The Capital Cities of Honduras

Did you know that over the years there were several capital cities of Honduras?

Yes, much like the United States had its capital in New York City and Pennsylvania before finally moving on to Washington DC in 1800, there has been three different Capital Cities of Honduras!

The first, and oldest Capital City of Honduras was the city that we know today as Gracias, in the department of Lempira. Gracias was actually the seat of government for all of the Central American Provinces, which back then where part of the viceroyalty of New Spain, during Spain’s Colonial expansion years, between 1521 and the independence in 1821.

Capital cities of Honduras
Las Mercedes Colonial Church in Gracias, Lempira

Geographically, Gracias was a great location, as it was equidistant from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as close to the provinces of Guatemala and El Salvador. Gracias has the honor of having been home to the first “Audiencia de los Confines” in Central America, which was the seat where the local governor and local judicial authorities where established. But alas, the stint as the Colonial Capital of Honduras and Central America did not last long. Founded in 1536, Gracias was named seat of government in 1543, and remained so until 1549, when the capital was moved to Santiago de los Caballeros, better known today as Antigua Guatemala. Thus, Gracias has the honor of having served as the first of the Capital Cities of Honduras!

Colonial streets in Comayagua. Photo John Dupuis
Colonial streets in Comayagua. Photo John Dupuis

The second Capital of Honduras is the lovely colonial city of Comayagua. The city was founded in 1537, and soon took over as the Colonial Capital of Honduras after Capital of the Central American provinces was moved from Gracias to Antigua Guatemala. After the independence of New Spain, the new independent government of Honduras took its seat in Comayagua, where it convened from 1821 until 1880, when the Capital was moved to Tegucigalpa under the administration of President Marco Aurelio Soto. Although popular stories claim that this was due to the fact that the local elite society of Comayagua rejected President Soto’s young wife, who was from Tegucigalpa, the truth is that the president was an important partner of the Rosario Mining Company, which was mining silver around Tegucigalpa, and the president wanted to be closer to his personal interests.

Capital cities of Honduras
Plaza Los Dolores, one of several lovely plazas in Colonial Tegucigalpa. photo by Osman Nuñez

Tegucigalpa was a quiet town back in 1880 when it became the Capital of the Republic of Honduras.  The city was founded in 1578 at the site of an important mining operation, and quickly became the most important mining center in Central America, producing silver and gold. As a result, it was a relatively wealthy city, with important religious and civil buildings when it became a Capital. However, this was not the first time that Tegucigalpa had some important political influence; between 1824 and 1839, it was the capital of the short lived Central America Federation, a federation that included the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica in addition to Honduras!

You can visit all of these Capitals Cities of Honduras, and find that each has its own charm and personality. Gracias and Comayagua have both undergone a process of restoration, bringing back the most important buildings in the city to their original splendor. Hotel and tourism infrastructure have grown substantially, and today, you can find charming hotels that have the feel of years gone by, yet offer all of the modern amenities and comforts you would expect to find in the first world. Tegucigalpa has become downright cosmopolitan; however, if you visit the downtown area, you will be pleased to find that there are many old buildings that still give the city lots of character and charm. Tegucigalpa has many international franchise hotels that offer World class service. Although many travelers feel there is not much to see in Tegucigalpa, there is actually a lot, museums, small colonial towns nearby, great restaurants, and a lovely downtown that is certainly worth visiting. La Tigra National Park, located just outside Tegucigalpa, is one of the most accessible National Parks in Honduras and easily visited from Tegus, as the locals call their city.