We’re almost finished with our tour of the best snorkel sites in Central America, but we still have a couple of countries left to explore. In today’s post we’re looking at one of the most diverse countries in terms of snorkelling sites, Nicaragua. With its access to two completely different seas, its fresh water lakes, and its stellar reputation for …READ MORE
With over 500 miles of glistening Caribbean coastline, its close proximity to the Mesoamerican barrier reef system and crystal clear waters, Honduras gives even the best snorkel spots of Belize and the Riviera Maya a run for their money. Although you can find many amazing snorkel sites just off the coast of the main island, the truly spectacular underwater worlds …READ MORE
Want to explore the less-trodden trail in Central America? Follow our guide Honduras – All You Need To Know Before You Go and encounter an old treasured world that’s itching to be rediscovered. As stunning as it is troubled, Honduras is one of Latin America’s most off-the-beaten-path destinations, whose relative obscurity belies a wealth of natural and historical wonders. From …READ MORE
Honduras was inhabited by the Maya civilisation before being conquered by Spain in the 16th Century. Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit the Bay of Islands on the coast of Honduras. This was in 1502 on his fourth and final voyage to the New World. The Spanish arrived in 1524 and with the help of armed forces from Mexico they conquered Honduras.
The Spanish ruled for around 300 years, silver mining being the key factor in their conquest and settlement of the region. Honduras finally gained independence in 1821, becoming part of the First Mexican Empire, then the United Provinces of Central America, before becoming an independent republic in 1838.
Western Nicaragua was inhabited by indigenous people related to the civilisations of the Aztec and Maya until thee country was conquered by the Spanish Empire in the early 16th Century. The first Spanish settlements were founded in 1524 in Granada and then Leon. Like Honduras, Nicaragua gained independence in 1821, joined the First Mexican Empire and then the United Provinces of Central America before gaining full independence in 1838.
Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonesca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea. It is the second largest country in Central America. The Pacific coastline is short but the Caribbean coastline is long and includes the mainly uninhabited Mosquito Coast.
Honduras is split into three main regions. Caribbean Honduras covers the Caribbean coast and offshore islands as well as a vast area of lowland jungle that includes the UNESCO Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve. The Honduran Highlands is the area covering the centre of the country and includes the capital Tegucigalpa, Maya ruins such as Copan and many Spanish colonial hill towns. Pacific Honduras to the south is the small region bordering the Pacific coast and including the major Pacific Ocean ports.
Honduras consists of a mountainous interior with narrow coastal plains, a large lowland jungle La Mosquitia region in the northeast and the heavily populated lowland Sula valley in the northwest. It is hot and humid year round, with temperatures varying by altitude rather than by season and ranging from tropical in the lowlands to temperate in the mountains. The country experiences frequent but generally mild earthquakes.
The highest point of the country is El Cerro de Las Minas at 2,870m.
Honduras’s natural resources include timber, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, iron ore, antimony, coal, fish and hydropower.
Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America, borders Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south, with coastlines on the Caribbean Sea in the east and on the North Pacific Ocean in the west. It is known as the “land of lakes and volcanoes”.
Nicaragua is split into three distinct geographical areas - the Pacific lowlands, the wet, cooler central highlands and the Caribbean lowlands. The two largest freshwater lakes in Central America are found on the Pacific side of Nicaragua – Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. The fertile lowland plains surround these lakes and extend northwest along the rift valley of the Gulf of Fonseca. Here the soil is highly enriched by volcanic ash from the central highlands.
Nicaragua has had its fair share of natural hazards including earthquakes, volcanoes, mudslides and hurricanes. The capital Managua was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1972 and Hurricane Mitch caused devastation in 1998.
The highest point in Nicaragua is Mogoton at 2,107m.
Nicaragua’s natural resources include gold, silver, copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, timber and fish.
Honduran culture is a blend of mainly Spanish and indigenous culture. The population is just over 8.5 million and 90% of the people are mestizo (mixed Amerindian and European). There are several minority ethnic groups including people descended from native tribes such as the Lencas, Chortis, Tolupanes, Tawahkas and Miskitos. Another important group, the Garífunas, were descended from African slaves from the Caribbean Islands. The Bay Islands are home to many Afro-Caribbean people and the culture of the islands is very different to the rest of Honduras.
Spanish is the official language of Honduras and is spoken by the majority of the population, although English is the native tongue of the Bay Islands. In Utila a hybrid of Spanish and English has developed that can be very hard to decipher! Native languages such as Miskito and Garifuna are spoken in various parts of the country.
