Copan Ruins, Honduras

Located in the western part of the country, bordering Guatemala, the Ruins of Copan are a must visit if you’re passing through the area.

Yet another Mayan archeological site in Central America, Copan distinguishes itself by the detail of its sculptures and lack of tourists.

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Copan became a major Maya city in the region during the 5th to 9th centuries, and it was occupied for around 2000 years in total. During its peak, Copan had a population of around 20,000 people – a tremendous number, yet the city was still only about one-fourth of the size of Tikal, Guatemala!

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By the time of the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, not many people remained living in Copan. Over time, the nearby Copan river changed its course – overtaking a portion of the eastern ruins and severely damaging what was left. After it was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1980, the Ruins have been excavated and restored – work that continues to this day.

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As you can see, the Ruins are virtually deserted, especially in comparison to other popular sites in the region like: Chichen Itza, MexicoPalenque, Mexico, or Tikal. The park opens at 8am and takes about 1.5 – 2.5 hours to explore in total. It costs $15USD to enter, a bit steep when compared to other sites, but Copan is unique enough to warrant a visit (even if you’ve seen the rest of them!).

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This area, called the Royal Residency, is a type of cemetery. Common practice was to bury people next to where they lived – and this area contained 25 buildings, all belonging to the elite. 

imageimageUpon entering, you will come across the Great Plaza, which is as impressive as some of the others in the region. The huge open area allows visitors to walk uninhibited, away from the crowds so often associated with other main Maya sites.

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  • The Great Plaza, the largest public space in Copan, was once paved with white lime and it could host up to 6,000 people for major events and celebrations.

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  • Off to the side of the Plaza is the Ball Court (below), likely one of the most important areas in Copan.
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The infamous Maya ball game was tremendously popular and was expected to be linked to solar and maize rituals. It is rumoured that the winning teams captain was sacrificed to the Gods! 

Overall, the Copan Ruins are an awesome archaeological site that aren’t as busy as some of the other main sites mentioned above. I think this is the main draw to Copan. Its lack of popularity makes the site that more much charming than if there were groups of tourists at every turn.

While Copan can be somewhat of a pain to get to (if you’re coming from El Salvador – see my post here Santa Ana, El Salvador to Copan, Honduras), the Ruins are totally worth the trek!

Some other things I found interesting about Maya culture:

  • The Maya considered cacao to be the drink of the God’s. They traded cacao seeds for jade, sea shells, and quetzal feathers.
  • The Maya considered the ancient Ceiba tree to be the ‘tree of life’. The roots represent life in the underworld, the trunk represents the world of the living, and the branches stretch to the heavens.
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Look at how big this tree is!

That’s all for now,

Adios!

2 responses to “Copan Ruins, Honduras

  1. Pingback: Copan (the town), Honduras | canadianglobetrotter·

  2. Pingback: Palenque, Mexico | canadianglobetrotter·

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