Copán was one of the great centers of Maya civilization over a thousand years ago. The beautiful ruins have some of the most impressive pre-Columbian art anywhere. Near the ruins is the village of nearly the same name - Copán Ruinas, with clean hotels and other facilities for visitors. Due to their proximity, both locations are covered by this article.
The ruins are quite substantial and a major tourist attraction in western Honduras. While less visited than the better known tourist attraction ruins like Chichen Itza, many people find them even more interesting.
Copán is in a fertile river valley and nestled among rolling hills, at an elevation so it is not so very hot as some of the Central American rainforest sites.
The modern village of Copán remains relatively remote today, as such the Honduran government hasn't prioritized high quality road construction in this area yet. There is an airport a few miles from here, but no commercial flights serve it. So however you get here, expect a bit of a bumpy ride.
Copán Ruinas is not well connected to the rest of the country. For local connections, La Entrada will be your destination of choice, and for most any other Honduran service you'll need to start at San Pedro Sula. Getting here from Guatemala is possible on local busses, but if you have the extra coin, it will save you a lot of time and headaches to book direct transit from Guaté or Antigua.
Almost every bus in town leaves from the 1 Main Bus Terminal; it doesn't have any real amenities to speak of, it's just a small parking lot adjacent to the river on the east side of town. The only reason to not use this station is if you're boarding a luxury class Hedman Alas bus. The 2 Hedman Alas Bus Station is much nicer, offering a waiting room, clean bathrooms, and a snack bar. Although — when compared to the station — these worn-out busses leave much to be desired. This station is located just down the hill from the village.
|La Entrada||1-2 hours||L40||41 mi (66 km)||Main Bus Terminal|
|San Pedro Sula||4-5 hours||L110||Starting at 5AM when full||114 mi (183 km)||Casasola Express||Main Bus Terminal|
|San Pedro Sula||4-5 hours||US$20||2PM Daily||114 mi (183 km)||Hedman Alas||Hedman Alas Station|
|Guatemala City||6 hours||144 mi (232 km)||Private shuttle||Your hotel|
|Antigua Guatemala||6-7 hours||Q150||4AM||176 mi (283 km)||Private shuttle||Your hotel|
From Guatemala City
Take a bus from Centra Norte to Chiquimula (every 10 minutes, Q45, 4 hr). From Chiquimula, take a small bus to the very calm border El Florido (every 10 minutes, Q16, 2 hr with connection in Jocotán.) Across the border, buses go every 20 minutes to Copán Ruinas (L20, 30 minutes.)
From El Salvador
Cross the border at El Poy, and from there get a shared taxi to Ocotepeque (L20). Next, board a San Pedro Sula bound bus and get off at La Entrada (L90), finally switch to a minibus for Copán Ruinas (L40).
There are also direct shuttles between Copán Ruinas and many tourist spots in El Salvador, such as Santa Ana, San Salvador, or El Tunco. Any of which may be booked in advance through your hotel, or online.
Your only option here is the same as the bus, driving down CA-11. This "highway" is riddled with potholes, and has certainly seen better days. To the west, Guatemala is right next door, while San Pedro Sula lies away to the east. Heading towards SPS, the quality of your trip should improve after an hour or so once you switch onto CA-4. However, road maintenance encountered during winter 2018 was just getting underway, and rendered CA-4 almost worse than CA-11. Pad a little extra time for your trip, and rent something with decent suspension and road clearance.
Copán is a small community, so don't worry about mapping sights before you get there. If you are a walker and sure-footed, it is safe to walk the cobblestone streets anywhere in town or walk to the ruins on foot. Streets are reportedly safe after dark, but standard precautions apply.
Mototaxis (Honduran rickshaws) will take you anywhere in town for a small fee (L10 around town, L20 to the Ruins/Macaw Mountain).
The Mayan Ruins are a short walk out of town and a further 20 minutes walk will take you to Las Sepulturas, a wonderfully open section of the ruins that many people fail to visit - don't! There is also a short nature walk at the main ruins that meanders around other smaller ruins.
Las Copán Ruinas (entry US$15/person) are the highlight of Copán. Although quite extensive, they are not as huge as Tikal in Guatemala or Teotihuacan in Mexico, but there is more sculpture here than any other Pre-Columbian city. The ruins are prized for the carved stellae of ancient rulers, and the well preserved hieryoglyphics including the hieryoglyphic stairway. Also in the archeological park is a marvelous Mayan museum (entry US$7/person) with a reconstructed temple and fabulous artifacts. Fans of Maya art or ancient ruins can easily spend two full days between the two main ruins sites and museum. The tunnels are reportedly not worth the extra fee, and are not authentic, having been dug by archaeologists in the 1980s (these tunnels were originally dug for investigation and they show to the visitors the buried parts of older temples since the Mayans built on top of the older structures to make the new ones taller ). In July 2011 it was possible to visit the Sepulturas on the next day without purchasing a second ticket although the main ticket office may not tell you this.
