The last of the big mayan ruins, we’d heard mixed reviews about Copan. Some travelers loved it and said it was their favorite while others put it on the definite waste of time list. Our border crossing and trek to the Bay Islands put us right in its path so we decided to go for it.
Arriving in the town of Copan Ruinas about 9am we dropped our bags at the shuttle company and walked the 2 km from the town to the actual ruins. Like Goldilocks and the three bears, Palenque was touristy, Tikal was huge and Copan was just right.
Nestled in the jungle the incredibly well preserved ruins of Copan were unlike both Tikal and Palenque in almost every way. Not only could we actually make out the carvings on the stelaes and the carvings on the buildings, the general atmosphere was peaceful and well maintained. All of the big Mayan ruins we’ve been to have been impressive, but the surrounding environment and the feeling of the ruins had a much stronger impact on us than Tikal or Palenque. Copan was impressive and immediately striking, so striking that it almost felt like walking through a movie set of Indiana Jones. We were able to go up most of the pyramids and ruins, but the greatest part of the entire site was a hieroglyphic stairway. Unlike anything we have seen at Palenque or Tikal, the hieroglyphic stairway gave me a real idea of what the city actually may have looked like.
Laid out in almost neighborhoods, we explored the main square, climbed the high pyramids, the temples and the tombs. The quietest place in the entire site was the royal palace complex. Ancient custom dictated that people were buried in their homes so the palace complex also served as the royal burial grounds. A quiet group of ruins in the back of the site, we climbed down into the royal palace complex and sat amongst the rocks. Maybe we liked Copan better because of its beauty and preservation, but I think we appreciated it more after studying spanish in Guatemala and living amongst indigenous people.
Like Tikal and Palenque, there was an outrageous fee for foreigners compared to locals. I think it was 50 lps for locals and 285 lps for foreigners, ouch. In reality though, as long as the fee is going to support the heritage site and improve facilities/museums/conservation efforts I don’t really mind, but its rough looking at the price chart. Maybe we should implement similar pricing in America! Balking at the cost, we didn’t pay an addition $12 to go into the tunnels. Turns out we didn’t miss much, Danny walked into one tunnel anyway and confirmed our decision not to pay for them. 🙂
Besides the ruins, Copan is also home to a flock of Macaws. Fortunately we were traveling with a Danish couple, Henriette and Anders, who matched our personalities. Danny and Anders took hundreds of pictures while Henriette and and I enjoyed the shade. 🙂