Visit the Mayan ruins of Copán, Honduras


The archaeological site of Copan It is one of the most impressive in Central America and allows you to see the sacred structures of this ancient mayan city. The ruins are in the small town of Copan Ruins, located almost next to the border between Honduras and Guatemala. So that in Antigua Guatemala we were quite close, we decided to make a excursion to go see them, spend a night in Copan Ruins and return the next day.

From Antigua Guatemala until reaching Copán Ruinas in Honduras

We hire the transfer with the same hotel of Ancient and they came to look for us very early (4:30 am) in a van. We sat in one of the seats and prepared for a long road trip: they were waiting for us 6 hours travel to Honduras. Through the window we saw the mountainous landscape from the surroundings of Ancient and Guatemala. Most of the way, the road made a slight downward slope, since we had to descend from the high plateau, and there were several sections under construction. The van made a stop at a roadside bar for coffee and follow the road shortly after. We were talking with a lady who was going on a business trip to Honduras. He recommended a good restaurant from Ancient and encouraged us to tell people how beautiful she is Guatemala.

The transport that came to the hotel to go to Copan

Finally, we arrive at The flowery, on the border with Honduras, at 10:30. There we had to get off the van and make several lines to be sealed. passport. First the exit stamp of Guatemala, and then the entry into Honduras. We also had to pay a small entrance fee (for more information, see the 18-day travel guide through Guatemala). After this process, we were approached by taxi drivers and currency exchangers. We exchanged a few quetzals for a few lempiras and got into a taxi to take us to Copan Ruins.

Customs building to go from Guatemala to Honduras

The highway that led to the town was under construction because they were modernizing. That meant we had to stop for a while at a traffic light because the road had only one lane for a long stretch.

Lempiras tickets, the currency of Honduras

Accommodation in Copán Ruinas

Although the Lonely Planet guide exalts this village in an exaggerated way, it is still a quiet place accustomed to receiving tourists from Guatemala what are you going to see Copan Ruins. We stayed in a modest but very clean hostel located in one of the steep streets of the town: Cuna Maya Hotel. The sink in our room was very modern and it showed that it had been recently renovated. We left the luggage there and the lady of the hostel gave us a map of the town and informed us in detail of the schedules of the ruins and the recommended restaurants of the town.

In Copán Ruinas we were very comfortable at the Cuna Maya Hotel

With this information, we went to the central square and ate at the restaurant Yaxkuk Mo. This restaurant has a very nice inner courtyard where to eat. It has a grill where they cook the meat and serve some very good fruit juices. We ate very well. Then, we headed for ruins of Copan to try to see them that same afternoon.

It was all very good and the juices very refreshing

Although we could have hired a tuk-tuk to transport us there for only 20 lempirasFor some reason we decided to approach walking. After walking for One kilometer, we arrive at the entrance. We pay the 360 lempiras ($ 15) at the box office and, as we saw we had time, we decided to start with a secondary archaeological site located later called «The graves». The ruins of the Mayan city of Copan they extend along a section of the valley of the same name and, in fact, archaeological remains extend well beyond the boundaries of the main enclosure. According to the guide, some have been discovered 45000 structures in a radius of 135 km2 Around the ruins And it is calculated that, at the peak of the s. VIII A.D., the city of Copan had some 27,000 inhabitants.

Most visitors only pass through the main enclosure where the most important ruins are, that is, the center of worship and the residence of the nobility. When starting with a less important area, we wanted to leave the main course for last. If we had done it the other way around, this secondary site would not have impressed us at all. In addition, the area «The graves»Closes at 4pm, while the main enclosure closes at 6pm.

Situation of the main ruins and the area of ​​the graves

The graves

In the enclosure of «The graves»We were the only visitors. We walked alone along a long stretch of road covered by the thick treetops until we reached a kind of official entrance, where the person in charge of charging us seemed surprised to see us arrive. Then we follow the roads and enter the area of ​​the ruins. We saw that the majority were little tall and they were low stone structures, large rectangular platforms with interiors forming patios in the center. Regardless of the name given by the first archaeologists upon arrival, it seems that this area was once a residential enclosure of the upper classes, connected to the main enclosure by means of a stone walkway called "sacbé".

