The second-largest country in Central America – and also one of the poorest – Honduras is once ugly and beautiful. Behind the reefs and rainforests, it has the unfortunate claim to being the murder capital of the world and the high crime risk means visitors should be cautious at all times. Some may advise against visiting altogether, but to do so would be to miss out – for Honduras has much to offer those adventurous enough to visit.

The Bay Islands are perhaps the country’s biggest drawing card. The archipelago offers some of the best diving in Central America, not to mention the chance to swim with dolphins and come face to face with whale sharks. The less adventurous can lounge in hammocks and soak up the party vibe, if that sounds too wild.

Back on the mainland, sweeping Caribbean beaches are scattered with charming towns such as Trujillo, with its pirate history, and traditional Garifuna villages, whose Afro-Caribbean culture is an integral part of the national identity. The great Pico Bonito National Park boasts jaguars, monkeys and countless bird species, while the Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, teems with exotic wildlife and indigenous communities.

In the midst of all this nature, Honduras’ cities are easily forgotten and although soaring crime rates in the likes of San Pedro Sula keep visitors away, it would be a shame to miss out on the colonial architecture of the capital city Tegucigalpa, the Semana Santa celebrations in Comayagua or the lively carnival in La Ceiba.

It may be troubled, but Honduras is a passionate nation, where religion, tradition and family values are the backbone of society and where a love for the national football team can unite even ardent enemies. It is a country where tortillas and beans are served with every meal, where hips swing to Latino beats and the national beer is called Salva Vida, meaning “lifesaver.” It is a country of untamed beauty and wild tropical adventure. Just tread carefully.

Area:

112,090 sq km (43,278 sq miles).

Population:

8,189,501 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

78 per sq km.

Capital:

Tegucigalpa.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Juan Orlando Hernández since 2014.

Head of government:

President Juan Orlando Hernández since 2014.

Electricity:

110 volts AC, 60Hz. American-style flat two-pin plugs (with or without grounding pin) are used.