Valle de Angeles in Honduras, a beautiful town inside the mountains

This time I would like to share with you a beautiful tour you could make if you ever travel Tegucigalpa in Honduras. Tegucigalpa, the capital city in Honduras, is located inside the mountains, it is about 3000 feet above sea level. It is surrounded by several mountains. If you are into the city and take a look kind of north-east, you will see some majestic mountains in the horizon, not very far away. This majestic landscape is part of La Tigra National Park, which we will talk about in future posts, it's an interesting adventure by itself.

There are several beautiful towns going into those mountains. One of them is Valle de Angeles, not very far away from Tegucigalpa, about 30 minutes driving by car, the road is in good condition. And you know what?..........the whole 30 minutes in that road you can enjoy the most beautiful landscapes you can imagine, it's a travel into the mountains. You can see the green vegetation and nature in all it's magnitude. The mountains are filled up with pine trees, there are like thousands and thousands of pine trees, it's incredible.

This trip is like escaping from the city world, it's another world really. You can breathe fresh air, you can smell nature!

When you get to Valle de Angeles you will find out that this is a beautiful town with colonial buildings, churches, cobbled streets. And you have to take this opportunity to take a lookt at the most beautiful handicrafts you can imagine. Valle de Angeles is the uppermost Honduran handicraft showcase, another colonial and republican mining town, transformed in the past 40 years because of its cool climate into an ideal spot for artisans to showcase their many products, manufactured using many local materials. Mahogany carvings are one of the most appreciated crafts along with the Lenca pottery. There is no better opportunity for you to buy your souvenirs than here!. Within the town, there is an arts and crafts display area, consisting of several large halls. Here, you can see a vast selection of Honduran made handicrafts, many of which are made right here in Valle de Angeles. All of these items are for sale, and with luck, you might even meet some of the artisans that have produced them.

Valle de Angeles is a picturesque town that has become a favourite weekend escape for the inhabitants of Tegucigalpa. If you go there on Sunday, you will be travelling along with thousands of people that are escaping to the mountains in this quick trip. Its proximity, only 30 km. and the good highway connecting it to the capital has made it popular with foreigners, many of who have established in the area. During the week, Valle de Angeles is a quiet place with few visitors, however it is teeming with action during the weekends. The Instituto Hondureño de Turismo manages a park nearby that offers sites for picnics. The Park is set amongst the pine-clad mountainsides and offers a great alternative for a quiet outdoor adventure during the week. It is closed on Mondays and heavily visited on weekends.

There are several other towns nearby, they are an adventure apart. I will share with you about these other beautiful towns in future posts.

Tikal, incredible Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

If you are into archeological things and enjoy adventure trips, there are several options in Central America, a lot of ancient sites to visit, all of them with their own history.

The Mayan culture took its development in Central America many centuries ago, and they left some very interesting sites, temples and ruins to remember their culture forever and ever. Mayan ruins, they are incredible!. In former posts I talked about some other Mayan ruins in Central America, I have a post on this same site about Mayan Ruins in Copan, Honduras. But if you are looking for Mayan ruins to visit, you should also travel to Tikal in Guatemala, another great and historical mayan city.

Let me give you a quick background and facts about Tikal, it could be very helpful to know some interesting things about this incredible place.

Tikal is the largest of the ancient ruined cities of the Maya civilization. It is located in the El Petén department of Guatemala. Now part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist spot.The closest large towns are Flores and Santa Elena, about 30 kilometers away.

The ruins lay in the middle of the rainforest. Some trees at the Tikal park include gigantic ceiba (Ceiba pentandra) the sacred tree of the Maya; tropical cedar (Cedrela odorata), and mahogany (Swietenia). Regarding the fauna, agouti, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, ocellated turkeys, guans, toucans, green parrots and leaf-cutting ants can be seen there regularly. Jaguars and coatis are said to roam in the park.

Tikal in the Classic era
Tikal was one of the major cultural and population centers of the Maya civilization. Monumental architecture was built here as early as the 4th century BC. The city was at its height in the Maya Classic Period, approximately 200 AD to 850 AD, after which no new major monuments were built, some of the palaces of the elite were burned, and the population gradually declined until the site was abandoned by the end of the 10th century.

