Tegucigalpa, Honduras

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Fitting snugly into a valley at 3,000 ft., Tegucigalpa—more easily called Teguce by the locals—is the capital of Honduras; its narrow streets twist up and down hillsides, sheltering often charming pockets of colonial architecture. For essential sightseeing in Teguce, start right downtown with the lovely La Merced Church and next door the Galeria Nacional de Arte, one of the finest in Central America, tracing Honduras’ rich artistic traditions from pre-Hispanic times through the colonial era and to the present day. Next head for the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel (a.k.a. the Cathedral), a fine example of late-colonial architecture and displaying an incredible gold-and-silver altar piece by Guatemalan artist Vincente Galvez. And when in the capital, check the evening program for performances of opera, dance and concerts at the beautiful Teatro Nacional Manuel Bonilla, modeled after the Plaza Athenee in Paris. Fun for dining is El Patio, a rustic culinary landmark for Honduran cuisine. The Real InterContinental is considered the capital’s top hotel, although the small and delightful Humuya Inn, with wood-beam ceilings, tiled floors and indigenous art sprinkled about gives more of a feel of actually being in Honduras.

It’s fun to extend one’s stay here to buy one of the colorful and very collectible native paintings in the handicraft shops of the nearby mountain hamlet of Valle de Angeles, and to step back in time into the 16th century art-filled church of the former mining town of Santa Lucia. Nature lovers can spend a day hiking the trails threading through the cloud forest of La Tigra, the first Honduran national park. Along the main highway to San Pedro Sula (150 miles away) and 50 miles from Tegucigalpa is Comayagua, the first capital of Honduras. It is well worth a visit for its colonial cathedral and smaller church gems, two excellent museums, and streets covered with alfombras, decorative carpets of multi-colored sawdust, during Holy Week.