Copan – Must-Visit

Copan – Must-Visit.  Located near the Guatemala border in Honduras lies the ancient Mayan civilization of Copan. It was discovered in 1570 by Spaniard Diego García de Palacio. American and British explorers, John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood visited Copán with multiple other Mayan cites in Central America and published a best seller on their visit. A brief history, Maya leader Yax Kuk Mo arrived in Copan from Tikal (another Mayan civilization) in 427 AD and began a kingdom hat stretched for 600 years with 16 leaders holding the reigns. At its peak, 20,000 people lived at Copan stretching over 100 square miles. The kingdom was jolted with the death of its 13th king during the 8th century when he was beheaded after losing a battle. This began a slow decline when the civilization dissipated during the 10th century.  Copan is an UNESCO World Heritage site.

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One of the highlights of a visit to Copan is the Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza. The 63 steps are adorned with approximately 2000 glyphs. The stairs stretch 100 feet and the glyphs detail the royal history of Copan. This is the longest Mayan text ever discovered.

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The other highlight of Copan are the stately stelae. This intricately carved stone structures stand 10-15 tall high. The stelae highlight different rulers of Copan with a portrait on one side and with glyphs describing the rule on the opposite side.

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Things to know:

Hours: The park is open from 8 am – 4 pm

Cost: To enter the park the cost is $15. There are additional costs for the museum and the tunnels.

Guide: You can hire a local guide for $44 to view Copan at the ruins.

Food: There is a restaurant at the entrance of the park. Very slow service.

Bonus: Check out the beautiful rainbow colored macaws when you enter the park.

Copan - Must-Visit

Where to stay: The town of Copan is an easy 10-15 minute walk to the park. The town is small and low key. Make sure you eat some pupusas on Parque Central. And of course there are a lot of bars and shops that dot the town for the benefit for travelers. The town is easily walkable.

Copan - Must-Visit

Copan - Must-Visit


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6 thoughts on “Copan – Must-Visit

  1. Mark

    Which is better – Copan or Tikal – tricky one. I know you aren’t asking the question but it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. Both are superb archaeological sites and both have very pleasant towns attached to them. I would probably opts for Copan if pushed for an answer. Less tourists and walking distance from the town but it is certainly a tough call. I enjoyed seeing both again via your two blogs.

    1. Ric Gazarian Post author

      True, I did not ask..but was also thinking the same things since I did visit both on the same trip.

      In Copan, the stelae and the staircase was impressive. And I did enjoy the town of Copan as well.

      For Tikal, I stayed at the hotel next to the gate so was able to walk to the park. I was impressed with the whole jungle overgrowth feel to Tikal. Had some bad luck with the weather for sunrise.

      So, my vote, I think for Tikal.

      1. Mark

        Yes, staying the night at Tikal would perhaps give it the edge. I was put off by the early start and long drive from Flores. We’ll have to stay close by if we ever go back!

  2. Frank

    Would love to see both Copan and Tikal. I love seeing archaeological sites, especially when surrounded by forest.
    Copan must have undergone restoration? The details of the glyphs on the stairs look incredibly clean…

    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Ric Gazarian Post author

      I am sure it is on your list, and will be there sooner than later. 🙂

      Tikal is very spread out and in the middle of the jungle. Copan more compact, cleared out, and some of it restored.

      None of these sites can be fully discovered or fully restored. Simply too big!

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