Olancho is a department in Honduras. It is the largest department in the country and is even bigger than El Salvador. For most travelers, Olancho is way off the beaten track. I must confess, it had been a good 15 years since I visited Olancho. I took advantage of a trip to Tegucigalpa last week and finally went back to Olancho. Boy was I in for a surprise! My first surprise was the road. The highway from Tegucigalpa to Olancho has long been infamous for its bad shape. I did not expect to find the first class highway that I found! It was real pleasure to drive it. It took me just over 2 hours to travel from Tegucigalpa to Juticalpa!
Juticalpa, the Capital of Olancho
My second surprise was in Juticalpa. The city has grown a lot and they now even have a modern mall! They are paving the streets and upgrading the city. Best of all, I found the “Olanchanos” to be very friendly! Even better, the city was clean. I don’t know if it’s because the municipality does a great job with the garbage, or the locals dispose of their garbage in a civilized manner. Perhaps it’s both! I stayed at the Hotel Hacienda, which is right on the highway. Although nothing luxurious, the hotel was clean, staff hospitable and beds comfortable. I slept like a log!
I recalled that Juticalpa’s Central Park was pretty. And I was happy to confirm my memories. The park is very nice! On the Western side of the park is the Catholic Church, and on the East side is the City Hall. Both buildings are typical of colonial and early republican architecture. Together, they provide balance and elegance to the park. In the center of the park a 5 sided obelisk represents the 5 Central American countries that Honduras tried so hard to bring into a Federation in the past.
In case you need at ATM machine, there are several banks right on Central Park. There you can take care of your transactions to continue your journey through Honduras. The new mall is another great alternative if you need an ATM machine.
On the south side of Central Park you will see the “Casa de la Cultura”. You will usually find a variety of displays featuring local culture in this house. Many of Honduras’ greatest poets were born in Olancho.
Rosquillas, a Treat From Olancho
One of the more popular local foods in Olancho are the “rosquillas”. These are corn donuts that are usually prepared with a syrup and many considered a local delicacy. Although I am not a fan of sweets, I did try them and they are delicious. The most popular ones are those made in “El Conce”. This is a neighborhood on the outsides of Juticalpa. There is small shop in downtown Juticalpa where you buy these rosquillas from “El Conce”. The stores name is “El Arbolito Olanchano” and you can buy some rosquillas there.
From here, I went to Catacamas, as I had the intention of revisiting the Talgua Caves. This site is one of the archaeological parks open to the public in Honduras. To say the truth, you will not have much of an archaeological experience. The famous glowing skulls of Talgua are in a chamber that the public does not have access to. But the tour of the caves is fantastic. That is story I will share in another post! Catacamas has come a long way since I was last there. I must say the city looked very well. The Central Park is well kept and clean! I found that there are even some public bathrooms in the park! That is unusual in Honduras! A huge tree in the center of the park gives the area a majestic feel.
Contrary to the Spanish Colonial urban architecture, Catacamas does not have a church or city hall on Central Park. These are about three blocks away. The Church, which is consecrated to Saint Francis of Assisi. Is small and humble, just as you would expect for a Franciscan parish. It is well kept and was unfortunately closed when I was in town.
The New Highway from Olancho to the Caribbean
From Catacamas I took the new road to the Caribbean Coast via San Esteban. I had heard of this road and was curious about it. The road is not new, but it was only recently paved. It covers an area of Honduras that is sparsely populated. The Parque Nacional Sierra de Agalta is on the Eastern side of the highway and provides for spectacular scenery. I must say that I enjoyed the drive! As I passed by the town of Santa Maria del Carbon I was tempted to detour in search of a beautiful waterfall. This fall has been on my radar for many years, and yet, I have never made it there! Now that I know the road is so good, I will make it a point to plan a trip here!
The new road meets the CA13 highway at the town of Corocito. From there you can go east to Trujillo or West to La Ceiba. I of course headed west towards La Ceiba, which is home to me. I must say that the CA13 highway between Trujillo and Saba is in terrible shape. You should make sure that you are not driving at night. It is like driving though an obstacle course. The potholes are huge and deep and will break your car. I made it to Saba with the last rays of sun. I was sorry I did not leave Olancho half an hour earlier to drive this last stretch with day light.