Carlos welcomed us at his guest house dressed in a cowboy hat and boots, jeans and a flannel shirt. He was dressed like the cowboys I’d seen lounging on street corners and in the city center of Copan Ruinas, and his laid-back, friendly attitude mirrored theirs as well. Despite the drizzling rain, I could tell my first agritourism experience was going to be a fun, low-key day.
Finca el Cisne is a family farm, and while Carlos helps manage the cardamom and coffee production, he is also the host for the agritourism experience, which he introduced in 2002. I’ve heard that farmers rise before the break of dawn, work long and hard hours throughout the course of the day, and drop into bed long after the sun has set, but even with all that, Carlos was a gracious and welcoming host.
As we sat around the table in Carlos’ open air eating area, we sipped coffee made on his property and talked about the farm, which was acquired by his family in 1885. Nearly 90% of the food eaten by the family and guests is grown on the farm—coffee, cardamom, four types of bananas, passion fruit, meat, milk, cheese, grapefruit, breadfruit, star fruit, avocado, pineapple, tamarind. He walked us around his gardens, where he explained the importance of growing crops in the shade of the trees and using live fences to reforest the area. With his trusty pocket knife, Carlos adroitly cut open a variety of fruits for us to taste. The citrus limon made my eyes tear up from its sweetness, but before I could ask for more, he’d moved on to the achiote, a plant used in local cuisine for its red coloring.
Our next stop was at the ranch’s coffee plantation, which was an interesting lesson in one of the world’s most popular products. Carlos walked us through the process of determining quality beans, running them through the machinery and drying them. It was fascinating to see basic tools like wooden rakes and plastic buckets be used for such a complex and expensive product. Carlos’ farmhands were barefoot, walking among the beans and spreading them out across the pavement in the sun. I loved the smell of the fermented beans as they washed through the coffee processing gutters; an interesting juxtaposition from the warm smell of the steaming liquid once it’s been poured in a ceramic mug.
For most people, the highlight of a visit to Fisca el Cisne is the horseback riding. I’ve ridden the (very) occasional horse on the (very) occasional (very) mild walk while road tripping as a kid, but I’ve never had an affinity for horses. I was given Sol (“Sun”) to ride for the duration of the ride, and he was a really gentle horse, which ended up being really important because it turns out I have a bit of a fear of riding horses. We started out at a slow walk, but throughout the course of the ride he would trot, which seemed to scramble my brain and wreak havoc on my nerves.
The horseback ride leads up rolling green hills, over small bridges, past more fruit trees and down dirt roads and paths. Many of the people who work for Carlos live on the grounds of Finca el Cisne, and we passed homes where children were playing and women were hanging laundry out (it had finally stopped raining). It is a quiet and (for the most part) relaxing way to enjoy this area of Honduras, which is only seven miles from the Guatemala border.
Most people visit Finca el Cisne for the day (from 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.), and packages that include transportation, an introduction to agro-forestry, horseback riding, a meal, a visit to the hot springs, tour of the coffee plantation and a brief introduction to the production of cardamom run approximately $65. There are also five modest guest rooms on site, which can be rented out for overnight stays.
My tour to the Mayan ruins and entrance into the sculpture museum in Copan Ruinas was paid for by the Honduras Institute of Tourism, but all opinions are my own.