The tiny blip of a town of Gualaco sits at the base of Sierra de Agalta National Park, right on the rough, unpaved Hwy. 39, about 2 hours from Juticalpa. The population survives on ranching and logging. Unless you are making an excursion into the park or just need a stop on the long, lonely highway, there is little reason to come here. Facilities are basic but comfortable enough after a 4-day hike until catching the next bus out.
Getting There -- The easiest way in and out of Gualaco is through Juticalpa, from where you can catch transfer to Tegucigalpa and beyond. Buses (L50) depart from the traffic triangle from 6:30am to 4:30pm every day. To get to the North Coast, you can catch the afternoon bus to Trujillo (L100; sporadic times). If you want to get to La Ceiba or Tela, get off at Tocoa and transfer.
This Pech Indian village, one of just a few remaining in the entire country, sits on the Juticalpa-Tocoa Highway. There is a mix of thatched-roof adobe houses and newer constructions made out of concrete. There are no facilities to speak of, though travelers in the past have been able to rent rooms here. There are several excellent hikes through tropical and cloud forests, to several small peaks, pre-Columbian ruins, and various waterfalls and swimming holes not far from town that make for an interesting excursion. There are several guides in the village you can hire for multiday trips (there's often a Peace Corp volunteer in the village that can help with this); otherwise, inquire at La Moskitia Ecoaventuras (tel. 504/2550-2124; www.lamoskitiaecoaventuras.com) in La Ceiba.
La Unión is best known as a launching point for trips in Parque Nacional La Muralla , but highway robberies on the roads into town have practically cut off the tourist trade completely. The village of 3,000 is quite safe on its own, and there are a few small guesthouses and comedores, none of them worth mentioning, to keep you with a roof over your head and a full belly.
Unless you're driving, getting here and away requires several transfers. From Tegucigalpa, go first to Juticalpa, and then catch either of the two daily buses (L80; 3 1/2 hr.). From La Unión, you may be able to catch passing Tegus-bound buses from Sonaguera if you wait by the highway. For the North Coast, a 6:30am bus leaves for Olanchito (L80; 3 1/2 hr.), where you can transfer to Trujillo (for La Ceiba, transfer at Mamé).
Parque Nacional La Muralla
La Muralla National Park, 14km (8 3/4 miles) from La Unión, was once the favorite park in all of Honduras, superbly maintained and frequently visited by foreign travelers. Now, with the visitor center closed and a history of highway robberies and deadly clashes between environmentalists and loggers, few make it here. It's a sad, sad story, and it seems all funds have now shifted north towards La Ceiba and Pico Bonito National Park. Travelers do still make it here on a regular basis, though -- mostly hard-core birders for the quetzals, toucanets, and other species that inhabit the pine and cloud forests. While there are four trails that run through the park, none have been maintained in years; if you plan to hike, you'll need to bring a machete to chop your way through the overgrowth. When the park was up and running, there was a simple cabin at the visitor center, but it was locked at last check and showed no signs of being opened anytime soon. To reach the park from La Unión, hire a taxi (L400) for the uphill ride.
The Yoro department, bordering Olancho, centers on just one town, the unappealing village of Yoro. The few that do make it this way do have a good variety of facilities to choose from: a bank with an ATM, Hondutel, and a few hotels and restaurants. There are several interesting hikes to a nearby cloud forest, and Yoro is also the home of the famous Lluvia de Peces, or rain of fish.
Yoro lays on the east-west Hwy. 23 that stretches across the center of Olancho. On the main road in town, buses go to and from San Pedro Sula (L90; 3 1/2 hr.) every couple hours.
If you make it to Yoro during the middle of June, the annual shindig, the Festival de la Lluvia de Peces, is in full swing with parades, feasts, and dancing. Note: This is not the actual rain of fish. This occurs in late June/early July and is a bit difficult to predict.
The Rain of Fish -- "Donde hay lluvia de peces cual milagro celestial," or, "Where there is rain of fish, like a heavenly miracle," goes the popular folk song Conozca Honduras. For more than a century, a strange phenomenon has been occurring in the El Pántano neighborhood of Yoro in late June and early July that has continually baffled scientists, has been quoted in a CSI episode, and was the subject of a National Geographic special. Once a year, after a period of heavy rain, villagers go outside to find hundreds of living fish flopping on the ground. The silver fish are about 13cm (5 in.) in length, and on report of their arrival, everyone rushes out with baskets to collect the creatures for the next meal. While there are many theories behind this phenomenon, no one has been able to come up with a definitive answer. The most common claim is that the fish swim up the Río Aguán from the Caribbean and, following a quick flood during a heavy storm, swim into the fields. When a sudden drop in pressure causes the fields to dry up, the fish are left to the dirt. Still, many tell a much different account that has been one of the staples of Honduran folklore. When Spanish Catholic missionary Manuel Subirana visited Honduras in the mid-19th century and encountered countless impoverished people, he prayed for 3 days and 3 nights. He asked God for a miracle and to help provide food for all. The next day, the fish appeared.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.