Gracias is a small Honduran city that can be found in the country’s mountainous western region. Founded in 1536 by the Spanish explorer, Captain Juan de Chavez, its original name of Gracias a Dios was inspired by the first words that Chavez reportedly uttered when he came upon the area. These words were "Gracias a Dios hemos hallado tierra plana." In English, this translates to "Thank God we have found flat land." Captain Chavez and his men had previously spent much time combing the mountains in search of a flat area.
Eight years after its founding, Gracias a Dios became the Spanish capital of Central America and had jurisdiction over the area between Mexico and Panama. Four years later, the capital of Spanish Central America was moved to Antigua, Guatemala, and Gracias fell into relative obscurity. Due in part to its history, however, the city is now coming back into prominence, especially on the tourism front. Other reasons to visit include the nearby Lenca villages and the area hot springs.
Architecture & Attractions
Gracias is home to three colonial churches, the most attractive of which is arguably Las Mercedes. You can find this church one block north of the city’s small square and it has a facade that dates back to the early 1600s. Surrounding the square are other colonial buildings. They include the La Iglesia de San Marcos, which dates back to the late 1800s. Next to this church are remnants of the old Spanish Royal courthouse, which now serves as the home of the parish priest. Other major attractions in Gracias include the Casa Galeano & Jardin Botanico, El Fuerte de San Cristobal, and the Balneario Aguas Termales. The Casa Galeano & Jardin Botanico is one of the best museums in western Honduras not found in Copan. El Fuerte de San Cristobal is a small fort, and the views of Gracias from its grounds are the best around. As for the Balneario Aguas Termales, it is a hot springs complex that is popular with locals and tourists alike. As a side note, Gracias is a good place to purchase pottery and ceramics from the Lenca people. These products are well-known throughout Central America.
Montana de Celaque National Park
Helping to make tourism a growing industry in Gracias is nearby Montana de Celaque National Park (Celaque Mountain National Park). Topping out at 9,344 feet above sea level, Celaque Mountain is the tallest peak in Honduras. Montana de Celaque National Park is also known for having one of the largest tracts of cloud forest in Central America, and it is a wonderfully unspoiled land. The park's 11 rivers supply many regional settlements with fresh water, including villages as far away as El Salvador. The only real way to explore Montana de Celaque National Park is by hiking. The ascent is rather steep and can be increasingly difficult when the trails are wet and muddy. While hiking in the park, visitors will want to keep an eye out for wildlife. Almost 50 species of mammals have been identified in Montana de Celaque National Park. The park is also home to several hundred species of birds and a few dozen reptile species. Dense mist and fog can hamper the wildlife viewing opportunities, it should be noted. Tours of Celaque Mountain National Park can be arranged in Gracias, as well as in other towns that surround the park. Santa Rosa is an example of such a town. While visiting the park with a guide is not required, it is recommended. A few small campsites and the park’s visitor center provide accommodations for visitors who wish to stay overnight.
Gracias Honduras Hotels
Gracias Honduras Hotels
There are several hotels to select from in Gracias. Arguably the best in terms of being able to handle the town's increasing number of tourists is the Posada de Don Juan. In addition to inviting in-room amenities, the Posada de Don Juan offers a restaurant, a bar, and private hot spring facilities. If the Posada de Don Juan is fully booked, worry not, as there are other good lodging options in town. They include the Hotel Real Camino Lenca and the Hotel & Restaurant Guancascos (pictured). Complementing these are hotels that tend to attract more Hondurans – the Villas del Agua Caliente and the Hotel Finca El Capitan. Area visitors can also consider staying at hotels in nearby Santa Rosa, with good choices being the Hotel San Jorge and the Hotel Elvir.