A visit to Copan Ruinas was at the top of my list when visiting Honduras.
We arrived in Copan on New Year’s Eve in the afternoon. After checking into our hotel we had a light picnic in our lobby and headed to the main square. Copan is a cute little colonial town in South-West Honduras. The main square is the hub of town and has a number of restaurants, coffee shops and the Museo Regional de Arqueologia Maya.
Mario had been to the Museum before so him, Paty and the girls went off on their own while Randy, myself & our girls spent a few dollars and a half hour wandering around the Museum. The girls were fixated on K’inich Yax K’uk Moh, or as they called him “the man with glasses”, the original king of Copan. I tried to explain how old the items were that we were looking at, but it was a bit beyond their comprehension. Calais just kept asking if “the man with glasses” was still alive or if he was dead. She didn’t seem to understand that he died a long time ago and we were just looking at a statue of him. We’ve been reading about Egypt at home and I think she thought he was a mummy!!
Being New Year’s Eve there was a small craft market set up down one of the side streets. I wandered once with Randy & the girls, then left them behind in the central square to dance and went back again by myself.
I bought a few pairs of beautiful feather earrings from a sweet man. We communicated using lots of hand motion and a few Spanish words that I actually understood. He told me that he collects the feathers from the ground and never takes them from the birds. He also tole me the type of birds the feathers came from, but I can’t remember any of them!
We went for an early dinner of Papusas at Comodore Y Pupuseria Mary then retired back to our hotel rooms for the night. We bought a bottle of wine to celebrate the New Year but didn’t make it past 10:00pm! The heat and long (bumpy) car ride had tired us out.
New Years Day we visited the Mayan Ruins of Copan. We got up and headed out early in the morning to beat the heat and the (relative) crowds. We found an English speaking guide at the entrance, paid our fees, and started our tour.
There’s a small scale model of the complex at the entrance. Calais looked at it and exclaimed “are we in Egypt?!” I guess the temples look a bit like pyramids!! She was a bit disappointed to find out that we hadn’t in fact, transported ourselves to Egypt.
The pathway to the main complex is lined with trees filled with birds, including the resident Scarlet Macaws. We were there a bit too late to watch the Macaw’s being fed, but it was fun to see them just hanging out in the trees.
The grounds were beautiful. It was nice and quiet at 8:30am, and the temperature was still cool enough to be enjoyable. It was definitely worth having a guide. He explained where we were in the complex, what we were looking at, and the significance of each carving and temple!
My favourite was the sacrificial rock. The Mayan kings used to send blood offerings to the Gods using this rock. There’s a little indent on the top for the head, and channels cut down either side to direct the blood to the ground. The Mayans were serious about their sacrifices!
There was also a Mayan Ball Game court, similar to one Randy & I saw years ago at Coba in Mexico.
The hieroglyphic stairway has over 1800 glyphs, making it the longest known Mayan inscription. It’s being painfully restored and has a large canvas tarp over top to protect it from the elements.
The whole complex has a series of aquaducts throughout to carry out water so it doesn’t flood. Kacela wanted to have a closer look. She got pretty close but was too chicken to actually crawl in!
All together we spent about 3 hours touring around the complex. The girls were able to run and climb on the temples. Although they can’t quite comprehend the meaning of “ancient” they definitely understood we were somewhere special.
Once we finished with the tour we spent a bit of time taking some pictures in the main square.
It was starting to get warm, and the girls were getting worn out from all the running and climbing. Hondurans love their fireworks so we had been kept up the night before (New Year’s Eve) with all the minor explosions. Once we were done at the Ruins we grabbed a mototaxi back to the hotel for a much-needed nap.
After our nap we left Paty and Hannah behind and the rest of us went to the Macaw sanctuary. I thought the girls would be more excited to see the birds, but they just wanted to go swimming! We had a short tour of the sanctuary and learned a little bit about the different birds.
The girls were distracted from swimming for a few minutes when we got to hold a few of the Macaws.