The name "Tikal" means "Place of Voices" or "Place of Tongues" in Maya, which may be an ancient name for the city, although the ancient hieroglyphs usually refer to it as Mutal or Yax Mutal, meaning "Green Bundle", and perhaps metaphorically "First Prophecy". Scholars estimate that at its peak its population was between 100,000 -- 200,000

The Site
The site presents hundreds of significant ancient buildings, only a fraction of which have been excavated in the decades of archeological work. The most prominent surviving buildings include six very large step pyramids supporting temples on their tops. They were numbered geographically by early explorers. They were built during the city's height from the late 7th and early 9th century. Temple I was built around 695; Temple III in 810; The largest, Temple-pyramid IV, some 72 meters (230 feet) high, was dedicated in 720. Temple V is from about 750. Temple VI was dedicated in 766.

The ancient city also has the remains of royal palaces, in addition to a number of smaller pyramids, palaces, residences, and inscribed stone monuments. There is even a building which seemed to have been a jail, originally with wooden bars across the windows and doors. There are also several courts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame.

The residential area of Tikal covers an estimated 60 square km (23 square miles), much of which has not yet been cleared or excavated. Some of the pyramids of Tikal are over 60 meters high (200 feet).

A huge set of earthworks has been discovered ringing Tikal with a 6 meter wide trench behind a rampart. Only some 9km of it has been mapped; it may have enclosed an area of some 125 km square.

The Basics
During the classic period, from 250 to 550 a.d., Tikal was home to more than 150,000 people and covered over 20 square miles. Sometime in the ninth century, fo what is now believed to be a combination of cultural and environmental reasons, the city was abandoned to the jungle - the last date carved into the monuments was 869 a.d.

Although locals probably always knew of the ruins, Tikal was not officially "rediscovered" until 1848 when an expedition was made to the site by members of the Peten government. They found temples, palaces, and pyramids covered with a thousand years worth of tropical growth - 200 foot temples were capped with 175 foot trees. In the twentieth century mammoth excavations and reconstruction's have been undertaken through a collaborative effort between the Guatemalan government and several U.S. universities. Still, only a small amount of the metropolis has been released from its living tomb.

In the last twenty years dramatic breakthroughs in decoding the rotund and sometimes menacing Mayan hieroglyphs have delivered to us from the previously mute monuments a culture of kings and queens and priests and blood, of ritulised warfare and enemy city-states, of massive construction and mass desertion, of complex astronomical as well as mathematical knowledge - in short, one of the most advanced civilisations of the ancient world, Old or New.

The abandonment of Tikal and other classic Mayan cities at the end of the first millennium is still not completely understood - the most highly regarded theories blame a combination of factors including environmental destruction, underclass rebellion, famine, and theocratic doomsaying. And, contrary to a dimestore para-science rumor, the Maya did not disappear, they migrated west to the highlands where, after five centuries of Spanish rule, they still weave their own clothing and practice the ancient rituals.

Well, there is a lot to talk about Tikal and the Mayan culture, I could write pages and pages about it. I suggest you take time to visit someday this beautiful and misterious place. It's not only the ruins, is also the region, the jungle, the landscapes, there is a national park, the name is Tikal National Park with a lot of things to see and many things yet to be discovered.

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Did you know that Central America is a region with several volcanoes?. Yes, it is, and many of these volcanoes sometimes are active, not all the time, just sometimes. There is like a chain of volcanoes that goes all the way down from Guatemala to Costa Rica. A lot of these volcanoes are touristic places, there are many tours available if you want to take a close look. It's not only the volcano itself, it's also about the great landscapes around it, some of them are like national parks.

This thing with the volcanoes is very interesting, there are many options for visiting a volcano if you travel Central America. One of the most interesting ones is Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica if you are interested in getting somehow personal with a volcano. Arenal, of course, is a Central American must-see, and you can hike around it. And you'll get more than just a pot of hot lava: The area around the volcano also includes a 2,900-hectare national park, an enormous reservoir, and a botanical garden.

