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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Copan – Craving 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:
- 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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