It's recommended to be there when it opens at 8AM, as the site gets very hot by mid-day. Hire a guide at the entrance to the ruins for US$25 divided between however many people you can collect. Cesar (good accented English) and Antonio (few teeth, excellent English) are recommended if they're around.
Besides the ruins, the countryside is attractive. Slow paced local life is quite calm, and farming of corn, beans, coffee, and tobacco is the main vocation.
- 1 Copan (Ruinas de Copán), ✉ email@example.com. 8AM-6PM daily. US$15/person; Central Americans US$8; Hondurans L80; students Free.
- 2 Sculpture Museum (Museo de Esculturas). 9AM-5PM daily. US$7/person; Central Americans US$5; Hondurans & students Free.
- 3 Tunnels (Tuneles). 8AM-6PM daily. US$15/person, Central Americans US$15, Hondurans & students L50.
- 4 Sepulturas. 8AM-6PM daily. Free with your Copan ticket.
- Luna Jaguar Aguas Termales. A natural hot springs spa under an hour's drive (25 km) from Copán Ruinas. Several man-made pools of differing temperatures mimic Mayan structures and are fed by the hot springs. A variety of adventure tour companies will take you there for US$10/person plus $60/group, which is outrageous considering the alternatives. For cheaper transportation, pickups and minibuses congregate at the soccer field (right before the bridge on the way to the ruins). Gather a group together, and you might negotiate a pickup for US$50. They may be willing to wait up to 3 hours for you. Even better, be patient, and a (tiny) seat in a minibus is only L35 each way. To get back to town, start walking, and a minibus will pass before long. The drive is very scenic, so enjoy it! One can easily spend the whole day at Luna Jaguar, but bring your own food. Massages available. entry US$12/person.
- Macaw Mountain. An excellent bird sanctuary a short (L20/person) mototaxi ride from el Centro. The price may seem steep, but the sanctuary is commendable for its beautiful location, free tours in English, swimming hole, and obviously healthy, well cared-for birds. As of January 2011, the birds that are being rehabilitated are brought out for holding at 3PM. The ticket is valid for 3 days, so come back and swim for free. entry US$10/person.
- Centro de Mariposas. A butterfly sanctuary just outside town. entry L120/person.
- Canopy/zip line. Copán has one of the world's longest zip lines, including one about 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) long. ~US$35/person.
- Horseback tides. Horses can take you to La Pintada, a Maya Chorti village, and to Los Sapos, which is a small ruin not included in the archaeological park. La Pintada is interesting but overrated, while Los Sapos, though very small, is fascinating with a good guide. It's a 10-minute walk down to the river where you can swim for free. US$12-15/person for 3hrs.
- Casa K'inich Children's Museum, Fuerte Cabañas (Straight up the hill past the Marina Hotel turn right into Fuerte Cabañas.), ☏ . Tu-Su 8AM-noon. The Casa K'inich Children's Museum (Museo Escolar) is a unique museum that was opened in 2002. To celebrate its tenth anniversary for 2012 the museum has been updated and new exhibits and interactive displays have been added. This museum is in three languages (English, Spanish, and Maya Chorti) and is the only children's museum of its kind situated at close proximity to a Maya Ruin. The museum's totally interactive exhibits will help the visitor (adults and children alike) understand the glyphs at the ruins, what happened to the Maya, and shows how the Maya built their buildings along with a description of the famous Maya ballgame among many other subjects. Not to be missed the museum only takes an hour or two to visit and the location has a beautiful view of the Copan Valley. Groups are welcome and student groups can call for and appointment or even have food set up during their visit. Ask for Londin Velasquez the museum's dynamic director. US$1 for adults children always free.
There are many community-building projects in and around Copán Ruinas. One site to check out is Mayatan Bilingual School, a locally-founded independent, non-profit school that educates local children in Spanish and English. The school relies on foreign volunteers to teach its English language courses (Pre-K through high school), and it always welcomes visitors. Mayatan is located on the path to the Macaw Mountain bird park, about 1.5 km from the center of town, or a L15 (75¢) taxi ride. Contact Tommy for more information.
