Unfortunately many countries in Central America are not viewed in a positive light, as they have many negative connotations – drugs, poverty and corruption. However, I dare to argue that actually, the countries of Guatemala and Honduras are dangerously beautiful rather than just dangerous.
My first stop was at the quaint town of Antigua, in Guatemala. It is absolutely stunning (I can back this up with the fact that it is a World Heritage Site) and contains a lot of Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture, which adds to the experience of the town. Although it is a fairly small town, upon my arrival time at around 10pm, the local shops were still open and citizens were chatting on the streets. It did not seem very tourist-orientated at all, and it was great to have that community feel to the first part of my trip.
Soon after arriving in Antigua, we left for the country of Honduras and another small town, Copan. The scenery throughout the Guatemalan countryside was not to be missed: rough country roads are bordered by thick, uncultivated vegetation which is host to a huge variety of insects and animals. In the country known for its vibrant colours, I spied dozens of species of beautiful butterflies, geckos and even the odd iguana.
Copan is very close to the border of Guatemala and is steeped in history. It has been occupied since the fifth century AD and its ruins are the face of Honduras’ one Lempira bank note. Apparently if you dig anywhere underneath the current modern city, you will dig into piles of the crumbled ruins. The town reminded me a lot of Antigua, in fact, its layout is very similar with a plaza in the middle, the street blocks are arranged in the same way and again there were very few tourist groups, if any, asides from us. It is slightly poorer than Antigua, with uneven pavements and citizens eating on the streets.
Although it became evident that the majority of people living in Copan weren’t well off at all, everyone we spoke to was polite and welcoming. We sampled the local cocktail, a traditional mojito, and also tried the local delicacy. It is called ‘baleadas’ and is a warm tortilla containing chicken, eggs, cream cheese and refried beans. Delicious.
The following day we decided to explore the traditional ruins which are pictured on the back of the one Lempira note. They are located in a tropical forest, which is home to a number of scarlet macaws (the national bird of Honduras). The birds were absolutely beautiful and it was so amazing to see them in the wild. The ancient city of Copan was a dynasty, with the population between 40,000 and 50,000. A river ran through it to separate the rich from the poor.
The ruins themselves were very interesting to see, with different structures built up in layers all over the place – the main two types of structure being pyramids and volcanoes. It was interesting learning about Mayan traditions and what I found particularly exciting was learning about the hidden ancient temple ‘Rosalila’, the most completely preserved piece of architecture from this time period.
All in all, the countries of Guatemala and Honduras are not only beautiful, but have a fantastic historical background. I dare you to try the dangerously beautiful. It will be so worth it.