. Take a bus to Catacamas and
ask to be dropped at El Boqueron, just before the bridge (L7, 30mn).
Once again, the indications of my guidebook proved quite wrong & misleading :
"The path takes you through forest and into the canyon along the left-hand bank of the Rio Olancho where there are plenty of opportunities for swimming. After around an hour, the path crosses the river and heads uphill away from the canyon through open pastureland to the hamlet of La
Avista". Well, not really : the path is indeed on the left of the river at first, but only for about 15mn. Then, you
cross and walk a road on the right bank for about 45mn, until you have no way but to cross the river again (you could actually follow any path as long as it is by the river, there are quite a few of them). 5mn later, on the left side, there will be a tiny path going uphill. It takes another hour to reach the village, on a nice & soon flat road. On the way, at the barbed wire gate, look left for the friendly (& singing) old "cave lady". The village itself is charming but very small.
From there, according to the book "the path loops steeply uphill around Cerro Agua Buena (1433m) and through the
cloud forest section (...) From this point on it's all downhill, the path emerging after a couple of hours on the highway at Tempisque, a few km west of the main
entrance". This is certainly a nice theory. In practice, and as it is too often the case in Honduras, the path is very elusive... To reach the entrance of the forest is easy enough (although very
strenuous for about 1 hour) : walk the right side of the village for 5mn until a perpendicular road to the river on your left. Cross it and takes the opp. path up. Then follow the yellow signs. The panorama is soon gorgeous, even so a lot of lands have been burned. If sunny, this will be an exhausting walk up...
As soon as you enter the cloud forest, the environment changes completely : the path becomes sleepy and the atmosphere humid. The path ? What path
? After 15mn, it disappeared ! I tried to fight my way a bit (a bloody painful fight thanks to
thorns), but lost to the forest. Never mind reaching that damn antenna with, possibly, the path down ! I decided to go down, enjoy the scenery again and have a swim in the river...
If too tired to walk, ask in the village if there is a transport to Juticalpa. The bus (L30, 1.5 hours) leave at 6am but there might be a private vehicle going. If walking back, try to be on the highway at round 5pm, the time of the last bus from Catacamas.
Discover a trek
Other attractions in Olancho ? Not too many tourists come here but explorers will be rewarded by some greats spots. Big Talgua Cave is apparently worth the trip to charming Catacamas (a few
accommodations). The nicest waterfall of Honduras (El Cardon) was reported between San Esteban and Trujillo, after a 3 hours hike. And of course, you have also the Parque National Sierra de Agalta (the largest piece of virgin
cloud forest in Central America) and Parque Nacional La Muralla near La Union. As I did not go, you will need to get info from local people. The office of COHDEFOR in Juticalpa (8852253, 1 Av SO) would be a good place to start. If you go, thanks for sharing your adventures with other backpackers !
Leaving ? The daily bus to Trujillo leaves at 4:30am (L75, 7 hours if no waiting time). There might be others as well coming from Tegucigalpa. You can also take the 5:30am bus to Tocoa (L65, 7 hours) and change there (30mn) / To La Ceiba, only bus at 3am (L110, 9 hours) / To La Union, at 11am & 1pm, 3 hours / To Catacamas, hourly or so from 6:15 to 5pm (L12, 1 hour) / To Tegucigalpa (station on the west side of the road), hourly direct bus from 5am to 6pm (L43, 3 hours). Also normal buses (L31, 4 hours) and 1st class (L105, 2 hours).
The trip to Tegucigalpa : SSS / Left / L43 / 3 hrs / 2nd class bus
The 6am bus showed up at 6:15. People had been queuing since 5:30 to buy the ticket and were now
orderly queuing to board. What a civilized country !
The bus was rather nice and so was the scenery. But as the reclining seats were OK as well, I only enjoyed a little part of it : a good panorama of Tegucigalpa on the left side, 15mn before arriving.
Saying that the bus goes to Tegucigalpa is half true (or half wrong) only : it actually goes to Comayaguela, the part of town west of the Rio Choluteca, where most buses companies (but not all) have their terminal.
We arrived on 7 Av 12-13 C or something like that : there aren't too many street
names around. When my guidebook was written, you had buses running from 6Av in Comayaguela to the Parque Central in Tegucigalpa. Not any more : the bridges have been
fragilized by Hurricane Mitch and only taxis nowadays make the trip between the two sections of town.
A regular taxi should cost around L25. You also have 'collectivo' taxis for L6 or so but locating them is a bit tricky. After walking around for 10mn, I was told that I could actually walk to the center of town : it was less than a km away, via Mercado San Isidro, going North on 6a Av. Of course, doing this would be a very bad idea at night as the whole Comayaguela district is unsafe. In the morning, it should be fine,
if you do not waste too much time wandering around with your big bag !
See also the trip from Trujillo