Honduras is a country that divides opinion. Some think it is extremely dangerous, full of warring gangs looking for their next victims. Others see a country of great beauty, rugged wilderness and fantastic diving opportunities. Us? We thought of Honduras as an opportunity to explore a country which hadn’t been well worn on the gringo trail. We were excited to visit but unfortunately we encountered a problem – after a recent election there was a number of violent protests which branded the country as unsafe to visit. Fearing being stuck in the country if we entered, we decided to skip Honduras altogether and come back in the future to visit. But then, on our way up Santa Ana volcano in El Salvador we met Jan, a German guy who was traveling Central America in the opposite direction to us. Jan had just come from Honduras and told us that at this minute it was safe! So being the adventurers that we have become (LOL), we decided to book a last minute trip to Copan Ruinas for the next day!
Getting To Copan Ruinas
Feeding time at the ruins!
To get from Santa Ana, El Salvador to Copan, Honduras is tricky when there is a possible threat of violent protests in small towns along the way. It’s totally doable by chicken bus but we decided to play it safe and book a shuttle. Casa Verde in Santa Ana offer shuttles for $25 door to door. And it just so happened that the shuttle was carried out by Berakah Hostel – the exact place we were staying in Copan – Result!!
The trip itself was uninteresting, we didn’t leave until 2pm and arrived around 7.30pm. It was frustrating having to wait until 2 and miss pretty much an entire day but, hey, that’s life sometimes. Our route took us into Guatemala again and then Honduras. We had a sneaky immigration officer who tried to extract an imaginary $2 exit fee from all us silly tourists but having left Guatemala already, we knew not to pay this!!
Copan Archaeological Site!
So the town is called Copan Ruinas and the ruins are called Copan – confusing or what?!? 99% of all travels who arrive in Copan Ruinas are here for the ruins.
The ruins are a major Mayan archaeological site and one of the best known and preserved in the world. These ruins are probably best known for the intricate and well preserved stelae, or Mayan monuments!
They are located about 1km outside of town. It’s a safe walk and only took us about 10 minutes so we would advise doing this! Otherwise, you can grab a tuk tuk outside the main square in Copan and it should only cost 1 dollar at most!
The ruins at 9am – only turkeys about!
The ruins come with a steep asking price however, $15 (330 Lempiras) to be exact! Yes, you can pay in US dollars if you have them! This gives you access to the main archaeological square and the sepulteras. For an eye watering $15 extra you can get access to the underground tunnels beneath the park. Our advice? Stick to the main park, there is enough there to satisfy even the most historically curious mind! All the tunnels were man made so it’s not like you are retracing the steps of the Mayans anyway!
Some enchanting stairs!
Once inside the park you can see a host of scarlet macaws right by the entrance! We arrived just after 9am and it was feeding time so these exotic birds were in a particularly loud mood! These birds are the offspring of macaws which have been rescued by Macaw Mountain. It’s great to see these birds flying around the ruins, it’s clear to see that the Mayans really revered them, there are numerous carvings of them around!
Signs that the Mayans liked Macaws!
The other bonus to arriving so early is that we virtually had the entire park to ourselves! As mentioned earlier the main draw to Copan is the stelae, there is no main temple like you see in Palenque, Tikal or Chichen Itza! It is well worth a visit and they were one of our favourite Mayan ruins!
An example of the stelae
So most people arrive in Copan Ruinas for the ruins but there is another attraction, Macaw Mountain. Macaw Mountain is a preservation project which rescues birds which have been kept as pets and tries to nature them back to health. Sometimes they can’t be returned to the wild so Macaw Mountain looks after them to the best of their abilities! It basically consist of a series of avaries which house numerous different exotic birds, from Scarlet Macaws, to Toucans, to Owls! You get a good photo opportunity towards the end of the park with some Macaws – and it’s included in the price!
The guy on my left was pretty active!
Entrance to Macaw Mountain is a steep $10 (220L) , but when you are contributing to such a good cause you don’t mind much! To get there is quite tough though, it’s 2.5 km of a dirt road so walking isn’t really an option. A tuk tuk should cost about 30L ($1) per person. Tell your driver when to return for you (2 hours should be enough) to ensure you have a way of getting back to the town!
Aoife was scared!
You can easily fit the ruins and Macaw Mountain into the same day but we spread them out into 2 days. Due to this we had the park pretty much to ourselves!
A friendly Toucan!
Have you visited Copan or Macaw Mountain? Would you like to? Let us know in the comments below!