Cloud and tropical forest encircle the base of the volcano, which is six kilometers from the town of Fortuna. Arenal itself is some 1,633 meters high and has been continuously active since July, 1968. Every night lava pours down the side of the volcano and huge boulders shoot into the air. Nearby Lake Arenal is used for windsurfing, waterskiing, sailing, and fishing.

What and adventure this is!. If you have the chance someday you should visit Arenal Volcano. In the meantime, let me show you a video about this Volcano, you can see how beautiful it is, not only the volcano as I mentioned before, but also the rain forest, the trees, the insects, the rivers, the lake. This is nature in all its magnitude.

Watching this video will give you an idea of what it looks like, it's not the same thing if you visit in person of course, but you will have like a picture of it. Press the play button, it's the one with the little triangle. I hope you like it.......

Antigua Guatemala, Monumental City

Antigua Guatemala is a colonial city in the central mountains of Guatemala, it is famous worldwide because of its beautiful and very well preserved buildings, churches and architecture from the Spanish colony built several centuries ago. Did you know that this city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.?. That's not a surprise for me. There are many colonial cities in Central America you can visit, but you must go someday to Antigua Guatemala, it's a must visit if you like and enjoy colonial cities.

I would like to share with you some facts and history about Antigua Guatemala and give you a quick background, so you can be informed at least with the basics if you ever travel there.

Antigua Guatemala serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name. It also serves as the departmental capital of Sacatepéquez department.

The city had a peak population of some 60,000 in the 1770s; the bulk of the population moved away in the late 18th century. Despite significant population growth in the late 20th century, the city reached half that number in the 1990s. According to the 2000 census, the city has some 31,800 inhabitants.

Antigua Guatemala means the "old Guatemala". It was founded on March 10, 1543, and served as Spanish colonial capital of Central America. The conquistadores named the city La Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala ("The Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Santiago of the Knights of Guatemala"), in honor of their patron saint, Santiago, or St. James.

In 1773, it suffered two severe earthquakes, which destroyed much of the town. The Spanish Crown ordered the city rebuilt at a safer location, where what is now Guatemala City, the modern capital of Guatemala. In 1776 the badly damaged city was ordered abandoned, although not everyone left.

Antigua today
Central Park is the heart of the city the reconstructed fountain is very beautiful. People enjoy this park from early in the morning to late at night. Nowadays, Antigua is noted for its very elaborate religious celebrations for the Holy Week leading up to Easter.

There are also many Spanish language schools located in Antigua. Because of individualized instruction and reasonable fees it has become one of the most popular places in Latin America to study Spanish. Students are usually housed with local host families or in local hotels. They can engage in many other activities apart from immersion language courses. Tourists come to see all that Antigua has to offer, including nightlife, bars, restaurants, markets selling Mayan goods, and excursions via shuttles to surrounding sites.

Three large volcanoes dominate the horizon around Antigua. The most commanding, to the south of the city, is the Volcán de Agua or "Volcano of Water", some 3766 meters high. It is so named because the crater atop it was formerly filled with water. Shortly after the Spanish conquest of Guatemala, the first capital was on a site part way up this mountain, which was destroyed by a flood and mudslide when an earthquake let loose the water from the crater, and the city of Guatemala was moved down the valley to the current Antigua. The original site is a village now known as "Ciudad Vieja".

To the west of the city are a pair of peaks, Acatenango, long inactive, some 3976 meters high, and the Volcán de Fuego or "Volcano of Fire", some 3763 meters (12345.800524934 feet) high. "Fuego" is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level. Smoke issues from its top daily, but larger eruptions are rare.

