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The 'Paris' of the Mayan world that was occupied for more than 2,000 years until it's demise in around 900AD. This site offers a different view into the life of the Maya's and is well worth a visit!
At the time of writing (April 2021)
Entrance Fee per person (foreigner) - $15 USD
Guided 2 hour tour - $30 USD (although we got this for $20)
Tuesday to Sunday
8am to 4pm
How to get there
From within Honduras these ruins aren't the easiest to access due to limited infrastructure, however there's several ways you can make the journey:
From Guatemala: Perhaps one of the easiest ways to visit is on a day trip from Guatemala as the ruins are only a few miles over the border. Tours usually run from Tikal, the City or Antigua and will provide your transportation.
From San Pedro Sula: There are numerous buses that run from SPS down to Copán including Hedman Alas, El Mochito and Casasola Express.
Hedman Alas is the most expensive at $35 one way, but is also by far the most comfortable and quickest! They only offer a limited service however so times may not be suitable.
El Mochito and Casasola will see you travelling with the locals, cost a lot less and take a lot longer! These buses take anything from 4.5 hours upwards depending on how many stops they make. You can expect to pay around $6 or less one way. There are frequent services to and from the ruins with these providers.
From La Ceiba: You'll need to take a bus to San Pedro Sula and then change to one of the above to finish the journey down to the ruins. The buses from La Ceiba to SPS are run by several companies, we used Transportes Cristina which took around 4 hours and cost just under $6 one way per person.
From Tegucigalpa: Hedman Alas usually operate a once daily direct bus from the capital to the ruins, however this takes 8+ hours and costs $40. It also leaves at 5.45am which may not be preferable! Alternatively, you could take a bus to San Pedro Sula and spend the night before continuing your journey on the above buses to break up your journey.
If the bus schedules don't work for you, you could also rent a car from San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa and make your own way there. The road conditions down to the ruins are not bad and are safe during daytime hours.
Where to Stay
We'd recommend spending at least a night in the town of Copán Ruinas to give yourself enough time to see both the ruins and the town, as well as the other attractions such as the bird rescue sanctuary and the Mayan museum.
There are numerous hotels and hostels around the town to suit all budgets. You'll need to take a tuk-tuk out to the actual ruins from the town centre so your location within the town isn't of concern.
A morning in the Paris of Mundo Maya
Having already visited Tikal, Chichén Itza, Tulum and countless other Mayan ruin sites across Central America our enthusiasm for adding Copán to our list was low - combined with our previous failed attempt to visit and the time now involved with reaching the site from Pico Bonito, it's safe to say we were not particularly enthusiastic about the site!
Despite this, we can indeed confirm that this site is very much worth making an effort to come and visit, perhaps even more so if you've visited the other big name sites as Copán has a very different feel about it.
We got to the site early, around 8.30am. As we were visiting during Covid times this was less for the sake of avoiding crowds and more for the purpose of not melting in the Honduran heat as we wandered the open fields! It gets HOT here - by 9am you're sweating and you've barely started!
For the first time we hired a guide to take us around the ruins and we're so happy that we did! Juan told us so many interesting facts about the Mayan's that we'd never have otherwise known and pointed out things that we just wouldn't have noticed on our own - in our opinion this was $20 well spent!
FUN FACT - Did you know that Mayan Royalty used to flatten the heads of their babies to cause an enlarged nose and dangle a pendant in front of their eyes to make them cross eyed? In addition, they drilled holes in their front teeth and inserted jade! This ensured the royal blood stood out from the lower classes and was a sign of beauty!
Tikal is known as the New York of the Mayas due to the tall temples, and Copán is known as the Paris of the Mayas because of the detail you find here. The main attractions are the incredible intricacies still visible today on features such as the Stairway Library and the unique estelas (columns). These are things that you don't find in Tikal and Tulum.
We spent a total of 2.5 hours at the site and wouldn't recommend spending much less if you're genuinely interested in seeing everything. Make sure you allow time at the end of your visit to really appreciate the many Scarlet Macaws that call the ruins home! The site operates as a rehabilitation ground for macaws that were previously household pets and are now learning how to survive in the wild!
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