There is an unimpressive market near el Centro. On Sundays, fruit vendors line el Centro with their pickup trucks.
- Copan Association Gift Shop, Ruinas de Copan (Located on the left inside the Visitors Center at the Archaeological Park), ☏ . 8AM til 4PM every day. This shop has a really good variety of gifts, tshirts and souvenirs from the Copan area. Located inside the Visitors' Center of the Ruins of Copan they also sell water and soft drinks.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
|Mid-range||$8 - $15|
Most places offer a plato tipico de Honduras. This includes beef strips (or sometimes chicken or eggs), beans, fried plantains, tortillas, cabbage and sour cream. Licuados are either water- or milk-based fruit smoothies that for L30 should be enjoyed every day. Local meals run L80-120.
- Comedor Mary. The best local restaurant in town for delicious, cheap, clean Honduran food. Great tipicos and pupusas. Unpretentious and authentic.
- Llama del Bosque. Second only to Comedor Mary for dependable local food. Larger and busier, but an excellent value and good service. The chorizo burrito and fajitas de res are huge and delicious.
- La Casa de Todo Restaurant. Great food. Homemade bread, yogurt, organic coffee, etc. one block down from Banco de Occidente.
- 1 Cafe San Rafael, Ave. Centro America, ☏ . 8AM-8PM daily. Excellent coffee and panini sandwiches, but best known for their farmstead hand-made gourmet cheese, available nowhere else in Honduras. L200-500.
- Restaurant Glifos (inside Hotel Marina Copan), In Hotel Marina Copan, Avenida Centroamérica, across Central Park, ☏ . 6:30AM - 9:30PM. Local and international cuisine, the highest quality steaks, pastas, soups, salads, affordable buffet breakfast and delicious desserts.
- Picame. This restaurant is small but excellent, offering a great value for your lempira. The proprietor is Jessica who speaks excellent English. Try the double cheeseburger or enormous breakfast burrito. Caddy-corner from the soccer field, it's an excellent place to get take-out sandwiches for a day at Agua Caliente.
- Kymberly, Annapolis. Barcito- beautiful food, fun atmosphere. I got the jalapeño hummus with homemade bread, and the kebbhes (middle eastern meatballs), two margaritas and a pack of cigarettes for L225. A little more than US$10.
- Carnitas Nia Lola. A restaurant a little ways off the parque central that offers a wide variety of delicious food and has a good happy hour. Service can be either excellent or quite slow.
- Asados Copan. A local "steakhouse" that offers the traditional carne asada in a variety of ways (with onions, jalapeño sauce, on a kabob, etc.) The restaurant is located up the hill from Picame, just one block behind the Banco Occidente on a large open-air wood deck. An entree runs L100-200.
- Don Udo´s, Avenida Mirador (BarrioEl Centro), ☏ . 6AM-10PM. An open restaurant with garden patio and full service menu. The steaks are best known, but there is a large a-la-carte menu with special dishes and snacks.
- Sol de Copan German Brewery & Restaurant, Barrio Buena Vista Ave El Mirador (Copan Ruinas), ☏ . 2-10PM. Brewery, German beer on tap, German & Honduran cuisine
- Twisted Tanya's. Run by an expat (Tanya) with a great balcony. 2-10PM. Closed on Sunday, Offering a Backpacker special every night, and dishes you would not find anywhere else, Tequila Shrimp, Filet Mignon, curries, and home made pasta's and breads and desserts all made in house.
- Cafe Welchez. Among the best coffee to be had in Copan Ruinas, possibly in all of Honduras. On the corner of the town square, downhill from the Marina Copan. You can go on a coffee tour, just outside of town, to see where and how their coffee is grown and processed.
- Espresso Americano. The Honduran chain, serving coffee roasted with brown sugar.
- Cafe San Rafael. It serves excellent gourmet coffee, grown from their own farms.
- La Casa de todo Cafe. In a beautiful tropical garden, it serves fresh roasted organic coffee.
- Twisted Tanya's. Surprisingly well-made cocktails for US$4 or $5. 2-for-1 from 3-6PM and drink specials all night, great balcony overlooking the mountains. Beer on tap and good wines.
- Sol de Copan (German brewery & restaurant), Barrio Buena Vista (Copan Ruinas), ☏ . 2-10PM.. Very good German food, but the real attraction is the beer - excellently crafted, filtered, and some of the best you'll have, anywhere.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Mid-range||$25 - 50|
The town of Copán Ruinas has all types of accommodations for all prices ranges. Most places are located within two blocks of Parque Central.
