Olancho is the largest department in Honduras (local equivalent to state). It is also one of the richest areas in Central America. Olancho is on the eastern part of the country. The department borders with Nicaragua to the east south east, and has some of the largest protected areas in the country. Part of the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve is within its territory. Its National Parks include the Patuca National Park, Sierra de Agalta National Park and La Muralla National Park. Olancho is larger that neighboring El Salvador. The department has a low population density and most of the inhabitants live in a rural setting.
Getting to Olancho
There are two mayor routes to get to Olancho. The most important one is via Tegucigalpa. A paved highway connects Juticalpa, its capital city with Tegucigalpa. There is an approximate distance of 190 Km, (115 miles) between these two cities. Catacamas, the second most important city is only 40 Km (25 miles) further east. The second route leads North towards the Caribbean coast. A brand new road leads from Juticalpa via San Esteban to the north. This highway t-bones the CA13 highway between Trujillo and La Ceiba. From there, the distance to La Ceiba or Trujillo is relatively short. The Northern route leads through rolling mountains and provides access to Parque Nacional Sierra de Agalta.
Olancho has a reputation for a lawless land, and many compare it to the Wild West. This reputation is far from reality. Olanchanos are friendly cowboy like people that will be happy to show you their land. Most of the population are hardworking honest and friendly people.
The backbone of Olancho’s economy is agriculture and cattle ranching. This is home to many dairy products, meat and grains produced in Honduras. There are extensive cattle and dairy farms in Olancho.
The Neighboring Cities: Juticalpa and Catacamas
The seat of government in Olancho is Juticalpa. This is a bustling community with a lot of commercial activity. You will find most of the banks that operate within the national banking system. Juticalpa has one of the most beautiful central parks in Honduras. The city hall is representative of the old city halls in Central America.
A new mall has just opened its doors in Juticalpa. This is the pride and joy of the city! This is a great place to find an ATM machine to withdraw funds from your card. A second alternative is at the Central Park. Here you will find several different banks with ATM machines. The most recommended are Banco Atlantida and BAC Honduras.
Catacamas is the second city of department. It has a traditional Spanish colonial atmosphere. In the old days it was less cosmopolitan than Juticalpa, but things have been changing. In the past few years Catacamas has grown quite a bit. There are two important education institutions that operate within the vicinity of Catacamas. Both have have a large degree of influence on the city. One of them is the Escuela Nacional Agricola (National Agriculture School). The second is El Sembrador (the Crop Planter).
The Talgua Caves
One of the most outstanding tourist attractions in the area are the Talgua Caves. This is one of the four archaeological sites that you can visit in Honduras. The other three are the Maya Ruins at Copan and El Puente, both in Copan. The other is Los Naranjos Eco-archaeological Park in Lake Yojoa. These four parks are managed by the Instituto Hondureño de Antropologia e Historia. The Talgua Caves are only 10 Km from Catacamas! Both Juticalpa and Catacamas offer a variety of hotel facilities from where to base your excursions in Olancho. There are also some pleasant restaurants.