Honduras’s predominant religion is Roman Catholic with over 97% of the population thought to follow Catholicism although this figure varies dramatically between different sources. The Bay Islands, however, are predominantly Protestant. Legends and folklore also plays an important part in Honduran culture.
The music of Honduras is very varied but the main rhythm is punta, a Garifuna music and dance style performed at celebrations, festive occasions and at wakes. The cuisine of Honduras also takes its influences from the various cultures of the country. A typical lunch consists of rice, beef, fried beans and fried plantain and may be served with chismol, a fresh, mild salsa made from tomatoes, green peppers, onions, cilantro and lime juice. Baleadas is another typical Honduran dish, a thick flour tortilla filled with refried beans, cheese, cream and sometimes also avocado or meat. Tacos, unlike those in Mexico, are deep-fried meat filled corn tortillas. Enchiladas are flat fried corn tortillas topped with ground beef, cheese and salsa.
The multi-ethnic population of Nicaragua has given rise to a mixture of cultural traditions with influences from indigenous blood, Spanish colonisation, African slaves and immigration from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The population of Nicaragua is about 6 million, the majority being mestizo then white, with many being descendants of the African slaves who were brought to Nicaragua in the 17th century to work on the banana plantations. Segments of the population include native indigenous tribes from the Mosquito Coast. Spanish is the first language of Nicaragua and is spoken by the majority of the population. Indigenous tribes on the east coast speak native languages such as Miskito, Sumo and Rama as well as English Creole.
Religion is a significant part of Nicaragua’s culture. Although the country has no official religion the majority of people are Roman Catholic. Popular religion revolves around the saints and most localities honour patron saints.
Nicaragua’s music is an amalgamation of sounds and rhythms, drawing on Indigenous and European, especially Spanish influences. Similarly the cuisine of Nicaragua is a blend of criollo food and dishes of pre-Columbian origin and changes from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast. Corn is a main staple along with beans, cassava and rice. Gallo pinto is Nicaragua’s national dish and is made from white rice and red beans cooked together and then fried. Coconut milk or shredded coconut may be added and it may be served with meat, salad or plantains. Nactamales is another common dish – dumplings boiled in plantain leaves and stuffed with vegetables.
Honduras is the second poorest country in Central America. Historically it was dependent on the export of coffee and bananas but has diversified and now also exports other fruit, woven goods, cigars, palm oil and gold. Honduras relies heavily on export trade with the US and signed a free trade agreement with the US in 2005.
Although the Honduran economy has continued to grow and economic growth is one of the highest in Latin America, averaging 7% in the last few years, over half of the population lives in poverty.
Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America with about half of the population living below the poverty line. It is primarily an agricultural country with agricultural accounting for 60% of total exports. Nearly two thirds of the coffee crop comes from the northern part of the central highlands. Most of the bananas and sugar cane is grown in the northwest of Nicaragua. Mining is also becoming an important industry.
Nicaragua has strong ties with Venezuela in terms of export and in 2007 Poland and Nicaragua signed an agreement to write off a debt of over $30 million that was borrowed by the Nicaraguan government in the 1980’s.
Honduras is a democratic constitutional republic, with 18 administrative departments. Universal suffrage is granted to those 18 years of age and is compulsory.
Since independence there have been hundreds of small internal rebellions and civil wars in Honduras and in the early 1900’s severe political unrest resulted in occupation by US Marines. In 1969, El Salvador invaded Honduras and resulted in “the football war” but was forced to withdraw by threats of economic sanctions and military intervention by the Organisation of American States. In 1963 a military coup was mounted against President Morales and resulted in more than 20 years of military rule. A freely elected civilian government finally came to power in 1982. During the 1980’s Honduras was a haven for the anti-Communist contras fighting against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government.
Nicaragua is a representative democratic republic with 15 departments and 2 autonomous regions. The President is both the head of state and the leader of the government. The country has 2 main political parties - the Liberal Alliance and the Sandinista National Liberation Front. Universal suffrage is granted to those 18 years of age.
Since its independence, Nicaragua has undergone political unrest, dictatorship and economic crisis. These were the main reasons for the Nicaraguan Revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s when the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) ousted the Somoza dictatorship. The Contra War of the 1980’s cost the lives of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans. Both the FSLN and the Contras (counter revolutionary groups) received large amounts of aid from the Cold War super-powers – the Soviet Union and the US. The Contra War ended in 1989.
Since 1990 the government has undertaken a number of reforms to restructure the country’s economy and liberalise the nation’s political system.