- Full Monte, ☏ . In the court yard of Twisted Tanya's and Copan Connections, only one room with DVD, Cable, coffee and huge bathroom! Great location right in town and very safe. US$35/$25 weekly and monthly rates..
- Hotel Ch'orti, ☏ . Funded through CONIMCHH, the indigenous Ch’ortí Maya organization, your stay here will help support Honduras’ indigenous population. The facilities feature clean, private rooms with en suite bathrooms, free high speed wi-fi, hot showers, picturesque mountain views, free cable, and access to purified water. Just a five minute walk from the center of Copán Ruinas, down the block from La Iguana Azul. The rooms could use a fresh coat of paint and are sometimes stuffy, but get the job done. L200 single, L250 double.
- Hotel San José. The cheapest place in town. The rooms are unattractive but clean with shared (and not so clean) bathrooms. privates for L100 per person.
- Hotel Marbella (across from Hotel San José). Clean rooms with private bathrooms and fans. Also has more expensive rooms with A/C. L250 for a double with private bathroom.
- Iguana Azul, Calle Rosalila. An excellent hostel a short walk from el Centro. Dorm beds in small rooms L170, private single US$16 private double L380. Run by an American couple, free purified water and good information on the area. Very quiet at night. Highly recommended!
- Hotel Graditas Mayas. It's two blocks west from the central park. It offers 15 comfortable rooms. L450 for a double with A/C.
- Hotel Plaza Copán. Located on the square next to the church, this hotel surrounds a pool/ bar/ atrium area. 20 rooms with private bath, TV and A/C. Single/Double US$50/$60.
- La Casa de Café, ☏ . 10-room B&B in two wings each with private hot water bath, wood paneled ceiling, ceiling fan, writing desk, night table w/ reading lamp and an oversized picture window which looks out onto a great view of the Copán River Valley, the distant mountains and La Casa de Café's own lovely tropical garden. US$45/$55 single/double per night (plus tax).
- ViaVia Hostel. Run by Belgians, it offers great sleeping accommodations. They have very good food but can be quite noisy due to the karaoke bar next door.
- [dead link] Hotel los Jaguares. Small family-run hotel on the main plaza with about 10 rooms. Large rooms with TV, AC and private bath with hot water. Fast wifi. Parking. Free purified water. Very pleasant, helpful and friendly staff. (504) 2651 - 4451 or 2651 4075. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Single/double US$35/$40 per night.
- 1 Hotel Marina Copán (Hotel Marina Copán), across Central Park, Copán Ruinas, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: noon. Located in the center of town, a family owned and operated property established in 1945, this hotel is known for its history, nice architecture and good services. It has 49 rooms. from US$95.
- La Casa Rosada -Bed & Breakfast, ☏ . Two blocks from central park and 1 km (0.6 miles) from the Mayan archeological site. The hotel has 5 rooms. All rooms have private baths with steam showers, dual head showers, bidets, and a selection of natural hand-made soaps and shampoos. Each room has a DVD/CD player, flat screen LCD TVs with cable, a small refrigerator, A/C and ceiling fan, and 100% cotton linens. The place is beautifully decorated and creates a very relaxing atmosphere. Guests are offered a selection of cigars and fine wine.
- Posada Real de Copán, ☏ . 2 km (1.2 miles) from Copán Ruinas and Sepulturas. A little far away from town (3 km - 2 miles). Big rooms, private bath with hot water. Restaurant and Pool & Jacuzzi. Free scheduled shuttle service to town and Ruinas/Sepulturas.
- Terramaya (2 1/2 blks north of Central Park), ☏ . Six rooms each with either private full size terrace, private garden or private balcony. Hammock, a/c, ceiling fan, Egyptian cotton linens, lovely handcrafted hardwood furniture, wood beamed ceilings, library, full breakfasts included in rate, massage pavilion, outdoor shower, free wireless internet, internet jack in each guest room, garden, complimentary coffee, tea and iced tea. Spectacular views from guest rooms.
- A highlight of any trip to Central America, Antigua Guatemala is that country's beautiful colonial capitol. Its cobblestoned streets and graceful architecture are guaranteed to charm.
- Spend a few relaxed days exploring the lush area around Lake Yojoa. It's kind of like Lake Atitlán, except without any of the tourist infrastructure, for better or worse. A wide range of climates (lakes, jungles, cloud forest, and volcanoes) each harbors their own biodiversity to discover.
- While San Pedro Sula isn't high on many wish lists, it nevertheless owns a modern, gigantic, and well connected bus station. Secured just outside the city center, thousands of folks pass this way daily.