Colonial Hotels
Finally, as for Hotels there are plenty of alternatives. However, I strongly suggest that if you ever travel Antigua Guatemala, take the opportunity to stay in one of the many colonial hotels in downtown area. A few years ago I went to Antigua Guatemala, and stayed in a very beautiful colonial Hotel, it used to be a Monastery in the colonial years many centuries ago. They have adapted the hotel facilities inside that Monastery so tourists can stay there. There is beautiful architecture, monuments, large aisles to walk inside the Monastery, landscape areas inside!. You have the feeling that you are experiencing what life was about many centuries ago, you lose sense of time in here, it's incredible!

Well, I hope you travel Antigua Guatemala someday, it's a must and an icon touristic place in Central America, no doubt about it!

Panama Canal Cruise

Interested to know a little bit about a Panama Canal Cruise?. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says "Panama"?. A lot of things maybe, but chances are that the most probable thing that comes to your mind is the Panama Canal. Well, what can I say about the Panama Canal?. I guess many people in the world know about the Panama Canal, it is famous worldwide.

Have you ever been to Panama?. If you have, I bet you did go to the Panama Canal, didn't you?. Well, I've been to Panama city several times, and each and every time I go there I can not miss the opportunity to visit the Panama Canal over and over. It's a real adventure, it's amazing how everything works with the structures, the gates. The giant ships passing through right in front of you.

A place you definitely can visit is Miraflores Locks, very near to Panama city. You can go there and take a very near look at everything. There are restaurants inmediately beside the Panama Canal. As you're eating or taking a drink you can see the gates working, the giant ships passing through. I've been there many times, but I guess I never get bored of seeing this again and again. I am really impressed of how all this was able to be constructed more than one hundred years ago. Those gates where the boats and ships go through, close and open all the time, every day, every week, for years and years!

One of the things you can do in Miraflores Locks is go into some type of theater they have right there, and you can watch a video of a Panama Canal Cruise making all the way through the Canal. The video is high speed, it lasts only a couple of minutes, since real time for a ship to complete the journey takes several hours. Somebody took a camera and filmed all the trip. So, it is like you are watching a movie, and you feel like you are going yourself into that ship looking at the Canal overboard. The ship enters from the Atlantic Ocean, and goes all the way through the Panama Canal until reaching the Pacific Ocean.

You can take a look at that video Right Here. This will give you an idea of the whole picture, it is not the same thing of course as if you were in person right there at the theater in Miraflores Locks, but it will give you a taste of it. Enjoy your Panama Canal Cruise.

Lake Yojoa in Honduras, a beautiful spot in the road

Are you interested in visiting a beautiful lake?. When I say beautiful, I mean "really beautiful". Well, there may be many options of beautiful lakes in Central America, and every one is very special. However, I can tell you for sure that one of the most beautiful definitely is Lake Yojoa in Honduras. ......have you ever seen pictures of landscapes with mountains, rivers or lakes in some calendars?. By the way, I have a calendar with pictures of beautiful places and landscapes from Switzerland, including some lakes, wow! ...........are they beautiful!. Let me tell you that Lake Yojoa in Honduras has nothing to envy to these landscapes in the calendars.

If you ever travel Honduras, chances are you will arrive either to Tegucigalpa -the capital city- located center/south of the country, or San Pedro Sula, the 2nd largest city in Honduras, located north. There are many places to visit around these two cities, all of them really good tourist destination. But let me give you some word of advise, if you ever have the chance do the following: drive from Tegucigalpa to San Pedro Sula (or viceversa), it is about 4 hours trip driving your car, the road is in pretty good condition.

You will see very beautiful landscapes in this driving trip, mountains, valleys, you can not imagine how many pine trees you will see, it's incredible. Well, one of the most beautiful landscapes you will find in the middle of this driving trip will be Lake Yojoa. It will attract your attention and I guess it is very difficult not to stop your trip for a while, and spend some time in the lake.

Lake Yojoa is located about 80 Km south of San Pedro Sula (1 hour drive), or 160 Km north of Tegucigalpa (3 hours drive). It's not a very large lake, I would say it's rather small, you can see the mountains in the other end and all around the lake. The water is blue all the time. There are several Hotels and resorts around the lake. You can enjoy some sports or hobbies like water sky or sailing boats.

