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Travel Tips for the Mayan Ruins in Copan

Honduras has a lot to offer right from the start: If you begin your trip in Guatemala like us, then you will most likely pass through the little town of Copan. That’s where one of the most important Mayan cities was built. Today, you can admire the well-preserved ruins and walk around on the former city’s area. Read here how to get from Guatemala to Honduras by bus. But don’t copy our style, we found ourselves in a mildly bewildered situation when we arrived at the border…

Welcome to Honduras!
Dark and no one around… a rocky start into a new adventure!

We should have done some more research before we started our trip from Guatemala to the Honduran border. But who could have known that the public transport system runs only until 6:30 pm! We could hardly believe it when the friendly Immigration officer told us that there were no more buses or taxis at this hour (7 pm!!) It was especially annoying, because minutes before, we politely waved away a very insisting Tuk-tuk driver…had we known that he was our last option for that night….! Yes, we even thought about walking all the way to Copan that lies 10 km from the border! But to be honest, the combination of too much luggage and the fact that is was already dark outside and little lighting on the street made this a bad idea. On top of that, came the friendly reminder of the officer that it was a rather unsafe way to take….

All we could do was sit and wait, hoping it would not be for the rest of the night. Only two hours later, we got lucky: a lonesome car appeared from the Guatemalan side! We stopped the car after it passed through border control and asked the driver to give us a lift. Done! The driver let us hop onto the loading zone of his pickup truck and took us to Copan. Relieved that we did not have to spend the whole night in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the next bus in the morning, we got to our hotel in Copan…exhausted but happy!

Wide and open to walk around and admire the archeological remains...
The Mayan City Copan was constructed on a huge area open for visitors today.

The next day, early in the morning, we went to see the Copan Ruins. It is the main attraction of Copan. The main entrance gate lies about 1 km away from the town centre. You can easily walk there or hop on a Tuk-tuk. Contrary to my personal weather preference, we were told that the unusual cool temperatures were doing us a favour. Usually, it is a very humid and hot place to visit as this ancient Mayan city lies in the middle of the jungle. But with clouds out, we had the perfect climate to stroll around undistracted and could fully enjoy the amazing architecture of this former civilisation.

Me being the absolute tourist!
You can actually climb up to some of the Mayan temples…

Inside the park, shortly past the entrance gate and before we arrived at the Pre-Columbian ruins, some ‘Guacamayos’, the national birds of Honduras, were flying around freely above our heads. These beautiful and colourful birds that I had only known from zoos or inside cages were so delightful to watch in their natural habitat. It was a very cheerful moment and it seemed like they were enjoying their attention very much, as they curiously stared back at us and sat still for the million photos that we took 😀

We almost forgot about the ruins...

Bird love!

They were lining up for us!!!
Patient parrots posed for our photo shoot…

After this highlight, the ruins were almost boring. Just kidding! They were very impressive too and, of course, we gave them, at least the same amount of attention as the birds… The ruins’ construction dates back to 427 A.D. which gives me the chills: such a long time back!!! In that time, the Maya leader ‘Yax Kuk Mo’ came from the area of Tikal (which is in today’s Guatemala) and arrived in the Copan Valley. With his arrival, a dynasty of 16 rulers began and turned Copan into one of the greatest Maya cities during the Classic Maya Period. Today it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Mayan statue.
Many of the statues are still in good condition.

Here are some more historical facts: It is said that the main period of Copan (like other bigger Mayan cities), was during the Classical period, AD 300-900. During that period, the Mayas made some significant achievements in mathematics, astronomy and hieroglyphic writing. These become evident when analysing their way of building: today’s archaeological remains reveal the three main stages of development in Mayan culture, during which evolved the temples, plazas, altar complexes and ball courts that can be seen today. The Maya civilisation inhabited the Copan city until the early 10th century.

Mayan Ruins of Copan
Today you can see temples, plazas, altar complexes and ball courts on the area.

Today the Mayan city of Copan has one main complex of ruins which includes the Acropolis and important plazas. Then there are several secondary complexes that surround the main complex. You also find many sculptured monoliths and altars. On the risers of the Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza there are more than 1,800 individual glyphs which constitute the longest known Mayan inscription. Impressive stone construction that has over-lived centuries...There is some restoration work at the moment, so some of the statues and stone walls were covered or under a little tin roof.

Little tins roofs hover over some of the statues.
Little tin roofs ruin our pictures but supposedly protect the stones from bad weather…

You can easily spend 2-3 hours walking around the whole area. Of course, if you take a tour or go with a guide, the time varies and may be even longer. If you are planning your trip to this Honduran highlight, check out our post about ‘Where to stay in Copan during your visit to the Mayan Ruins’  for a very comfortable stay in Copan!

How was your visit to the Copan Ruins? Did you have a hot and humid climate when there? What other Mayan sites have you visited or would you like to see?

By Julia

Julia is the founder and chief editor of Jey Jetter, a site that showcases the option of working remotely and travel as much as you like. Julia is a former PR/marketing consultant who turned into a remote working social media manager, travel writer and public speaker living location independently since 2011. She has been to 86 countries on all 6 continents and lived in several different countries for more than six months. Her laptop is her office and the label 'digital nomad' fits best to describe her lifestyle. On this site, she writes about personal freedom, remote work and her passion for travelling.

8 replies on “Travel Tips for the Mayan Ruins in Copan”

What a cool place to explore! Yes, having done some tours similar to this, it is my preference to do it in the cool weather instead of the scorching, humid sunniness. Interesting how they’re sheltering the restored work…. quite curious, especially having weathered the ages already.

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