Guide to Copan Ruinas

Guide to Copan Ruinas

Copan Ruinas, located just 1km northwest of Honduras’ most famous Maya site, is a charming little town with cobblestone streets, white and yellowish adobe buildings, and red-tile roofs.

It is tucked away in the mystical mountains of western Honduras, where you can feel its relaxed and peaceful vibe through its sceneries and town beauty.

Walking around town you can see old men play checkers in the plaza and barefoot kids kicking soccer balls in the main square.

But, don’t be confused by its peaceful and picturesque charm, there is plenty to do here if you’re looking for interesting things to do and cultural sights to explore.

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Getting Around Copan Ruinas

Copan is a small community; so don’t worry about mapping sights before getting there.  It is very easy to walk from corner to corner of the town, and even to the neighboring sights and attractions.

The streets are relatively safe, even during the night, so it is a common sight to see tourists walking at all hours or even riding tuk-tuk (moto taxis) around town (costs L$10) or to the Ruins and Macaw Mountain (costs L$20).

What To Do in Copan Ruinas

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

The Mayan Ruins of Copan

These are the most famous Mayan ruins in Honduras and they have some of the most impressive pre-Columbian art anywhere. This is definitely the main attraction in Copan Ruinas.

At $15 the entrance, they are a bit expensive (compared to other ruins of bigger size like Tikal and Teotihuacan), but what they lack in size they make in art, history, and sculptures.

There are more sculptures here than in any other Pre-Columbian city – among those the carved stelae of ancient rulers, and the hieroglyphic stairway.  Inside the park, there is also the Mayan museum (entry $7, or included in ruins entrance) with a reconstructed temple and other original artifacts. Well worth the visit.

The Mayan Ruins are a short walk out of town and it’s recommended to be there when it opens at 8 am, as the site gets very hot by mid-day. Read more about the Ruins of Copan in this post.

Horseback Riding

It costs from $12 to $15 for a 3 hours ride. The ride can take you to La Pintada, a Maya Chorti village, and to Los Sapos, which is a small ruin not included in the archaeological park.

Zip Lining / Canopy

Copan has one of the worlds longest zip lines, including one of around 1,000 meters long.  It costs $35.

Agua Caliente

Although it is an hour away from Copan, it is well worth visiting this natural hot spring.  Many local tour companies will take you there for an inflated price, so the best way to go there is to take a minibus at the soccer field (easy to find in the town – by the bridge to the ruins).

Hop into a L$35 minibus or look for other travelers who might be waiting there looking for more people to join a private ride; which might cost about $50-60 per group. The entrance is $10.

Museo Regional de Arqueologia Maya

Although it looks a bit outdated, the museum gives a good overview of the Maya and their presence in the valley de Copán. The exhibit contains some excellent pieces: painted pottery, carved jade, Maya glyphs, and original stelaes. Entrance costs L$57.

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Macaw Mountain

This is an excellent bird sanctuary close to the town center. For the entrance price of $10 (a bit steep) you can see the birds and how they’re being taken care of (some of them are donated after their owners pass away. Some Macaws can live up to 125 years!)

During their one hour tour, you also get to see the impressive views of the surroundings, and a 20-minute nature loop through an adjacent coffee plantation, a small swimming hole and a cafe. The ticket is valid for 3 days, so you can come back for a swim at the hole.

Centro de Mariposas

A butterfly sanctuary located just outside town. Entrance fee is L$20.

Street Markets

Every evening locals set tables at the plaza or along some of the main street, where you can buy local art pieces, jewelry, and interesting Mayan replicas.

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Where to Eat in Copan Ruinas

Copan Ruinas has so many good restaurants, and a great variety, that choosing where to eat will be a hard task.

Still, I have to give the top spot of eating choice to the “street food”. Many ladies stand with their grills next to the main plaza and for only L$20 will prepare you a quick meal of carne asada with tortillas.

These are so delicious that you might want for seconds. They are best served with a pupusa, a type of frozen drink made of fruits.

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Not into street food? Most places offer a Honduran typical dish – basically of beef strips, beans, fried plantains, tortillas, cabbage, and sour cream. Local meals can cost between L$80 to L$120. Some good restaurants are:

  • Comedor Mary – Apparently the best local restaurant for typical Honduran food.
  • Llama del Bosque – Also a great choice for typical food. Larger and busier, but an excellent value and good service. Extensive and varied menu at a great price. Fajitas are delicious… recommended.
  • Carnitas Nia Lola – A more upscale American bar and grill. Good food variety.
  • Jim’s Pizza CopanCraving for pizza? This place has some of the best pizza around. Pizzas are baked in an open kitchen right after you order them. Great atmosphere; always active.

Where to Stay in Copan Ruinas

Even though Copan Ruinas has a lot of accommodations to choose from, finding some of them on the internet could be a harder task than in most cities; especially if they are budget accommodations. Here are some that are recommended:

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

  • La Iguana Azul – Small and cozy hostel with a few dorms ($6) and privates; single ($12) and double ($14).  It is a five-minute walk away from the plaza, so it is very quiet at night.  I highly recommend it after staying there.  No reservations are done online, but you can request a room or bed through email.
  • Hotel Ch’orti – When you stay here, part of your money helps support Honduras’ indigenous population.  It is located down the block from La Iguana Azul.  Single rooms are about L$200 and doubles are L$250.
  • Hotel Plaza Copan – A colonial-style hotel with a decent pool.  Some of the rooms have a great second-floor view of the main plaza/central park. Located on the square next to the church. Single rooms are about $50 and Double about $60.
  • Hotel Don Udo’s – An upscale colonial-style hotel, this is perfect if you like the hominess of a B&B but not the intimacy of one. It has a nice rooftop Jacuzzi and sauna. The price ranges in the $40-$50+ per person.