There are many places nearby right beside the lake where you can have the best fish to eat you could possibly imagine. These places are not restaurants, they are more like little huts or shacks, a lot of them. You can stop by and have some fish in there. One fish I specially like is the one they call "Bass", it's real tasty. Some of these shacks have like an outdoor terrace with tables and chairs where you can eat, they are beside the lake, about 50 feet above the lake. What a view from there!, you can see the lake in all its magnitude from there.

Well, I hope some day you could make this trip to Lake Yojoa, and you will see by yourself what a beautiful place it is.....

Going for a stroll to Puerto La Libertad, El Salvador

Not very far from San Salvador, the capital city in El Salvador, you can visit Puerto La Libertad, which is one of the most visited tourist locations in the country. The popularity of this place is mainly because of its geographical location, it's only about 35 km south of San Salvador, the road is in very good condition, you can drive and get there in less than 1 hour.

This geographical location is important of course, but there has to be something else that makes this place so popular, the answer to that is pretty simple and straight is just a very beautiful place, warm and kind people, great landscapes and great food as well, and many other reasons.

The last time I was there early this year, I went from San Salvador to have lunch in a restaurant in front of the ocean. Since it is very near, you get there not tired at all, and you can enjoy very good typical foods, specially sea food. While you're eating you can have at the same time a view of the ocean and the beaches, you can feel the ocean breeze right in your face. It's a warm and great feeling, you can have a very relaxed time, I certainly did!

There are many beaches nearby. The ocean you have right in front of you is the Pacific Ocean with all it's magnitude and splendor. That of course means that the tides and waves are really strong. Several of those beaches nearby are very popular for people who love some special kind of activities and hobbies.....would you know what I'm talking about?. I'm sure you can guess......for people who love surfing of course. Local people even say that some of these beaches are among the best of the world for surfing, and I wouldn't be surprised, it is probably true.

After your visit you could go back to San Salvador taking the same road you came, or you could also go taking an alternate route to the International Airport going in another direction, and eventually get also to San Salvador, it's like going in circle just in another way around. This will take more than 1 hour driving, but you could take advantage of this opportunity to get to know a little bit more of the rural landscapes in order to wrap up the great relax feeling you probably will have in Puerto La Libertad.

Going for a stroll to Puerto La Libertad is just great and worth it!

Granada in Nicaragua, the oldest colonial city in Central America

Granada, a beautiful city in Nicaragua, is the oldest colonial city founded in Central America. It was the most important city in the region, not only for being the oldest but four being the best located in that time. If you travel Central America you will see many colonial cities all over the countries, very beautiful all of them, but Granada certainly is one of the most beautiful, with an ancient history. If you're looking to visit Colonial cities, you should definitely go to Granada.
Granada is located beside Lake Nicaragua, this is the Big Lake, we will talk about the Big Lake in future posts, it's more like an ocean, it's very large, you can not see the other side in the horizon. Granada was the main center of commerce due to the connection of Big Lake Nicaragua with the Caribbean Sea and just 18 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean.

The Spanish conquerors left the proof of their dominion as Granada and Leon (another colonial city) still keep the original colonial houses and public buildings of that time. When you go there and walk around the streets and see the colonial buildings and churches, it seems that the time has stopped, and you are like living in older times, many centuries ago, you can actually have that feeling!

In the streets and parks you can see horse drawn carriages, which were the way of transportation used during the colony and remain the same since that time. A tour in a horse drawn carriage is a must for visitors to Granada; it will take you back in time for more than 500 years.

Granada, the oldest colonial city in Central America, was founded by the Spanish conqueror "Don Francisco Hernández de Córdoba" in 1524. This city is rich in colonial architecture and the city tour allow you to close appreciate old colonial buildings like:

Old Spanish ammunition fortress La Merced and Xalteva churches San Francisco Convent (built in 1524) Casa de los Leones (A portal carved on stones showing two lions heads).

The city has good hotels to stay with modern facilities, and it's also not very far from Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, you can go to Granada from Managua in the morning and return in the evening, but if you could spend the night in a colonial place like this you won't regret it.

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