This weekend I took a short trip to Siguatepeque. I must admit, it was a great to be in the pleasant, cool weather of the central highlands of Honduras. Few people actually spend a night in Sigua, as the locals call their city. I must say, it is a BIG mistake. Sigua offers all the comforts of a mid size city, and it is a pleasure to walk around town. It is safe, it is clean, it is affordable and it is cool! You cannot ask for much more can you?
My Trip to Siguatepque: From La Ceiba to Tela
The trip took us through highway CA13 from La Ceiba to El Progreso. As I left La Ceiba, I was fascinated by the beauty of the Nombre de Dios Mountains. Pico Bonito Peak dominated the morning view with its green, seemingly impenetrable slopes stretching into the sky.
My Trip to Siguatepque: From Tela to El Progreso
The stretch between Tela and El Progreso is currently under expansion to a 4 lane highway. If you are driving on this road, please make sure that you use caution. The CA13 highway never has been a high speed road. With the construction process, there are many areas where their is no highway shoulder due to the expansion. This means passenger buses cannot pull out to the shoulder to drop passengers. A lot of the highway signs are missing due to the construction, so signs are scarce and far apart.
As I drove through El Progreso, I had an urge to explore the Railroad Museum there. El Progreso was a major hub for the Tela Railroad company. There you had a track that lead to Tela, another to Santa Rita de Yoro and yet another towards San Pedro Sula. The railroads in Honduras disappeared due to neglect by the Honduras Government for years. Yet, I must state that the railroads opened the land along the Caribbean Coast of Honduras for development. They were without doubt a major factor in the making of the Authentic Banana Republic in Honduras!
You can see some of the legacy of this once vast railroad system in only two places in Honduras. One is the Swinford Park in La Ceiba, the other is the Railroad Museum in El Progreso. The first, was set up by the Standard Fruit Company, who controlled the area East of Tela. The second by the Tela Railroad Company that established itself in the Sula Valley. In the end, both companies merged under government ownership. They became the Ferrocarril Nacional de Honduras.
The Railroad Museum in El Progreso
By far, the largest exhibit of old railroad locomotives and wagons is in El Progreso. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am till 8 pm. The Museo Ferroviario in El Progreso, Yoro has no entrance fee. The park is managed by the Municipality of El Progreso and is well kept up. You will find nice gardens and well maintained railroad cars and locomotives. An old building that was once the railroad station in el Progreso is also part of the exhibit. The park is ideal to get an idea of how Honduras developed during the first half of the twentieth century.
If you have the time, arrange for the tour on “La Mocha”. This is a makeshift train that will take you around town. The tour will give you an idea of the History of El Progreso and the Banana Company that once was king here. El Progreso has a claim to fame, and you can visit a small monument that commemorates this important event. I am referring to the Great Banana Strike of 1954. The strike began in El Progreso, but soon spread throughout the country. The Banana Companies employees gained the right to strike, get paid for overtime and many other benefits as a result of the strike. It was without doubt a turning point for a more fair relationship between the foreign Banana Companies and local Honduras Workers! If you can, visit the monument to the 1954 strike. It is well kept and safe to visit.
From El Progreso to Lake Yojoa
After this brief, but interesting stop in El Progreso, I continued on towards Siguatepeque. There is a short cut between El Progreso and the junction at La Barca. There you will meet the CA5 highway that comes from San Pedro Sula towards Tegucigalpa. This stretch of the road is under expansion to a four lane highway. Work is quite advanced and sections of it are sure to open to four lanes shortly. The biggest construction going on here is a new bridge over the Humuya River. The old Humuya River Bridge collapsed after the 2009 earthquake damaged it. A modern 4 lane bridge that will be one of the biggest in Honduras is under construction.
From La Barca to Lake Yojoa, the highway is in excellent condition. 4 lanes almost all the way. But there is some major expansion going on along the lake. This area can be hazardous, as you have many lakeside businesses offering lodging and food. Drivers coming from both directions are likely to cross your lane to get to one of those establishments. It’s best to drive slow and concentrate on the highway on this stretch!
Construction is ongoing as far as Taulabe, where you can see that famous Taulabe Caverns. These are spectacular limestone caverns that have many interesting stalactites and stalagmites. The tour is short, but interesting, and the conditions are actually quite good. I did not stop here on this occasion, so I must say that I have nothing to report about the caverns. From Taulabe, the highway is in great shape as you climb up to the mountains of Central Honduras.
Siguatepeque sits at just over 1000 meters above sea level. It has some lovely pine clad mountains that surround the city. The city has a delightful climate. Most travelers never enter the city and thus only see the roadside businesses along the main road. Although the city has been inhabited for many years, it does not have any old colonial buildings within it. It was more of a native indigenous community than a Spanish city. Several new coffee shops and restaurants in town surprised me. There are also some nice hotels that have sprung up around Siguatepeque.
The city has found its niche as a weekend and convention destination for the local markets. It is under two hours drive from both Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. Several different churches, including the Catholic and several Evangelical congregations have invested in facilities here to accommodate church members that come here for different events.
Locals joke about there being more churches than bars in Sigua! One thing is for sure: nightlife is quite limited in town. Sigua is close to Comayagua, La Esperanza and Lake Yojoa. It is a good central base from where you can explore the area. Above all, the people from Siguatepeque are friendly and hospitable. The city is also safe, so come and enjoy it. Explore the different areas in town, visit the local markets and sample the coffee produced in the mountains around the city!