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If you've had your fill of Chiquimula and would like to start making your way towards Copán try jumping on highway 10 and heading south towards the Honduran border. Follow highway 10 as it veers east into the mountains and you will find yourself in the picturesque town of Esquipulas. Named for a Mayan lord who welcomed the Spanish conquistadors into his realm, today Esquipulas is well known throughout the region for its sparkling white basilica which contains a tiny statue of Jesus called El Cristo Negro. The basilica is a popular pilgrimage site for people from all over Latin America, with thousands making their way there way every year. If you plan to visit try and make it during the week when the church will be almost deserted. Weekends are a bit hectic with the devout descending on the town in droves, spoiling the tranquil calm of the basilica with shouting and shoving. Outside the church gift shop a priest armed with a bucket of holy water stands ready to bless your knickknacks free of charge.

Activities for the non-faithful are a bit limited but the Cueva de las Minas cave complex just outside of town and the Chatun nature park on the road to Honduras might make for entertaining jaunts. The park features canopy tours and petting zoo.

But really, as beautiful and serene as it is there´s not much to keep ones attention after visiting the basilica and the adjacent market.

Being a tourist town the selection of accommodations tends to be a bit higher quality, and higher priced than in other similar sized towns like Chiquimula. Also be advised that prices rise dramatically on the weekends and holidays, especially during the devotional festival held during the week of January 15th. Cheaper rooms tend to be found in the streets immediately north of the basilica, but you are safer paying a bit more and rooming elsewhere. Gang members and illegal immigrants from Honduras have been known to frequent these places.


Elevation: 953 meters

Telephone code: 943


Other places nearby Esquipulas: El Castillo De San Felipe, Jutiapa, Around Puerto Barrios, Mariscos, Quiriguá, Rio Dulce, Fronteras/El Relleno (Rio Dulce), Estanzuela, Río Lámpara and Jalapa.

25 Aug 2010

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