The Main Park

Entrance fee includes a visit to the main park as well as the Sepulturas Archaeological site. The Museum is without question a new major attraction to the park. Two different tunnels are open to the public: The “Rosa Lila” Tunnel and the “Los Jaguares” Tunnel.

The park has five basic areas of interest: The Ball Court, The Great Plaza,The Hieroglyphic Stairway, The Acropolis and The Tunnels.

Copan Maya Ruins Honduras - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

Ball Court of Mayan Ruins – Copan Archaeological Site, Honduras

The Ball Court

Considered the social center of the city. This park is by far the most artistic ball court in Meso-America. Unique to it are the markers on the side walls, resembling macaw heads. The final work done on this ball court goes back to the days of ruler 18 Rabbit.

Copan Maya Ruins Honduras - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

The Great Plaza, Copan Ruinas Archaeological Park, Copan, Honduras

The Great Plaza

Famous for its stelae and altars that are scattered around this immense plaza. Most of the stelaes that are standing today were erected during the times of the 13th ruler, known as 18 Rabbit between the years 711 and 736. Many of the altars have a zoomorphic form.

Pyramid and Stella in the ancient Mayan city of Copan in Honduras

The Hieroglyphic Stairway

This unique temple holds the longest known text left to us by the ancient Maya civilization. It was erected by ruler number 15, known as Smoke-Shell and is believed to be a lineage tree, recording the ascension and death of all Copan rulers from Yax-Kuk-Mo to Smoke-Shell.

The 5 portraits located in the stairway represent five successors to the dynasty. Unfortunately, the glyphs can not be read because the steps had all fallen out of place. Archaeologists rebuilt the temple, but had no way of knowing where each piece belonged. Today, this magnificent temple has an enormous tarp covering it to protect the steps from further erosion, which has unfortunately already damaged a great part of the glyphs.

Copan Maya Ruins Honduras - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

Pyramid and Stella in the ancient Mayan city of Copan in Honduras

The Acropolis

The acropolis is divided in two big plazas: the west court and the east court. The west court houses temple 11 and temple 16 with the unique altar Q set at its base. Temple 11 was built during the reign of Yax-Pac, and is his most significant architectural contribution to Copan. This very elaborate temple was meant to be his portal to the other world. Altar Q has now been completely “read” and depicts each (16) of the members of the Copan Dynasty… including Yax-Pac, seated on their own glyph. In it, the founder of the dynasty Yax-Kuk-Mo is passing the scepter of power directly to Yax-Pac.

Temple 16 is set between the east and the west court, and in its last stage, was finished by Yax-Pac. One unique aspect of this building is that for some reason, the previous standing temple was not defaced or “deactivated or terminated” but instead, a big effort to build on top of it without damaging it was made. This old temple is known today as the “Rosa Lila Temple, or Temple of the Sun” and its discovery has helped archaeologists understand how Copan actually looked in its days of glory. The fine stucco masks of this building retain their original colors, and a replica of this temple is being made at the new museum of sculpture.

The Tunnels

The long term archaeological studies and excavations in Copan have lead to the digging of many a tunnel under the site itself. As a matter of fact, there are over 4 kilometers of tunnels under the acropolis.

These have allowed archaeologists to view earlier stages of the Copan urban structure, as well as the discovery of important tumbs that have taught us much of the ancient Maya. As of March 1999, two of these tunnels are open to the public on a limited basis. Only ten persons will be allowed at one time in each tunnel, and they will be accompanied by a guide. The additional entrance fee of $10.00 USA dollars per person must be paid to gain access to the tunnels. The tunnels that are open are the Rosa Lila Tunnel, located under temple 16 and represents what is perhaps the best preserved stucco building in the Maya civilization. A full size replica of this temple can be seen at the Museum of Mayan Sculpture within the park. The other tunnel is the “Los Jaguares Tunnel” This tunnel is over 700 meters long, and among other highlights, you will see what was one of the most important tumbs in Copan: Galindo’s Tumb, discovered over a century ago!

Las Sepulturas Archaeological Site

“Las Sepulturas” archaeological site forms part of the “PAC” (Proyecto Arqueológico Copán) and is located one mile from the central acropolis. This small site has been most important in understanding how the Mayan elite lived during the days before the collapse of Copan.

Probably the most asked question by tourists visiting a site like Copan is: where did the population live? A good part of the answer to that question can be found at “Las Sepulturas”. In addition, you will enjoy walking through its trails, listening to the birds and wildlife, and being surrounded by the peacefulness of the area. There are no guides on site, so if you wish a guided tour, which is highly recommended, be sure you hire one at the visitor center at the entrance to the main Copan park.