Kacela was scared (of course), but Calais was a real trooper! She was excited to hold the birds.
Once we were done the girls FINALLY got to go swimming. Asiria lasted about 2 minutes in the cold water. Calais, our little cold blooded Canadian, lasted a few minutes longer!
Our second night was as laid-back as the first, just with a few less fireworks! We had a nice BBQ dinner at Ascado then went back to our hotel for an early bedtime.
The last morning in Copan we wandered around town for a bit in the quiet hours.
I enjoyed one last latte overlooking the central square.
We packed up and prepared for the long truck ride to Gracias. Our visit to Copan Ruinas with kids was both relaxing and a great adventure.
Where we stayed: Hotel Brisas de Copan.
There were pros and cons to this hotel.
Pros: It was half a block from the central square. There was free parking and a lovely sitting area right outside our room where we could lounge while the girls were sleeping.
Cons: It didn’t have air conditioning (our cold-blooded Canadian bodies were melting in Honduras!!). We could open the windows to get a breeze through the room but then it was a bit noisy with all the fireworks. There was also a young 20-something tour group that joined us so it was never really quiet.
Where we ate: Comedor Y Pupuseria Mary (twice), Cafe Welchez and Ascados Copan.
We went to the Comedor Mary for dinner on New Year’s Eve. It was our first experience with Pupusa’s and we liked them so much we went back for lunch the next day!! It’s a corn tortilla typically stuffed with cheese and meat. They’re typical street food… delicious, filling and cheap!!
New Years Day dinner was at Ascado. Randy and I shared the BBQ meat platter. It was enough to feed the entire table of people. The meat was seasoned and cooked perfectly. It was another very enjoyable meal.
Cafe Welchez makes a delicious latte (see picture above!). They also have an American style breakfast, perfect to fill up on the morning you leave since it’s a long way down the road!
What we did: Museo Regional de Arqueologia Maya, Tour of Copan with a guide, Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve.
The little Museum took less than an hour to wander through. The descriptions were all in English & Spanish, and it provided a bit of a glimpse into the Mayan culture around Copan. It was short enough that it kept the girl’s attention. I don’t know that it’s absolutely necessary to do, but we enjoyed it.
Copan itself was definitely worth it! There were so many open spaces for the girls to run around, and the temples were small enough that the girls could easily climb up them (without giving me a panic attack watching them!). There were a couple of places where we were up high and kept the girls back from the edge, but I never felt like they were going to catapult off. The guide cost us $30US for a 2 hour tour and it was worth every penny. It made the experience so much more enjoyable since I’m always the one reading aloud from a guide book of some kind whenever we go anywhere. Our guide also worked overtime saying everything in English for us, then repeating in Spanish for Paty.
The Macaw park was fun for the girls. They were a bit preoccupied with going swimming (there’s a great little swimming hole although the water’s cold), but they did enjoy seeing all the different birds. Calais’ favourite part was getting to hold the birds. Kacela enjoyed watching us hold them. There’s a guide included with entry so we at least knew what we were looking at and learned a bit about the birds. The location is absolutely spectacular also. It’s right in the jungle, with the river running through it. It’s very serene and peaceful, minus the squawking birds!
What it cost:
Mainland Honduras is very inexpensive. Our hotel rooms were around $50CAD/night, meals for our family of 4 ran anywhere from about $20-40 for dinner. I did indulge a few times on a latte at about $2 a cup (the same price as a tea from Tim Hortons). The guide for Copan was our biggest splurge at $30USD, our entrance was a further $15USD each (girls were free). Tickets to the Macaw park were $10USD each (girls were free again), guide included.
We were lucky to have Mario to drive us to Copan. It’s possible to catch a bus from San Pedro Sula to La Entrada, then onward to Copan. We were passed by a number of public vans and buses travelling this stretch of highway. The road is bumpy, curvy, mountainous, and not overly well maintained. It may look like a short trip, but the 183km took us about 5 hours…with only 2 pee-breaks!