Tela and Garifuna Villages
What we now simply refer to as Tela was a city founded in May of 1524 by Cristobal de Olid. This date in history also coincides with the Day of the Holy Cross, so the city was christened Triunfo de la Cruz. But, since that’s a real mouthful, and the city was at one time the headquarters of a major railroad company, it was abbreviated to T. de la +, which eventually was simplified further to Tela. But more than the name has changed. Tela, which was once a major hub in the railroad world of Honduras, said goodbye to the Tela Railroad Company in 1976 as the company moved to greener pastures in La Lima, and has now become a premier beach vacation destination with plenty to keep you entertained.
Taking Time Out in Tela
When Tela was first founded, it was settled near a local Indian community known as Tehuacan, where good water, food and medicine abounded. While much has changed, the beauty of Tela’s location has not. Modern visitors will also find themselves close to all sorts of other popular destinations, like San Pedro Sulla and Le Ceiba. And, that doesn’t even include the amazing things you can do in Tela itself. The city and the surrounding area offers great hotels, restaurants, local shopping and access to three national parks, Garifuna villages and miles of amazing beaches. And as you visit all of these places, it isn’t hard to imagine the history of the region in centuries long past, when 16th century buccaneers ravaged and scavenged all along the coast. Here are just a few of the destinations you won’t want to miss.
Lancetilla Botanical Gardens
In 1926, the still-local Tela Railroad Company designed, planted and maintained a fabulous local garden known as the Lancetilla Botanical Gardens. Peaceful, beautiful and serene, the Gardens boast a variety of plants and native birds. There are also hiking trails, an exotic bamboo forest and access to a local swimming hole so you can cool off!
Punta Izopo National Park…
At the east end of Tela, this national park is named after a small mountain that stands vigil in the area. As you journey throughout the park, you’ll encounter all sorts of local wildlife and vegetation. There are tropical birds like parrots and toucans, monkeys, alligators and turtles. Punta Izopo National Park is also a great stepping stone to visit the Garifuna town, which bears the traditional name of Triunfo de la Cruz. The Garifuna are a local culture, completely unique from any of the other indigenous or settling tribes or clans. Also known as the Black Caribs, they offer a fresh insight into a whole new world – a colorful and vibrant world. And a tasty one too, the Garifuna whip up fantastic, bold dishes to delight any palate.
Punta Sal National Park
If you travel to the west end of the Bay of Tela, you’ll encounter the Punta Sal National Park. This park earned its name from a rocky point that juts out of the island and into the sea. It’s one of the most important national parks in all of Honduras, and offers visitors two very distinct environments, the peninsula and the lagoon.
- The Peninsula: The peninsula can only be reached by sea, but for about a dollar you can take a boat to visit it. And it’s certainly worth a dollar! You’ll be greeted by white sand beaches, an exotic and bountiful jungle and a coral creek. While you’re visiting the peninsula, be on the look out for dolphins, monkeys and birds.
- The Lagoon: Known as the Micos Lagoon, Punta Sal’s lagoon offers an amazing opportunity to discover the myriad birds that populate the area, investigate the mangroves, canoe up the canals or walk beneath a lush canopy of tropical plants and trees. It’s a great place to unwind and leave the world behind. And when you’re finished uncovering the secrets of the lagoon, there’s still one more place you’ve got to explore…
The Garifuna Village of Miami
To the east of the lagoon, built atop a sandbar, you’ll encounter the Garifuna village of Miami. You’ll also step back in time, over two centuries ago, and experience what life was like then, and still is like today. There’s no better way to truly immerse yourself in the Garifuna culture, where the homes are all thatched huts, and the people still follow their old traditions, recopies, celebrations and religious observances, as though shielded from the madness of modernity in the world around them. It’s a great way to wind up your day in Tela.
From the gardens to the parks to the villages seemingly untouched by time, Tela offers a charming and serene change of scenery, sure to soothe even the most jaded, stressed out, anxiety-ridden professionals. And it’s a great way to capture eternal memories (and photographs!) that you’ll take with you long after you’ve left Tela behind!