Gracias Lempira is a rural mountain town located at the foot of the highest peak in the country.
In the mid-16th century, Gracias, founded a few years earlier, was for a short time the capital of the Spanish colonies in Central America and the seat of the Real Audiencia de los Confines, the highest colonial jurisdiction.
However, this status soon aroused the envy of larger city foundations in Guatemala and El Salvador, and the Audiencia was moved to Antigua Guatemala.
As the region’s sparse gold and silver deposits were also quickly exploited, Gracias fell into a long oblivion, and its inhabitants turned back to cattle ranching and tobacco farming.
When the tobacco industry moved to nearby Santa Rosa de Copán in the early 19th century, Gracias also lost its importance as the regional de facto capital.
It is only since the last decade of the 20th century that the small town has made serious efforts to at least gain a place on the tourist map of the world.
Although efforts are being made to restore the colonial buildings and squares, many of them are still in various stages of decay.
One of the few restored colonial buildings open to the public is Casa Galeano, next to the church also called ‘La Ermita’ in the southwest of the center. A modest regional museum has been established in the former home of the influential Galeano family. The kiosk in the Parque Central now serves as a tourist information center including a small café.
Hardly any visitor can escape the feeling that time seems to have stood still here. A wonderful view over the brick-red roofs and whitewashed facades can be enjoyed from the Fuerte San Cristóbal, a restored Spanish fortress located a few minutes outside the center of town, which houses, among other things, the tomb of Juan Lindos, the Honduran president who earned merit for his education policy in the 19th century by founding state schools.
Below the fortress, the open air restaurant of the Hotel Guanascos is a good place to take a break.
In the surroundings of Gracias there are several worthwhile destinations: In addition to Celaque National Park, which protects the cloud forests of the country’s highest peak, these are the indigenous Lenca villages in the south such as La Campa, San Marcos Caiquín, San Manuel Colohete and San Sebastián, as well as the hot springs (Aguas Termales), whose visit is especially recommended in the afternoon/early evening after a hike.