Copán Ruinas and Copán Ruinas

We arrived in Copan on a Thursday, which just so happened to be a major night in their annual festival. On this particular night, there was what felt like a beauty-paegent-meets-high-school-prom hybrid during which the “queen” of Copan was crowned. This, mixed with a carnival-gone-wrong mix of gunshot-like fireworks and really bad candied apples, made for an interesting entry into the town.

Copan is actually Copán Ruinas, a town made a destination due to the nearby Mayan archaeological sight of the same name. Most people come for the ruins, but the town itself is surprisingly charming and enjoyable, and it’s easy enough to spend a couple of days. I wondered aloud at one stage how many people come to Copan for the ruins, and then learn about the brewery. Indeed, we came across a handful of people who never even visited the ruins at all.

This, in my opinion, is a mistake. Copan isn’t the grandest, or the most picturesque of the ruins that we’ve visited on this trip, but it does offer elements that the others do not. Primarily, Copan is known to have some of the most extensive and interesting hieroglyphics of Mayan sites in the area. This includes the Hieroglyphic Stairway, and amazingly detailed staircase with carvings on each block of each step.

Copan Staircase

Much of the carvings, sculptures, and hieroglyphics visible amongst the ruins are reproductions. The originals are housed in the museum, which has an additional entrance fee of $7. The general entrance fee to the ruins is $15. This is perhaps the biggest drawback of Copan: it’s well expensive. There are also tunnels you can pay another additional fee to view, though they are reportedly not worth it. They are archaeological tunnels dug for research purposes, not traditional Mayan tunnels, and allow you to see some of the temples buried underneath the current structures.

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

We enjoyed spending a couple of hours of our afternoon at Copan, though the heat can get intense. We returned to town that afternoon and indulged in some rum, some excellent street food, and some general merriment that went along with the festival weekend. The quantity of rum made it rather impossible for us to catch our planned 6 a.m. bus the following day, so we ended up with one more day of relaxation in the heat before making our leave from Copan.

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