The town of Copán Ruinas, simply called Copán; is a beautiful place located in the hills and the streets are paved with cobblestones close, to the border of Guatemala. I found Copán very charming and touristic; I didn’t expected that when I was traveling to Honduras!! It has a friendly local population and some nice hotels and restaurants. I came here, just like many other people, to see the famous Maya Ruins and the Macaw Mountain Bird Park.
I arrived in Copán from Río Dulce, Guatemala. It was a full day journey on the Litegua bus to El Florido; this is the border town with Honduras. The bus left at ±9:00AM from Río Dulce and arrived including lunch break at 16:15PM at the border. Then walk five minutes to the border building where both Guatemala and Honduras are located. Pay exit fee 20Q, get your stamps and walk further up the road to get the shuttle to Copán. This will take you another 15 min before you arrive in the center of Copán, including hotel drop off for 20L.
Tip: I always changed my money at the local money changers at the border; the rates are ok but other options are limited too. This way I could pay my shuttle in Lempira.
My next destination is El Salvador! I booked my transport via Bed & Breakfast Berakah at Av Copán, close to the Parque Central. Normally every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning 5:30AM a shuttle goes for 40US$ to El Tunco, El Salvador. I wanted to leave on Monday and luckily more tourists wanted to go; so with five tourists we drove via Guatemala to the first stop in El Salvador Santa Ana. I was surprised that we traveled via Guatemala again; I thought we went straight from Copán to Santa Ana, crossing only one border. But the roads in Guatemala are much better than in Honduras and the fasted way (4,5 hours) seems to be: Honduras – Guatemala – El Salvador; more stamps in my passport!!! At customs they literally said to me: “You like Guatemala right?!”
Tip: You can take the shuttle from Copán straight to Antigua every day at 12:00PM!!
Things to do in Copán
I stayed three nights in Copán and I was positively surprised by the charm of this small town in the hills. The night that I arrived an event was organed at the Central Parque; including live band with Garifuna dancers, movies and presenters. I was lucky to be present at this local free event to promote Copán as a tourist place. See below the activities you can do any time.
Visit the Copán Maya Ruins
The Copán archaeological ruins is one of the most important Maya sites; that is why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the capital city of a major Classic period kingdom from the 5th to 9th centuries AD. The architecture is not as grand as in Tikal, Guatemala. A guide explained to me; Tikal is like New York, high and prestigious and Copán is like Paris, elegant with a lot of details. The Maya city has remarkable sculptures and hieroglyphics which indeed are different than Tikal. It was nice to see the difference.
Go left at the Cassette de Control and walk to the Patio Occidental and Acropolis, wander around all the old buildings and absorb the history of the dynasty Yax K’uk’ Mo’. Walk up the highest point to see the entire Plaza Principal and the Juego de Pelota and the covered 63 steps high Escalinata Jeroglíficos. Walk down and have a closer look at the above and the Stelas E to J. You can go underground via the Túnels Rosalila and de los Juaguares; you need to buy a special ticket to enter this part of the ruins.
Tip: Try to spot and take a picture of the Macaws flying around in the park. There a feeding places close to the entrance of the park.
Compared to Tikal; Copán is not busy and you can come the morning around 9:00AM, instead of the very early sunrise time. The ruins are a short 1km walk from Copán center and close to the river Copán. At the main entrance (ticket 360L) you will find toilets, café and gift shop. I walked the site by myself and eavesdropped on some of the guides for some details.
Strike a Pose with a Macaw
Around 2km out of Copán Ruinas town, a private reserve is set up to save the Central American macaws. I already saw the Macaws flying around at the Maya Ruins, but here they rescue, rehabilitate and release them together with other amazing birds like the toucans, parrots and kingfishers. They all have spacious and natural cages. There is an area where uncaged and tame birds fly onto your arms or head; so you can strike a pose with them for your new Instagram post.
Tip: During my visit it was feeding time and I was not able to take a picture with the birds;….so hope you are lucky!!
The park is located in a canyon at a river; it is a lovely place to wander around. It has nice walking trails, boardwalks and small bridges through the forest from where you can observe birds, butterflies and small mammals such as squirrels. The park even has lookout points and a swimming area!! You can have a great biological coffee at the café with a nice terrace underneath the trees; with flying wild Macaws passing by. The entrance ticket costs 250L per person. I caught a tuk-tuk (three-wheeled motor taxi) in town to get here. The driver offered me to wait to bring me back after visiting the park for 1,5 hour (20L each way); which is enough to see the entire the bird park.
Visit a Soccer Game
On a Sunday afternoon, after strolling through Copán, I saw a lot of people gathering together and heard fireworks. I asked my hotel what was going on and they told me this was the final of the local football teams of Copán; Maya FC against Jaguar FC. I love to watch football/soccer and to see a local game is great of course. I checked if it was safe for a woman in Honduras to watch a game here; but all was save. Actually I enjoyed myself really good; loved to see the locals being enthusiastic, drinking beer, singing and having fun and all together. It’s a whole family event for 25L. The game was not spectacular but it was a great event; so if you have the time and luck, join the game!!
Where to Eat, Drink & Sleep?
Copán is small and you can walk everything; there are steep streets so be prepared! Honduras is known for the coffee; here you can taste your favorite coffee in one of the many nice coffee shops in town. Copán has many restaurants from local to western places, so pick your choice!
Tip: Bring USD notes with you, you can pay with US$ here as well; be aware especially the souvenirs are expensive.
I booked my Hotel Mary’s in advance via Booking.com; so handy and looking at the rating tells me that I can’t be really wrong! Mary’s is in town next to the soccer field and the road to the ruins. Comedor Mary next door is a popular restaurant; here you have your breakfast too. The room was pretty and comfortable with a hammock and a small garden. It was not busy in the hotel and the service was friendly; it’s not really cheap 45US$per night; but that is included a perfect breakfast and cold drink upon arrival (and I got it the days thereafter too…..). I would go back!!
Casa Ixchel: In the same street of Mary’s at Av. Copán, this nice coffee and lunch shop is located. In the garden at the back of the shop women select the best Arabica coffee beans for the coffee that they sell in the shop. This place has a good vibe and a deeper meaning so that makes the coffee taste even better!!
Café Expresso Americano: This is a Starbucks like café at the corner of the Parque Central; under the popular backpackers restaurant Twisted. Had a chill moment here in the air conditioner and good WIFI with a nice cup of coffee (40L).
San Rafael Café: This is a more high standard place where they roast and pack the coffee too. There is a nice garden and the cakes tasted and looked great!! I brought here a packing of coffee as a souvenir; Honduras coffee supposed to be one of the best in the world.
Restaurant Yax K’uk’Mo: On the first night I wanted to eat the local and traditional Honduras food. I was told to eat at this place to get that experience. This restaurant is set up like an patio and all tables on the side at the Parque Central. I liked the food including chicken for the proteins.
Restaurant/Café/Hotel Via Via: This Belgium owned concept attracts a lot of tourists. The menu consist of specialties from all around the world; I had the Gado Gado that tasted nothing like that at all. I didn’t t like the vibe of this place and the food was not the best; but that is just my opinion of course.
Tip: I loved the souvenir market during the day but more at night at Av Centroamericano; you have to look very good but here you can find original presents made by local artist.