Villages North of Santa Bárbara

The road weaves around north of Santa Bárbara and circles the mountain, passing countless small villages known for their easygoing nature and junco handicrafts. The wide-open vistas of pine forests and green hills assault you from every angle. It's a drive for the ages.

Gualala is the first village you see. The old-world, colonial atmosphere that Santa Bárbara is quickly losing hasn't been touched here. Apart from a quick drive through town and maybe snacking in a small country cafe, there is little to do but admire the cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses with tile roofs, flowering gardens in every yard, and the small square with its church.

On the highway between Gualala and the next town, Llama, lies a string of junco handicrafts stands selling every possible woven product in existence: chairs, dolls, baskets, and bags, as well as woven hammocks. San Jose de los Colinas is next. The town church dates back to the 16th century and is believed to be one of the oldest in the country.

If you are looking for a completely unspoiled town that has yet to pop on the tourist radar (at least, until this book is published), check out Chinda, just to the south of Trinidad. From the turnoff at the highway, head straight up the hill, and you will run into the small cobblestone square and its very traditional, rustic, white adobe church that dates to the mid-1900s. Apart from Sundays, the church is locked, but if you ask anyone nearby, they can point to the guy with the key -- and he will even let you climb up into the tower, where a great view over the whitewashed houses and tile roofs unfolds.

Trinidad, set between the rivers Ulúa and the Chamelecón, is the last town of interest before getting on to CA 4, where you can head to Copán. Spanish settlers of Jewish backgrounds founded it in 1794. Estancia El Pedregal (tel. 504/2552-6365;; L855 double), a small log cabin-like lodge with a few rooms, is a working farm set on 98 hectares (242 acres) of land in a beautiful spot among the mountains and forests, about 8km (5 miles) from Hwy. 20. Each room has A/C, a private bathroom with hot water, and a porch with a hammock. The land is used for cattle grazing, mango trees, and coffee plants. Their restaurant serves mostly regional dishes, as well as hand-kneaded bread baked in a clay oven and cheese made from the milk of their own cattle.

Any bus between Santa Bárbara and San Pedro Sula will stop on the highway turnoff to any of these villages.

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.