No matter what you decide to do or where to stay one thing is for sure: you’ll probably end up staying a day or two longer than you planned. Copan Ruinas is a town that will charm you with its unique rural character.

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33 thoughts on “Guide to Copan Ruinas”

    1. Well, the zip lines are not exactly in the ruins; they are a few kilometers outside of the town. Also, referencing to this town and the ruins can be confusing sometimes, since they both are named the same: Copan Ruinas. But, the zip lines are really cool!

  1. This post brought back some pleasant memories! I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this little town and definitely wanted to stay longer. However, we were in transit to Costa Rica and had to get back on the road. If I had to do over again–would explore more!

    1. Hey Claire! I really want to go back too as my time there was cut short since I needed to flee the town in look of proper medical care after my accident at the ruins. But still, I was able to do a lot there. That little town charmed me from the very first day.

    1. Yes, I though about naming a few good accommodation places. I hopped and spent time in a few of those, but my favorite one was Iguana Azul. Not only it is the cheapest one, but the environment and quality is really good. Plus, it leans more to what backpackers are looking for, vs some of the other ones that are a bit more upscale.

  2. Copan looks so lovely. The night-time photos convey such a cosy atmosphere. I’ve not been to Honduras yet, but it’s definitely on my list. Thanks for sharing all this. Very useful!

  3. Enticing post! Copan Ruinas sounds like a great place to visit. I’d love to see the ruins and town seems to offer lots of interesting things to do. The street food looks like a delicious option.

    1. Thanks Cathy! I myself was surprised to see all the options of things to do there given the fact that Copan Ruinas is really small. Yes, that street food was delicious!

  4. Jeremy Branham

    What a great everyday kind of town. I wouldn’t expect to see Mayan ruins here but what a great mix of local culture as well as the ruins!

  5. I think my main attraction is to head straight for that street food and Honduras style carne asada! My mouth is watering already!
    Great review and round-up Norbert – I’d love to visit Copan Ruinas in the future!

  6. Strangely it just cost too much for us Malaysians to visit South America so the best I can do is read about your experiences. I just need to make-it-big in the next 5 years and then I can start planning my S.America exploration.

    1. David, you’ll get to South and Central America in time, and when you do, you will see is so worth visiting and you’re going to love it! Hopefully you’ll get there soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Copan is such a nice peaceful town, I really enjoyed my time there. This is a great guide and has the complete backing of BackpackingWorldwide.com!

    1. It is beautiful and really peaceful! I wish I had stayed longer there, but in my short time, I did get a great experience. Thanks for the backing! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks Jools! This is one of those little charming towns that draws you in with its quaint character. Good addition to your list! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Nobert, the L$20 ,L$80 is confusing to people who haven’t been there. The last time I was in Copan Ruinas the exchange rate was approximately 20 lempiras to the dollar, so L80 is a 4 dollar breakfast at Llama del Bosque, which is about what a desayuno del dia (breakfast of the day) costs.

    1. Thanks, Phil. Yes, the reason why I left the prices in the local currency is because currency exchange can vary dramatically depending on when you go. For a better idea of how much is the current exchange, I recommend going to http://www.xe.com and get current values.

      Having said that, it is possible some of these prices might have changed since the time I wrote this post, so only use this pricing information as an estimate of how much should you expect to spend.

  9. Hi Norbert

    I am heading to Honduras on a volunteering trip in March next year and have been finding it difficult to find information on getting from TEGUCIGALPA to Ruinas de Copan. It seems there is no direct route? Can you help? I heard it is a lovely place and I really want to visit it.

    1. Hi Jessica –

      Thank you for contacting. I’m not up to date with the routes and travel info in Honduras, but I can tell you that if you can’t find icon online, you can easily solve it in person right at the bus station in Tegucigalpa. It’s possible you might have to go from Tegucigalpa to San Pedro Sula and from there to Copan. There might be an easier, shorter way, but at the moment that’s the one I can think of. The good thing about traveling in Central America is that you can buy your bus ticket right there at the bus station just before departing or the day before if you want to make sure you have a spot on the bus you want.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Thanks Norbert. That is the info I gathered but as I have just three days I didnt want to spend a lot of time on the road. But if that is what it is, that is what I have to do. To save time I may fly to SPSula and then take the bus to Copan and return the same way.

        In order to get a really good feel of the place, how much time you reckon is sufficient? A day and half to browse through everything? And I am guess there are guides at base that can give you the historical facts?

        1. I guess you might save some time flying to SPS. Make sure you plan it well so you can make the connection as seamless as possible, and take into account the time it will take you to go from the airport to the bus station. Probably you could fly first thing in the morning, and take an afternoon bus.

          A day and half should be enough to at least see the highlights. Copan Ruinas (town) is small enough so you can wander around on foot and see most of it in less than a day. The ruins, can be done in a couple hours, half a day at most. Yes, there are guides there at the entrance. In fact, that’s what I did when I went there. I paid a guide to take me around and explain the history behind the place. Sorry I can’t remember how much I paid, but I’m sure it wasn’t expensive.

          1. Thanks Norbert. Due to time constraints have decided to fly to San Pedro Sula and then catch the Hedman Alas bus from the terminal (the connections work well). I have found that Hedman even have a shuttle from the airport to the terminal.

            Did you stay at an Airbnb while in Copan?

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