Honduras’ Copan Ruinas: A Weekend Getaway

Enjoy a Salva Vida in Copan Ruinas.

Enjoy a Salva Vida in Copan Ruinas.

Copan Ruinas is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Honduras.  It is known for its famous Mayan ruins, quaint town with cobblestone streets, and a living history of the Mayan culture.  One could spend a week here exploring the surroundings, visiting the ruins,countryside, and town center.  There are butterfly farms, hot springs, and coffee fincas in addition to the main attraction.  In the past I have been lucky enough to stay for longer periods of time and see all Copan has to offer.  This trip was a short stay.  A weekend returning from a trip to Guatemala.  Just enough time to visit a few new places and old haunts.  If you want to experience Copan but do not have a week here is a sample itinerary for a few days visit to the highlands.

Newly reconstructed--Smoke Jaguar.

Newly reconstructed–Smoke Jaguar at Rastrajon.

Arrive via Hedman Alas from San Pedro Sula at either 2pm or 6pm.  Hotels are plenty. Or arrange for a charter flight to the new Copan Airport!  All price ranges and locations.  If you have not booked in advance I suggest heading right across the street form the bus terminal to El Bosque Hotel.  It is idyllic retreat.  A few blocks from town, it is located in a large, well maintained garden.  Quiet and peaceful.  Plenty of flowers, trees, and nature, and hammocks to enjoy it all.  Rooms are large and of course have all of the amenties including hot water, a/c, and tv.  Remember to show your Promodias card and save some cash at this mid-range hotel.

Walk to town (4 blocks), and check out the central park.  Take in the surroundings.  Locals chilling out, selling goods, perhaps a child will come and ask you to buy a corn husk doll. These are locally made as part of an effort for locals to provide for themselves.  They can be pushy at times so either say yes or no right away, otherwise you may spend the rest of your afternoon with someone behind you until you cave in.  Grab a drink at a local watering hole such as the famous Via-Via or Twisted Tanya’s (great view from upstairs).  When you are ready for dinner and a snack Carnitas Nia Lola’s is a must do when in Copan.  A local, long running establishment with ambiance, including wait staff arriving with your food on top of their heads.  That takes practice.  The anafres are a served in a traditional ceramic urn with home made tortilla chips and lots of cheese.  Add sausage for extra flavor.

Anafres at Nia Lolas.

Anafres at Nia Lolas.

Day two.  Head out early to the Ruins.  Early is better.  Grab something to eat in town at the Yat Balam cafe.  Great setting and good food.  Another member of Promodias.  Take a tuck-tuk or walk to the main site ruins site.  Taxi should not be more than L20 and the walk is an easy one less then a mile long.  When you arrive, hire a guide if you did not set one up ahead of time with your hotel.  This is HIGHLY recommended. It is only $10-$15 more and will make your experience much more satisfying.  Negotiate if you have more people.   You may enter and walk at your own pace but having a guide is really essential in this case, as the exhibits will make much more sense.  It also helps the local economy as guides must be certified and are all local.  Each has their own style so find someone you like.  Spend the morning here.

If you enjoy history and are really into the ruins, you might want to ask your guide about visiting a second site, The Rastrajon Fortress Site.  A newly discovered ruin 2 miles up the road and excavated by archaeologists from Harvard University.   Reconstructing this area has added a whole new dimension to the areas history This site is near the Clarion Hotel and best accessed with a guide, perhaps best to go in the afternoon. If you choose to go solo hire a taxi for a round trip visit (approx L100) including a 30-60 minutes wait while you tour.  This site is off the beaten track.

Cheese plate at Cafe San Rafael.  Homemade goodness.

Cheese plate at Cafe San Rafael. Homemade goodness.

Lunchtime!  Make your way to Cafe San Rafael (right across the street from Nia Lolas from the night before).  This cafe makes it’s own coffee and CHEESE.  Some of the best cheese you can find in Honduras.  Also a fantastic selection of wine.  You cannot go wrong.

Tour around town checking out the wares.  If you want more history go to the museum in the town center. It is a $2 entrance fee with bilingual signs.  Houses many artifacts and tells more of the history of the town and ruins.  Or if relaxing is more your style take a siesta.  This is the land of naps and hammocks.

In the evening, make your way to a candlelit dinner at Don Udo’s, a fantastic restaurant run by a welcoming couple.  (Hotel onsite.)  Splurge on the tenderloin at your requested temperature with a few of the sauces on the side. Stroll the cobblestone streets and pick out a few souvenirs before calling it a night.

Day three.  If you are heading out, don’t plan too much this morning.  Choices are 11am or 2pm departure back to San Pedro Sula or Guatemala at 2:20.  Head back to Cafe San Rafael for breakfast.  There are too many good things on this menu to only eat here once.  Take a taxi to the butterfly farm and see all of the wonderful flora and fauna Copan has to offer all in one place.  Walk the grounds and get your fill of nature before continuing on your Honduran adventure.

More about Copan

More about Honduras

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