Amongst all the small town places in Honduras, the town of Gracias in western Honduras of the Lempira department makes travelers want to thank the heavens above for showing how small town life can be heavenly for the right reasons. In fact, gracias means “thank you” in Spanish. As such, it is no surprise when you do say your thanks more often than you normally would while you are in Gracias.
It is said that the Spanish conquistadors inadvertently named the place when they exclaimed: “Gracias a Dios hemos llegado a tierra plana” which means “Thank God we have arrived at flat land.” From said exclamation grew the name Gracias a Dios. In modern times, however, when the exigencies of commerce required it, the name was shortened to Gracias.
According to historians, Gracias was founded by Juan de Chavez, a Spanish captain, on 1526. By April 1544, it was host to the Spanish Empire’s governing council for Central America – the Sede de la Audiencia de los Confines. For a brief period, Gracias was also the capital of the Spanish Empire. As time passed on, however, the towns of Antigua in Guatemala and Comayagua in Honduras eclipsed Gracia in importance. Today, it is a small town that aspires to become a vibrant tourist center in western Honduras.
If you are in search of small town happiness with a sense of adventure and a sense of time moving slower, then Gracias is the place to be in this part of Central America. You will find cobblestone streets filled with friendly men, women and children, dotted with colorful houses, and imbued with history.
At Gracias, you will find three charming and charmed churches where the locals thank God and the saints for whatever blessings that come their way. Each one, of course, has its peculiar Catholic charm from the haunting church of La Merced to the grandiosity of the San Marcos Church to the colorful accents of the Iglesia de Santa Lucia.
For nature adventure, the Celaque Mountain National Park is just waiting to be discovered. It is home to Mount Celaque, which is the largest cloud forest and highest mountain in Honduras. Wildlife abound though it can be elusive to human while wild orchids definitely are showy.
Nowadays, Gracias is attracting more and more attention, thanks to Mount Celaque, colonial churches and hot springs. In fact, the municipal government is active in promoting tourism in Gracias especially in light of its great economic potential. Most of the locals in Gracias, indeed, have many things to be thankful but will be more thankful for tourism to become vibrant in their small town.
For now, agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for the Gracias locals. Main crops include corn, beans and coffee that are used for subsistence and for exports especially the high-quality coffee beans.
So, whenever you feel like escaping the heat of Tegucigalpa, you must escape to Gracias. Small town life definitely has its perks, most notable of them being around people who are thankful for visitors like you.