South of Tegucigalpa, the lush green mountains spread apart and valleys get wider until the entire landscape turns flat, grows blazing hot, and breaks apart into a multitude of small streams that twist their way through golden fields and mangrove forests until reaching the three-border area at the Golfo de Fonseca. It is the Pacific, so numerous beaches are strewn about the region, though they don't compare with those in neighboring El Salvador or Nicaragua. Cattle ranching, shrimp farming, cigar production, and mining are the major industries here, though some have taken their toll on the landscape and caused environmentalists to be up in arms -- especially over shrimp farming.

Southern Honduras is a poor region, one of the poorest collections of departments in the country. It's also one of the least-visited parts of Honduras and mostly visited only by those passing through along the Pan-American Highway between El Salvador and Nicaragua -- aid workers, volunteers, and weekenders from Tegucigalpa.

Still, all is not lost in Southern Honduras. If you have an adventurous spirit and enjoy the little-seen and almost-out-of-reach, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you will find here. Yuscar√°n, a charming colonial mining town with cobblestone streets sitting high enough to escape the heat, is for many visitors their favorite place in the country. Sierra de la Botija, a dry tropical forest in the highlands near the Nicaragua border, is home to white-faced monkeys, pumas, and all sorts of wildlife. Plus, while the Caribbean beaches in the north can get crowded, the Pacific beaches rarely see a footprint.