Copán in Honduras: Stellar Stelae, plus Macaws

The fifth and final Maya site of my trip was located in a new country, Honduras. Getting there involved another long bus trip from Flores to Chiquimula, Guatemala, where I hired a taxi to take me the last hour and a half including crossing the border. The town of Copán Ruinas is less than ten miles from the Guatemalan border, but of course it still requires the administrative details involving in leaving one country and entering another.

Family-run hospitality

My taxi driver went through immigration along with me, which allowed him to deliver me right to the door of my hotel in Copán Ruinas, the Cuna Maya. My colorful room was only $21/night including an excellent breakfast. The family that runs the place couldn’t have been nicer.Cuna Maya HotelCopán Ruinas is a town almost entirely devoted to the tourist trade, and I’m sure the reputation of Honduras as a dangerous country has hurt the town’s prosperity in recent years. However, this little corner of Honduras is considered safer than the rest of the country. Here, just like at every destination in my trip, I never felt unsafe or threatened at any time. Quite the contrary.

While not as picturesque as some of my other destinations, the town is not without its charms. The main plaza is large and attractive, and makes a nice place to people watch.For dinner I headed to Twisted Tanya’s, a restaurant and bar run by a British expat. My table upstairs had a nice breeze, overlooking the main square.Having just checked into a $20 room, I was surprised by the price of dinner. The entree alone was $16 USD. A local Salva Vida beer (Spanish for lifesaver) plus a tip made it a little over $20. But my spicy chicken curry was quite good and the beer was cold, so I was content.

Visiting the ruins

The next morning, I headed to the archaeological site at the edge of town.At the entrance, I saw macaws for the first time. This mischievous trio were busy trying to pull items out of a box under the ticket counter.

Just inside the park there were lots more macaws, sometimes flying together around the ruins, other times just squawking and fussing.

A gallery of stelae

Copán is a smaller site than Tikal, but it has its own unique treasures. Entering the initial large plaza, you find a whole field of elaborately carved stelae. Most are well-preserved and the detailed carvings are exceptional.The next area of the site features a large ball court.And a huge staircase with inscriptions all the way up.To preserve the carvings, the stairway is now covered with a roof.Leaving the plaza, you climb up to a series of elaborate buildings that overlook the field below.At the very top, this twisted tree stands amid the ruins, lending an unusual air to the scene.Other notable walls and carvings are everywhere.Further into the site lies its most famous work, Altar Q. Each of the four sides has a carving showing four kings of the site. These are the first 16 kings who ruled over this site from 426 AD to 763 AD.Here is ruler Yax K’uk’ Mo’, founder of the dynasty here.In the final two groups of structures at the site, there is a lot of variety.

Superbowl Sunday

I walked back into town, crossing the river that separates the ruins from the town.Just before 6 PM, I headed back out, climbing a cobblestone hill to a bar and restaurant.I had noticed this sign earlier in the day.I watched the first half of the Superbowl there, but decided to leave at halftime to watch the rest in my room. But not before meeting the resident cat.

Bidding farewell to Honduras

The next day I had lunch at a local open-air steak restaurant, Los Asados.Then it was time to head to the bus station yet again. This time I was headed for the colonial city of Antigua in Guatemala. With my tour of the Mayan world complete, I felt like I had earned a few days of relaxation in Antigua.

5 replies on “Copán in Honduras: Stellar Stelae, plus Macaws”

I have read and thoroughly enjoyed your ENTIRE 5 Ruinas trip notes…and will save them for when I go. Thank you VERY much !

Dear Ken,

I’m a solo traveler (female) seeking a tour that would include Palenque, Bonampak and Copan. I’m comparing tours. Your itinerary sounds fantastic. But I’m not quite up for a self-created tour. I do speak Spanish but don’t want to organize my own travel, especially in Honduras, and would enjoy having travel companions.

Did you use any travel advisors to put together your trip? The only clue I see is the van for – and I’ll email them. Any other advice you could give would be appreciated.

Thanks! Happy traveling!

I did everything on my own except one big part.
I booked a tour departing from Palenque, visiting Bonampak and Yaxchilan, and from there arriving in Flores Guatemala. Flores is the normal departure point for Tikal tours.

You mentioned Bonampak but also don’t miss Yaxchilan! It was one of the most amazing sites of the trip.

Here’s the specific tour I booked:

I’ll send this to you by email too.

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