Los Sapos

Commonly referred to as the “birthing place”, “Los Sapos” is a very small site located on the hilltops overlooking the Copan valley. Studies suggest that this is an area where the ancient Copanecan Maya women would go to give birth to their offspring. It is easily accessible via horse back riding. You can arrange for a “guide”, usually a young boy from town to lead you there. The area is located within a private ranch, known as Hacienda San Lucas. This old hacienda is being remodeled is expected to open later this year (2006) with services for the visitors, including a cafeteria and a very cozy bed and breakfast. There is an entrance fee to get into the site. Probably your best option is to hire a horse and a guide with one of the local tour operators in town. The ride from town will take you about 45 minutes each way. “Los Sapos” is interesting in the fact that the stones sculptured there are “in situ”. In addition, the view of the Copan valley, the town and the main acropolis is well worth the walk!

The Copan Valley Stelaes

Although most of the Mayan “tree stones” or stelaes are located in the main plaza, there are a series of stelaes that are located throughout the valley in strategic locations. Some of these are very easily accessible, while others require an effort to get to. All of them were erected by Butz Hunab K’awil, more commonly known as Smoke Imix-God K as part of an effort to demonstrate the power of the Maya kings, the power of creation, inherited directly from the Gods that founded the order of the present world. Through them, he made the entire Copan valley his personal portal to the other world.

Copan Ruins

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, the Maya ruins of Copán have been studied by archaeologists for over a century. Now the most exhaustively researched site in the Maya world, Copán is renowned as the most elaborate and artistically advanced of the great Maya cities.

At the primary site, the five areas of most interest to visitors include the Great Plaza, the Ball Court, the Hieroglyphic Stairway, the Acropolis, and the Tunnels. Adjacent to the site is the Museum of Maya Sculpture, one of the most extraordinary museums in Central America. Its centerpiece is a massive, life-size reconstruction of the famous RosalilaTemple. And less than a mile east of the main ruins, and accessed by a pleasant tree-lined trail, is Las Sepulturas, where the Maya elite lived.

The park is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.daily. Admission is $15 and includes entrance to the main park and Las Sepulturas. Admission to the museum is $7. There is an additional fee of $15 to view the extraordinary tunnels. We recommend use of a guide to enhance your visit to the ruins. The hotel is pleased to arrange your visit with a bilingual guide. (Guides at the park cost approx. $25)

Parks & Museums:

Downtown Copán Ruinas boasts two fascinating museums

Copan Maya Ruins Honduras - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

Life-size reconstruction of Rosalila Temple, Museum of Maya Sculpture, Copan, Honduras

The Maya Archaeology Museum

The Maya Archaeology Museum includes many original Copan artifacts, including Stela 7, which was originally found near the site of the hotel. The museum is open 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Saturday. Admission $3.

The Casa K’inich Children’s Learning Center

The Casa K’inich Children’s Learning Center, the world’s only museum devoted to introducing children to the ancient Maya, is equally compelling for adults. Interactive exhibits are in three languages (English, Spanish, and the local Chortí Maya dialect). The museum is open 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday. Admission is free.

Copan Maya Ruins Honduras - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

Scarlet Macaw at Mayan Ruins Archaeological site – Copan, Honduras

Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve

Just five minutes from downtown, the Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve is the most exciting new tourism and conservation project in Central America. Brilliantly colored parrots, macaws, and toucans- including several that are rare and endangered – can be viewed along tranquil, shaded forest trails. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.daily. Admission $10, valid for three consecutive days.

Just west of town is the Enchanted Wings Butterfly House and Nature Exhibit, which boasts over 30 species of butterflies, as well as an orchid exhibit with more than 200 species. A 5-terrace greenhouse with waterfalls provides a verdant backdrop for viewing the butterflies. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.daily. Entrance fee Lps. 100 (approximately $5.50)

Colonial Towns:

Within a few hours of Copanare several beautiful colonial towns that make for great day trips.

Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa, with a population of over 25,000, is the commercial and political hub of western Honduras. In the 1700´s Santa Rosagained renown for its tobacco, which spurred growth in the region, as well as some very attractive architecture. Near Santa Rosaare the lovely indigenous colonial towns of Corquín and Belen Gualcho.

Copan Maya Ruins Honduras - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

The San Cristobal castle at the Village of Gracias in Honduras in Central America,

City of Gracias

Less than an hour from Santa Rosa, the colonial city of Gracias, founded in 1536, is one of most appealing towns in Honduras. Gracias is also the gateway to Celaque National Park, home to the highest mountain in Honduras(soaring to 9,500 feet), as well as one of the largest remaining tracts of cloud forest in Central America.

Indigenous Communities

In the foothills surrounding the town lives a fascinating indigenous Maya community, the Chortí, whose way of life has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Communities such as La Pintada, Chonco, Carrizalón, and Llanatillos welcome visitors to learn their ancient ceramics and cooking techniques. Some communities are accessible by vehicle, others require a hike through the scenic hills that surround the valley.

