guanaja caribbean beach
Pristine beach
photo by Luis Feldman

about honduras: country overview and History

About Honduras

Honduras, meaning ‘depths’, is named for the deep water off its coastline and is the second largest of the Central American Republics. Honduras is bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea, to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, and to the southeast by Nicaragua.

Honduras is a country rich with history, culture, and is known today for its ancient mayan ruins, rainforests and rivers, majestic mountains, and its endless beaches on mainland and on the islands of Roatan, Guanaja, and Utila in the Bay Islands.

While Honduras is the original banana republic with lots of land devoted to bananas, pineapple, and other tropical fruit, it’s fast becoming one of Central America’s hot destinations.

Today, there are more than 100 biological reserves in the country which highlight the country’s fantastic biodiversity in different elevations and climates. The cloud forests have abundant vegetation and flora while the Bay Islands offer hundreds of miles of palm-lined beaches.

  • Sidewalk Mystic - Check out Sidewalk Mystic for travel ideas and information about mainland Honduras and the Bay Islands.

Country History

The Mayans and Indigenous groups. Before being conquered by the Spanish, Honduras was inhabited by diverse groups of indigenous tribes, the biggest group being the Mayans. The Mayans built the Copan Ruins, one of the most advanced and artistically elaborate cities of its time and one of the most visited sites in Honduras today. Copan was the Mayans’ sacred city and ceremonial metropolis. After the collapse of the Mayan civilization, several groups slowly settled in different parts of Honduras. The variety of tribes were related to the Aztecs of Mexico and the Chibchas of Colombia as well as a group called the Lencas.

Christopher Columbus Arrives on his fourth and last trip to the Americas. On July 30, 1502, Christopher Columbus reached the Bay Islands and soon afterwards the mainland. After arriving on and naming the island of Guanaja, Columbus sailed toward the northern continental coast and in Puerto Castilla, Columbus held the first mass on the Honduran mainland. In the Rio Tinto, Columbus claimed the territory in the name of the royal family, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.

Spanish conquest. The first Spanish expedition groups arrived in Honduras in 1523 followed by Hernan Cortes in 1524. Within a few years, Honduras was conquered by Spain and ruled as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. During this period, descendents of the indigenous and Mayan peoples who opposed the Spanish conquest produced legendary figures of Honduras like Tecún Uman, Lempira, Atlacatl, Diriagúacutan, Nicarao and Urraca.

Independence to Today. In 1838, Honduras claimed its independence. Since the last century, Honduras has been called the "banana republic" as its chief export is bananas. Honduras fought a brief war with its neighbor, El Salvador, in 1969, and tensions prompted border clashes in 1970 and 1976. During the 1980s, Honduras began an era of democratically elected officials and smooth transitions between party candidates in power starting with its first free elections in 1981. What many people think about when they hear Honduras in 'recent news' is when Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras, leaving more than 5,000 people dead and 1.5 million displaced in October of 1998.