Copán Ruinas

The village of Copán

Copán was one of the great centers of Maya civilization over a thousand years ago. The beautiful ruins have some of the most impressive pre-Columbian art anywhere. Near the ruins is the modern town of nearly the same name - Copán Ruinas, with clean hotels and other facilities for visitors. Due to their proximity, both locations are covered by this article.

The ruins are quite substantial and a major tourist attraction in western Honduras. While less visited than the better known tourist attraction ruins like Chichen Itza, many people find them even more interesting.

Copán is in a fertile river valley and nestled among rolling hills, at an elevation so it is not so very hot as some of the Central American rainforest sites.

Get in

There are direct buses from San Pedro Sula and Guatemala.

Elsewhere in Honduras: There are regular shuttle buses to Copán Ruinas (L40) from La Entrada, a regional transport hub about 1–2 hours from Copán. Find a bus that passes through La Entrada (San Jose, San Pedro Sula, Nueva Ocotepeque, etc.). As from 2012 air viva offers regular flights from Copán to Roatan and Tegucigalpa.

Hedman Alas services Copán Ruinas from San Pedro Sula, with connections to/from Tegucigalpa, La Ceiba, and elsewhere. If you just go to the San Pedro Sula bus station, it's likely a bus will be leaving in the near future. Casasola Expresses is a budget (L110) alternative to Hedman Alas.

Guatemala: There are daily shuttles that depart Antigua, Guatemala at 4AM and 9AM and arrive in Copán Ruinas around six hours after departure time. Most travel agents in Antigua sell tickets for this shuttle. Prices vary from $7 to $12.

El Salvador

Get around

Copán is a small community, so don't worry about mapping sights before you get there. If you are a walker and sure-footed, it is safe to walk the cobblestone streets anywhere in town or walk to the ruins on foot. Streets are reportedly safe after dark, but standard precautions apply.

Mototaxis (Honduran rickshaws) will take you anywhere in town for a small fee (L10 around town, L20 to the Ruins/Macaw Mountain).

The Mayan Ruins are a short walk out of town and a further 20 minutes walk will take you to Las Sepulturas, a wonderfully open section of the ruins that many people fail to visit - don't! There is also a short nature walk at the main ruins that meanders around other smaller ruins.

See

Las Copán Ruinas (entry $15/person) are the highlight of Copán. Although quite extensive, they are not as huge as Tikal in Guatemala or Teotihuacan in Mexico, but there is more sculpture here than any other Pre-Columbian city. The ruins are prized for the carved stellae of ancient rulers, and the well preserved hieryoglyphics including the hieryoglyphic stairway. Also in the archeological park is a marvelous Mayan museum (entry $7/person) with a reconstructed temple and fabulous artifacts. Fans of Maya art or ancient ruins can easily spend two full days between the two main ruins sites and museum. The tunnels are reportedly not worth the extra fee, and are not authentic, having been dug by archaeologists in the 1980s (these tunnels were originally dug for investigation and they show to the visitors the buried parts of older temples since the Mayans built on top of the older structures to make the new ones taller ). In July 2011 it was possible to visit the Sepulturas on the next day without purchasing a second ticket although the main ticket office may not tell you this.

It's recommended to be there when it opens at 8AM, as the site gets very hot by mid-day. Hire a guide at the entrance to the ruins for $25 divided between however many people you can collect. Cesar (30s, good accented English) and Antonio (60s, few teeth, excellent English) are recommended if they're around.

Besides the ruins, the countryside is attractive. Slow paced local life is quite calm, and farming of corn, beans, coffee, and tobacco is the main vocation.

Do

Volunteer

There are numerous community-building projects in and around Copán Ruinas. One site to check out is Mayatan Bilingual School, a locally-founded independent, non-profit school that educates local children in Spanish and English. The school relies on foreign volunteers to teach its English language courses (Pre-K through high school), and it always welcomes visitors. Mayatan is located on the path to the Macaw Mountain bird park, about 1.5 km from the center of town, or a L15 (75¢) taxi ride. Contact Tommy for more information.

Buy

There is an unimpressive market near el Centro. On Sundays, fruit vendors line el Centro with their pickup trucks.

Eat

Most places offer a plato tipico de Honduras. This includes beef strips (or sometimes chicken or eggs), beans, fried plantains, tortillas, cabbage and sour cream. Licuados are either water- or milk-based fruit smoothies that for L30 should be enjoyed every day. Local meals run L80-L120.

Drink

Sleep

The town of Copán Ruinas has all types of accommodations for all prices ranges. Most places are located within two blocks of Parque Central.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.