Nature Attractions:
Agrotourism:

Copan Maya Ruins Honduras - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

The coffee Plantations in the Hills of Copan in Honduras in Central America,

Coffee Finca Tour

In recent international competitions, such as the Cup of Excellence, the coffees of western Honduras have been receiving quality ratings that in the past were attained by Costa Ricaor Brazil. The world is just beginning to appreciate the quality of our distinctive coffees.

Finca Santa Isabel

Just 30 minutes from Copan, Finca Santa Isabel offers a fascinating and educational introduction the entire process of coffee cultivation. At Finca Santa Isabel, you will not only learn how our great coffees are crafted, but you will taste them on the spot, and can even buy a pound or two to take home. You can learn more and order coffee by visiting the finca´s website at www.cafehonduras.com.

Cattle and Cardamom Ranch Tour

Since 1927, Finca El Cisne has been run by the same Honduran family. This traditional Honduran ranch is located an hour north of the hotel, near the hot springs. Activities include horseback riding, hiking, and fascinating tours of the ranch in operation. This tour makes a great day trip, and can be combined with a soak in the hot springsat day’s end.

Organic Farm Tour

A scenic 30 minute drive east of Copan, Finca Mirasol is an integrated organic farm, one of the few projects of its kind in western Honduras. An extraordinary variety of fruits and vegetables grows year round on this remarkable finca, which represents a hopeful alternative future to the traditional slash and burn agriculture of the region.

Adventure:

Hiking

The varied environments (dry tropical, pine, and cloud forests) and extreme topography of Copán´s foothills make for fantastic hiking. One can climb to indigenous Maya communities that have hardly changed for hundreds of years, or hike to hidden Maya stelae, mountaintops with matchless vistas, or discover secret waterfalls rarely visited by outsiders.

Caving

Within an hour of downtown is El Boquerón Cave, reached by a drive, hike, and scramble up boulders to the cave mouth. The hike within the cave is up a subterranean river. This unforgetable adventure is as strenuous as it is unforgettable.

Copan Maya Ruins Honduras - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

Waterfall in the jungle

El Rubí Waterfalls

This stunning natural display is reached by a 40 minute hike through a pristine forest located just ten minutes east of downtown. Don’t forget your bathing suit.

Copan Maya Ruins Honduras - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

Bicyclist maneuvering down path through forest

Mountain Biking

The local indigenous Maya Chortí people have over the years created an extensive trails system throughout the region. These trails, combined with the dirt roads that crisscross the valley, ensure excellent mountain biking, with a degree of difficulty ranging from novice to extremely technical.

River Tubing

The CopánRiveris Class III in parts, but generally quite navigable by anyone. A tubing trip from Hacienda El Jaral back to town is a half-day trip sure to yield great memories.

Bird Watching

The Copanvalley is a birding paradise, with over 330 species identified.
Migratory species arrive starting in September, departing in March and April. During this time, a seasoned birder can identify 40 to 50 species in a couple of hours just walking from downtown to the CopanRiver, just a mile away!

The surrounding mountains boast an incredible array of habitats, ranging from tropical rain forests, to pine forests and cloud forests. One particularly interesting habitat favored by birds are the local shade-grown coffee plantations. The Audubon Society and the Smithsonian Institution both characterize shade-grown coffee as ´bird-friendly´ habitat. In fact, such habitat is considered the second-best habitat for birds, second only to untouched virgin tropical forest.

Finca Santa Isabel offers such shade-grown habitat, and is just 30 minutes from Copan. Here birders can pursue their avocation, tour the coffee finca, and enjoy a great cup of the local brew, all on the same trip.

Copán is blessed with several expert bilingual guides, but their services are often booked well in advance. So we strongly urge you contact us early in the planning stages of your trip, so we can reserve your guide.

Horse Back Riding

Exploring the Copán valley atop a horse has long been a popular mode of travel for visitors.
Popular destinations include rides along the CopánRiver, up to Hacienda San Lucas and the ruins of Los Sapos, east to Las Sepulturas, or north of town to the Macaw Mountain Bird Parkand Nature Reserve.
Further away, Finca El Cisne offers rides in the spectacular mountains to the north of Copán. We can arrange individual rides, or group rides.

Hot Springs

Agua Caliente, the hot springs to the north of Copán, are popular with locals and visitors alike. You can witness where the hot water flows into the river, and even cross the river to hike up to the source of the thermal waters. Then soak and relax in natural streamside pools.

One memorable option we could arrange is to visit the hot springs at night during the full moon.
Shower and picnic facilities, as well as a snack bar, are available at this pristine, scenic site. Open daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Entrance fee Lps. 20 (approximately $1.10).

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