Book! Pack! Go Travel! by Robbie Mamo

Honduras and the Copan Ruins

Honduras and the Copan Ruins

After spending the day in Antigua after visiting the Tikal Ruins in Guatemala, I was keen to see more ruins and my next stop would be the Copan Ruins in Honduras!

I was picked up by my shuttle at my hotel at 4 am and after the usual routine of picking up the other passengers, the bus was soon full and making our way to Copan, Honduras. I thought the shuttle was being used to take myself and the other 11 passengers to a coach bus and we would be travelling that way. When I noticed we were leaving town I then realized this was our ride for the whole 6 hours to reach Copan. These shuttles or minibuses don’t have much leg room and not wanting to put all my bags on the roof in a light rain it meant my backpack was going to be hitching a ride on my lap.

The road was the most winding and mountainous I had experienced so far in my trip. Another thing I noticed was the large amount of fallen rocks and boulders that were at the side of the road.  This usually means that at any time the ledge of the mountains above could give way. This is a constant peril on mountain roads and some of these large boulders could easily crush a large vehicle!

Somehow I managed to sleep and woke up at the Guatemala/Honduras border. We all had to get out and go to a small office where we handed our passports through a small window to be cleared through customs by the official there. We were quickly stamped out of the country and no fees were needed to exit the country.

A short walk down the road we then had to clear customs to enter Honduras. This was straight forward and once again we left our bags in the shuttle. The officials seemed more concerned with whether or not I had my exit stamp from Guatemala and asked me if Copan was going to be the only area I will be visiting in the country. In Honduras they charge a $3/L60. They accept US dollar, Guatemalan Quetzal and the Honduran currency of Lempira. 20 Lempira is worth $1 and similar to most borders down here there are lots of poeple offering to exchange currency.

This guy was more than happy to show off his stack!

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The town of Copan Ruins was another 10km from the border and once I arrived in town, I found a nice place to stay for 300L/$15. The Hotel Yarugua will be my home while I stay in Copan. I first found out about it from a friend who recommended I stay there. The rooms were simple, had hot water and a nice tropical garden and a statue in the center of the small building. It is located across from the Clarion Copan and a few other higher end hotels and I didn’t feel security was an issue in this town at any time or any hour.

Hotel Yaragua in Copan Ruins, Honduras

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The central square in the town of Copan Ruins, Honduras

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One of the stone roads in the town of Copan Ruins

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After getting settled in my room and having a shower, I quickly ventured out to start exploring the ancient Mayan ruins of Copan! The ruins are only 1km out of town, so most people walk but you can also have a tuk tuk to take you to the ruins, or anywhere in town for 20L/$1.

To enter the site of the ruins it costs 300L/$15 for the day and they open from 8 am – 5 pm. They also have seperate fees for entrance to the tunnels which also requires a tour guide. Guides cost between 500L/$25 and 800L/$40. I wasn’t as interested in the tunnels as I was in the main site and the museum which houses some of the most well preserved Mayan artifacts. The cost to enter the museum was 140L/$7.

Once I paid my entrance fee I started my walk into the park down the trail which led to the ruins. During the whole walk there were families of Macaws and other tropical birds hanging out in the trees and making alot of noise.  After a few minutes of walking down the trail it opened up into the main area of the ruins and I’ll always remember this moment!

A Macaw perched high above in the jungle canopy

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The site is a mix of temples and tombs in a large grassy area that is perfectly flat. Standing all over the grounds are the most magnificent statues I’ve ever seen at any other archaelogical site in this part of the World. There are also altars and some other random structures. Most of the statues were of rulers, deities and animals. The carvings on each statue were very detailed and often the statues had many faces and inscriptions on all sides but the back. These were close to 10′ in height and were solid stone. There were also many smaller statues that depicted various animals which were sitting on the ground similar to the many altars on the site. The inscriptions on the altars were also very detailed and every time I see an altar I can’t help to think about some sacrifice or religious ceremony taking place!

Mayan statues at the ruins

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Altars and other sculptures

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The condition of the main temple wasn’t the greatest but the hieroglyph stairway that rose up the the main altar and the statues that led up to it were truly amazing! This area was blocked off for further restoration but just to stand at the foot of this stairway and one of the larger altars on the site was breathtaking.

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At the center of the site there is a large temple that served as a housing for the tombs of the many Mayan rulers that were buried at Copan.

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This temple had large bird head sculptures depicting the Macaws that live in the trees above.

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Other temples had cornerstones of faces.

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As with Tikal a few days before I was surprised to find the site wasn’t very busy with tourists and I was able to take photos without any other people in them. I saw less than 10 people at the while. I was surprised that such an amazing place was so empty!

I spent 3 hours at the ruins and this was the perfect amount of time.  That was plenty to tour the small area and take it all in. I decided to wait until the next morning and go to museum and decided to walk the short distance into the main town.

That night I took it easy and went out to a local restaurant to try out some of the local food here in Honduras. I hadn’t eaten pork since starting my trip so I ordered the pork chop supper. These were really thin cut chops, served with fried plantain, rice, beans, salad and tortillas. There was lots of flavour and there wasn’t a part of the meal that I didn’t like!

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The next day I woke up bright and early and went straight to the Copan Ruins for 8 am so I’d have the museum to myself . Taking my first steps into the museum I was instantly blown away at the quality of the artifacts and found the information boards to be very interesting. These explained what everything was and it’s significance and also the era of Mayan culture that it had been dated back to.

Many of the sculptures that they had were taken from the temple walls, as well as free standing statues and altars. Many of these depicted the rulers sitting.

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This one was huge and had these large skulls outlining the main sculpture.

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They also had walls of heiroglyphs that were a definite highlight of my visit to the museum and I could have spent all day staring at the inscriptions and wondering what story these told. These also mixed people with animals.

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As with the main ruins site there are many sculptures of rulers and animals. The thing I found the most interesting about the Copan Ruins was that alot of what was depicted wasn’t just people or rulers but animals and other beings of some sort. This showed a deep connection to the animal world, especially the birds that live nearby.

I spent a few hours at the museum and hanging around and then after a quick lunch it was almost time for my 12 pm shuttle back to Antigua. I was hoping to get a shuttle directly from Copan to La Libertad in El Salvador but they only run every few days so I decided that my best choice would be to travel back to Antigua and then catch a shuttle to La Libertad the next day from there. Making my life even easier the shuttle driver booked me in for a next day shuttle saving me having to hurry up and do this upon reaching Antigua and possibly not getting a seat.

Luckily on the shuttle back to Antigua there were only a few of us on the bus and it made for a smooth ride. Some of the scenery on the way back was amazing!

The view on the road between Guatemala and Honduras

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Once back in Antigua the driver offered to bring me to a hotel where I could rent a room for 80Q/$10 per night so I decided to check it out and ended up taking it. The place is called Hotel Villa Esthela and while it isn’t in the center of town it was only a 25Q/$3 tuk tuk or taxi ride anywhere in town. My room was large and comfortable and I had a really nice queen size bed. They had hot showers and shared bathrooms, but because my room was off to the one side of the hotel noone actually used it. The room was clean and an excellent value for the price. The manager is a really nice European lady and was very accommodating.  This worked out great as I was headed straight to bed after a long day and would be en route to El Salvador at 8 am the following day. I went to sleep still thinking of what life was like in the days of the ancient Mayan people.

Gone on a whim…