After spending nearly a month in Guatemala, we were ready to press on further south through Central America to country #3 – Honduras.
Our first stop was the small town of Copán Ruinas, just 20 minutes over the Guatemala-Honduras border. As usual, it seems, we arrived in the middle of torrential downpours as darkness began to fall and began to look for a room. The initial excitement of being in Honduras began to turn into malaise as we marched all over town through the heavy rains, looking for a place to stay and finding everything booked solid.
Finally, after checking at Via Via hostel (also booked), we decided to give up, put our packs down, and grab a beer. We must have looked pretty down and out (not to mention soaked), as not that much later the Belgian owner offered to help us find a place to stay. Without any hesitation, we took him up on the offer, threw our packs in his car, and started looking for lodging. Luckily, we found a place not too far out of town, changed into dry clothes, and grabbed some dinner.
The next day, we visited Copán’s main attraction and namesake – the ancient Mayan ruins and hieroglyphs. Copán was the Southern border of the kingdom, and this would be our final visit to a Mayan site. After visiting a good number in Mexico and Guatemala, we had a good idea of what to expect and were slightly disappointed by the small site. Most of the ruins were not as well preserved as those at other locations, though we did enjoy exploring the tunnels dug by archeologists, allowing examination of the different building stages (Mayans repeatedly built bigger, new structures over existing old ones). In addition, Copán features one of the biggest collections of hieroglyphs, which have helped decipher some of the mysteries of the Mayans.
Later that night (which happened to be the 4th of July), we headed out for dinner at Picame. As we were eating, suddenly the power cut out and the entire town went dark and silent. Without a pause, the Dutch owner, Jessica, started lighting candles, while her husband gathered musical instruments. Soon, we all had instruments in hand, accompanying an amazing guitarist with tambourines, maracas, bongos, and more. An unforgettable evening of meeting new friends, laughing, and dancing in the low flicker of the candlelight. While there were no fireworks for us this Fourth, we still enjoyed a raucous evening of celebration thousands of miles from home.
That night, we learned of some natural hot springs about an hour outside of town. The next day, we woke up early and squeezed into a colectivo van for the backbreaking trip over ridiculously rough unpaved roads. The van dropped us off in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road, where we somehow found the hot springs. It turned out to be an actual spa – with beautifully manicured grounds and a number of different fountains, mud baths, and pools.
All the hot water was fed by natural thermal pools, which mixed with cold water from surrounding mountain streams. The fresh, natural water and serene surrounding were a welcome relief from the harrowing ride from hell to get there.
After a couple of hours relaxing in the spa, we headed back to the road and waited for a colectivo back to town. On the way back, we stopped at Macaw Mountain – an exotic bird rescue facility. There, we saw a number of exotic birds such as parrots, toucans, and of course, macaws, all of which had been confiscated from illegal animal vendors or adopted from former owners. It was sad to see the state of some of the birds, which had lost feathers as a result of inappropriate care and stress. The facility provides a peaceful, safe environment for the birds, allowing them to recuperate and live long and healthy lives (some macaws can live up to 100 years).
We found Copán to be safe and pleasant, with a number of activities to enjoy. After a day out and about, there were also quite a few restaurants and bars around town offering everything from cheap and tasty baleadas (large, filled tortillas) to fancy steak dinners. While the ruins turned out to be less than we expected (not to mention very expensive), we had a great time in Copán.
To view all of our photos from Copán, click here.