La Tigra National Park is the most important source of water for Tegucigalpa, a city that continuously suffers from a short supply of this vital liquid, hence its importance as a protected area. 40 years ago, Tegucigalpa had a cloud forest surrounding the mountains around the city, creating a unique environment and a micro climate that kept the city cool during the days and nights.
As the capital city of Tegucigalpa grew, its population logged the trees around the city in a desperate scavenge for firewood. Today, most of the mountains have been totally deforested, creating not only a change in climate, but also flooding hazards, such as those that happened during Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
La Tigra is one of the few areas that is still heavily forested and where you can experience the climate that existed in the city a few decades ago. The La Tigra National Park is co managed by Amitigra, which stands for friends of La Tigra, an NGO that has successfully managed the park, protecting it from invaders, and using it as a tool to educate the population about the importance of protecting the environment. La Tigra is easily the most visited national park in the country, and Amitigra (www.amitigra.org ) has worked hard to provide infrastructure to make it easy and pleasant for tourists to visit there. La Tigra National Park was created by congress in June 1993, and has been managed by Amitigra since September of that same year. The park has an approximate land extension of 329 square kilometres and a maximum altitude of 2,290 meters above sea level (about 7,350 feet). La Tigra has territory within 5 different municipalities: Distrito Central (Tegucigalpa) Valle de Angeles, Santa Lucia, Talanga and San Juan de Flores, all of them in the department of Francisco Morazan.
Visiting La Tigra National Park
La Tigra National Park has two distinct areas that are open for tourists: the first is via El Hatillo, one of the nicest, high end residential areas in Tegucigalpa, which is actually just over the city. To get there, you must take the road that leads towards the statue of Christ at El Picacho, and continue past following the the road. The first part of the road is paved, however after the community of El Hatillo it becomes a dirt road, which is generally in pretty good shape. You should be able to get there in a regular vehicle. The road ends at the visitors center, where you can get information on the different trails, maps and general information on the park. Here you can pay the entrance fee, hire a guide and set off to explore the trails. If you are into serious hiking, you can hike across the park to the other entrance, located in the town of San Juancito. This hike is a full day tour and I highly recommend you hire a guide to make sure you do not get lost en route!
The San Juancito entrance offers a totally different atmosphere. This is the site of the old mining town of San Juancito, where the Rosario Mining Company had its famous mines. It was because of these mines that the capital was moved from Comayagua to Tegucigalpa, as the president of the country at that time, Marco Aurelio Soto was a partner of the Rosario Mining Company and wanted to be closer to the mines to supervise his investment closely. San Juancito became the first town in all of Central America to have an electrical power grid, which was supplied by a then very modern hydroelectric plant that also provided power to the mine.
Up in the hill, you can still find many old wooden homes that were part residences, part offices of the Rosario Mining Company. Many of these are old and dilapidated, however the building that used to work a small hospital has been renovated and operates as a hostel for tourists and students that want to spend the night here and be ready to go into the park early in the morning. This spot also operates as the visitors center for the park on this entrance, and you can pay your entrance fee here, get information on the trails and hire a guide here.
You can still see the old hydroelectric plant which is the pride and joy of the community, but has not operated in years. Today San Juancito is closer to a ghost town than any other spot in Honduras, the thriving economy that was spurred by the mining company has long come to a standstill and life is slow and peaceful in what was once one of the most prosperous towns in Central America. San Juancito is located a few kilometres past Valle de Angeles, and the drive out there from Tegucigalpa will take you about 45 minutes altogether.