Gracias is a small town in Honduras, located in the country’s mountainous central region. The town’s name in Spanish means “thank you”. Some say it was named as such by the Spanish explorers because they were thankful for arriving in the flat site of Gracias after trekking through the mountainous terrain surrounding the town. Today, Gracias continues to serve as a transportation hub for the region. The town’s economy depends on coffee production. Tourism has developed substantially over the years, with the Celaque Mountain (Montaña Celaque) and its hot springs serving as the primary attraction.
Gracias was founded in 1536 by Gonzalo de Alvarado, who was the brother of the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado. The town’s colonial history is evident in the three churches built along Gracias’ cobbled streets.
The most alluring of Gracias’ attractions is the Parque Nacional Celaque near the town. It is one of the largest tracts of cloud forest still remaining in Central America. The Celaque Mountain is the highest in Honduras with an elevation of 9,350 feet above sea level. It is so high that the hike to the top takes at least seven hours. This national park is the natural habitat of spider monkeys, pumas, tapirs, toucans, quetzals, and other exotic birds. Unfortunately, Parque Nacional Celaque is about six miles outside of Gracias. The best way to get to the park is to hire a car in Gracias and drive up. There are cabins at the base of the park that you can rent and sleep overnight in.
There are various other attractions in Gracias that are notable as well. The aguas termales or hot springs, for instance, are a great place to hit up, especially after a long day’s hike up the Celaque Mountain. They are located just a few miles outside of town.
Also, the Fortaleza of San Cristobal above Gracias is worth the short walk up, as it provides a spectacular panoramic view of the Parque Nacional Celaque and its mountains and forests.
Near Gracias are several indigenous communities like the Lenca people. If you are interested in learning more about these people and their culture, you can visit La Campa, a village in the rugged Celaque Mountain about 10 miles from Gracias. La Campa is known for its local ceramics and is home of the famous Iglesia de San Mattías. This statue of the saint was stolen just a few years ago, only to be returned by the thieves after a huge uproar was stirred up by the townspeople.
The remote village of San Manuel Colohete is also outside of Gracias, about 10 miles away. It is home to a stunning colonial church, considered to be the most beautiful in all of Honduras. The interior of the church has often been compared to the Sistine Chapel because of the colors of the inside walls and ceilings. The façade of the building is adorned with sculpted saints and you’ll also find a gold-plated altar piece inside with a Cristo Negro.
Gracias is a small town that is easily accessible by foot. However, many of the attractions are located outside of town. The best way to get around is by renting a private car or traveling on one of the many red moto taxis. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a car, the only way to get in or out of Gracias is by bus. There are a number of buses that arrive from and depart to San Pedro Sula, Santa Rosa de Copán, and La Esperanza (in Intibucá).