In this area, the ruins are low and less impressive.

Finally, the road led us back to the entrance area, where the main structure was: the bacabs palace or of the officials, the residence of an important nobleman. In this area, a group of archaeologists was working at that precise moment to remove debris, classify, sort and perhaps rebuild them. A huge job, how to do a puzzle of one hundred thousand pieces where the first step is to find all the pieces. We walked around the area where visitors were allowed to pass, and where a part had already been rebuilt.

Detail of the palace of the bacabs in honor of a high official or noble Maya

Beyond, we surrounded a stone building and saw that the wall at the back was decorated with symbols that looked like hatillos or strange butterflies. At our side, a site worker was cleaning a series of pebbles with great patience and thoroughness. We had a conversation with him and he told us a strange theory about the symbols: apparently, in the times when the city of Copan It was inhabited by the Mayans, once a year it passed just over there butterfly migration That formed a large swarm. And in his honor, the symbols marked the point where they passed.

However, in another part of the enclosure we read an explanation that described that wall as the entry point to the enclosure in its time, and it was believed that the symbols represented weapons hatillos, since the area would be defended by numerous warriors.

The mysterious symbols: do you think butterflies or hatillos?

The deposit main archaeological site of Copán

Then we went back to main enclosure. There we doubt whether or not to hire one of the official guides, but at that time it seemed very expensive for a group of only two people (720 lempiras for a view of an hour and a half), so, although we would have liked it, we entered without guide. On the way from the ticket booths to the ruins themselves we saw many red macaws squawking on the tree branches. These elegant vivid red birds were a sacred animal for the Maya of Copan. We also saw some very funny small mammals similar to big rat squirrels that we didn't identify. However, when we left I asked the doorman and he informed me that it was guatusas, although they have many other names.

There were a lot of colorful macaws

Upon entering the ruins, the first thing you see is the huge esplanade of the steles. Is the Plaza del Sol, covered with green grass where several rise stone steles and a small Step pyramid, very restored. We were completely alone, what we considered a real luxury. In the stelae are carved images of the various leaders of the lineage of the 16 kings of the city, with a level of detail and spectacular craftsmanship. Its high level of detail invites you to admire each one for a long time.

Although many are reproductions, they are covered by roofs so that they do not spoil and some still have traces of the red paint that originally covered them. The authentic ones are preserved in the nearby Sculpture Museum of Copan. Through the guide, we identified each of the kings, who had very exotic names like Great Sun Lord Quetzal Macaw, the founder of the city, or its descendants: Jaguar Smoke, Eighteen Rabbit or Concha Smoke.

Several stone steles of the Mayan kings of Copan welcome you to the enclosure

This last king was the one who ordered the construction of a large staircase decorated with glyphs sculpted on the steps on a previous structure and that forms another of the points of interest of the site: the staircase of the hieroglyphs. The archaeologists of Copan it has been restored and covered with a series of tarps to prevent the rain from causing damage. At this point we sat down with a group of tourists on some stone benches to listen to their guide's explanations about the history of the kings of Copan which is explained on the steps.

However, this is another puzzle that is missing many pieces that create mystery gaps, since when the archaeologists arrived, all the stones with glyphs had come loose and were scattered on the ground. The current reconstruction, therefore, is only one possible glyph placement. Keep in mind that these ruins were passed entire centuries covered by vegetation. In fact, even today after being restored, there are several huge trees growing in the middle of the stones that I suppose have not been uprooted because their roots go deep into the foundations of the buildings.

The great staircase of the hieroglyphs is a great archeological puzzle

Before reaching the steps, we had passed through the ball game court, which is apparently the second largest in Central America. As in other Mayan ruins, for example, Chichen Itza, both opposite ramps of stone they had a hoop also of stone on top of the wall, but here the structures on both sides were decorated with heads of macaws and a marker.