A small excursion in Honduras: Copan’s ruins

While in Guatemala, we decided to take a small detour to go and visit the mayan ruins of Copan in Honduras. We knew we were going to see a lot of Mayan archeological sites in the next few weeks but those one seemed quite special. Plus, it was the rainy season so our former idea of going swimming in the possibly flooded river of Semuc Champey was not really appealing… 

Arriving in Copan

We were arriving from Antigua where we had booked two seats on a private transportation. You should know that the transportation in Guatemala is quite uncomfortable and so are the roads. We then made sure to have a transport where our bag would be protected from the rain and where we could sit more or less comfortably for an 8 hours trip. 

Passing the border from Guatemala to Honduras is quite easy. Just make sure to have some cash with you as there is an entrance fee (around 3 $). They accept lempiras, dollars, and quetzales. Once you pass the border, you arrive in Copan in no time.

Copan Street art
Some nice street art to welcome you in the city.

The city of Copan

Copan is quite a small place, with nothing much to do. Basically, you mostly come here to visit the ruins or do some activities in the region. Nevertheless, the colored house and quiet area is really perfect for a nice stroll around, looking at the craft stands around the main square. 

Macaw copan
The national animal of Honduras: a macaw.

Adventures in the city

We came only to visit the ruins but still had quite a lot of adventure during the two days we spent there. 

To start with, it started to rain a lot right after we arrived. To the point that water was leaking among the tiles on the roof, directly in our room. When we went for the manager, he gave us a couple of buckets and explained that he needed to go on the roof to fix it, and so we had to wait for the rain to stop. 

Shortly after placing the buckets (the bed was luckily spared), the power went off. As long as the sun was out, we only missed the wifi, but soon the night came and it became more complicated. We learned that the power went off in the entire neighborhood. Fortunately, our hostel had its own generator. Power cuts must be more frequent than we think.

It was becoming late, we were hungry, and the power was not coming back. We then went out with our frontals to look for some food in the other part of town, where there was still power. After a good dinner at a local stand, the power went off just when we were paying. It was not a problem for us, but all the people waiting for their food didn’t look so happy. We came back to our hostel in a city completely dark, except for the few hostels that had their own generators. 

mayan game
The mayan game in Copan has unique parrots heads surrounding the field.

Discovering the ruins of Copan

We woke up early to make sure we would be at the ruins exactly for the opening. We had two reasons for that: First, we realised that during the rainy season, it usually rains during the afternoon, so you want to do as much as possible in the morning. Then, we heard that when the ruins are not too crowded, you get to see some beautiful Macaws, Honduras national bird, flying around. We imagined if we were among the first people to enter, they wouldn’t have had time to be scared and we would get to see many of them! 

Our entrance to the site was a bit delayed since, due to the lack of electricity, it was not possible to print the tickets. But we were the first ones nonetheless. As soon as we entered we saw the famous macaws flying around in the trees just above our heads. There were so many of them! We were super excited as we were not expecting to see that many. They are big, and majestuous, always flying in groups. A truly magical moment. 

several macaws
The branches of the trees were filled with macaws

We then moved to the ruins. We could still hear the macaws, and from time to time, see a group flying around. Plus, we were still alone on the site, so we felt a little bit like explorers that just discovered a new place. The site is quite big and it corresponds to the ancient ceremonial centre. You get to see a lot of statues with really impressive carvings. 

Special rules for the visit

Note that you cannot enter the main site with any food, stuffed animals or figurine of any type. Apparently, too many people put them on the ruins to make some nice instagram pictures, damaging some of the artifacts… But don’t worry, in case you come with one, you can leave it at the entrance and take it back at the end of the visit. 

4 kings carving
Carvings of the ancient rulers of Copan on an altar.

One ticket, two sites

We were interested in visiting the museum but we had to buy extra tickets for that. Instead,we saw that with the tickets we already had, we could go a little bit further down the road for more ruins to explore. It is only a 15mn walk that very few people tend to do. In this new area, you get to explore the ancient houses of the nobles. The guy at the entrance was kind enough to show us the way and explain a couple of things about the houses. For example, the dead were usually buried under the floor inside of the same house where the family was living.

Copan houses
The houses of the nobles were the only ones made out of rock. The rest of the city was built with wood and clay.

The guardian was actually hoping we would hire him as a guide to visit the rest of the site. But we had already been walking for a few hours and our legs as well as our budget didn’t agree with the idea. 

If you decide to walk to and from the archeological site, you will pass in front of some more carved headstone along the way. They are not as cool as the ones inside the site, but they did make the walk much more interesting. 

carved headstones
Copan has the perfect weather to keep the carved stones in really good conditions. It is often not possible to see that many details.

Going back to Guatemala

It is really easy to find the colectivos going to the border. They leave as soon as they are full, which means every 10/15 minutes if you go early in the morning. 

However, we found it impossible to get a schedule for the buses on the other side of the border. People could give us only approximate hours, and the internet was not helpful. In any case, there are actually enough buses at the border so, if you go early, you are sure to be able to go wherever you want. We were just a bit disappointed because we missed by 30 minutes a bus that was going directly to Flores. Instead, we had to change in Chiquimula. 

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