Copan, Honduras (Part 2: Mexico Series)

We had ANOTHER early start at 4am to catch the bus to Copan, Honduras. It was a 5.5hr bus trip and we had to stop at the border and walk across the border while the bus drove through without us and picked us up on the other side. First we had to exit Guatemala, getting our exit stamps in our passports (yay!! more stamps!!) and then walk to the Honduras office and get our entry stamp. We also had to pay $60 Quetzals to get in, which is like $10 NZ dollars which wasn’t too bad. We thought we were going to have to pay to leave Guatemala too, but that didn’t happen; we didn’t have to pay on either side on the way back either.


The border crossing was simple enough but an experience in itself that I quite enjoyed even though it was SOO early in the morning lol. There are loads of guys wandering around with fistfuls of cash in each currency offering exchanges. We thought they would be a huge rip off, but it wasn’t actually too bad.

We finally arrive in Copan and took a Tuk Tuk from the bus stop to our hotel to check in and drop our stuff off, before heading out the ruins for the afternoon. Our Tuk Tuk driver had offered to come back in an hour to collect us and take us to the ruins, he even organised an English speaking guide for us at the site. He was an official guide and the price was reasonable (according to the research we had done) so it actually worked out well for us. We used the same driver the entire time we were there, which was only overnight but still!

Copan is a lot smaller than Tikal, but is super impressive in its own right. We were able to go into the tunnels under two of the temples which was pretty cool, as it’s not the norm at most sites. It is the southern most Mayan site in Mesoamerica and was the capital city of a major kingdom from the 5th – 9th centuries AD. Most of the carved portrait Stelae scattered around the site are from one rule – 13 Rabbit (unsure of his Mayan name), but before him there wasn’t a lot of creativity happening around the place. One of the most impressive things at the site is the Hieroglyphic Stairway which has been restored by archaeologists, and while bits and pieces are broken or missing, one can still get a pretty good idea of what it would have looked like 1400 years ago. It most likely would have been painted in bright colours as well which would have made it even more impressive, but unfortunately only remnants of the paint survives today. Though Shane and I enjoyed spotting all the different paint colours at every site we went to and trying to imagine what it would have looked like if we were able to time travel. Sorry, slight tangent there! Anyway, back to the staircase – large sculpted figures (probably of past rulers) are located in the centre of every 12th step with a large stelae and altar at the base of the steps. Each step also has hieroglyphs along the front edge, totalling 2200 glyphs; these are still being deciphered. Our guide told us that previous archaeologists had actually put these back in the wrong order, so that could explain why it’s taking so long to interpret! No one has put them in the correct order, probably because they don’t know what the right order is haha.

Inside one of the tunnels we got to see the remains of the Rosalila temple, which is built over 5 previous temples and is under the final version of the temple. Because it was built over, it has been well preserved and we were told that when it was found the colours were still super vibrant. The colour has faded now though as it was open to the public and the many years of carbon dioxide, sweat and touching has now faded the colour. It is still visible but it’s behind glass now, and it is super muggy in there so it’s understandable how the colour would fade!

Life-size reconstruction of the Rosalila Temple at the Copan site museum

The ruins site is also a sanctuary for the Scarlet Macaw or Guacamaya Roja, in Spanish, and there are a number of them walking and flying about. They are fed regularly by workers at the site and are clearly used to people as it’s easy to get quite close to them to take pictures. They’re super loud though and don’t make the most pleasant noise!

Scarlet Macaws feeding

While were are the ruins we found out about another site, the Sepulturas Group, which is about 2km away and was, at one point, connected by a sacbe (Mayan road). We hadn’t heard of this site before and given that Shane knows an awful lot about the Maya civilisation and sites, he was a little shocked to hear about it! So we went down there as well and wandered through looking at the ruined elite residences that would have been occupied by noblemen. There are some really well-preserved bench carvings and stucco floors that are worth looking at, and we were told while we were there that some tombs were found during excavation which you can see as well (not too exciting, as it’s just the hole in the ground now). We thought seeing both sites was a great way to see the way the different classes live (within the elite classes anyway – commoners had mud huts on the outskirts of town) and how similar and different they are to one another. The houses at the Sepulturas Group have a similar layout, with buildings built around a plaza and there were several of these plaza’s throughout the site; and each plaza would have some kind of altar or temple that would be used for private religious ceremonies.

The town of Copan is a really cute little town so if you decide to go there, definitely spend an extra night just to experience the place. We would have liked to be there longer but (A) we didn’t realise it would be that cool and (B) we couldn’t really fit it in anyway with how jam-packed this trip was! So unfortunately, we had to get back on the bus to head back to Guatemala City. It was supposed to take 5hrs, it took nearly 9hrs to get back!! The bus kept breaking down along the way and would often stall to a stop on the hills – there were loads of hills! We’d get going and then move a few metres before stalling out again and when we were moving it was at like 5km/hr! It was completely ridiculous and we were worried when we arrived that we wouldn’t have a ride as our hotel was supposed to pick us up at 8pm but thankfully he was there waiting for us and had been for the previous 3hrs!!

So I know Part 2 is coming out first, but I had it all as one and I thought I should split it up as it was LONG!! But then I lost everything I wrote about Guatemala City & Tikal and I can’t remember what I wrote so posting this one first! Hope you enjoy it 🙂

Chel x


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