Many travellers seem to avoid Honduras entirely due to safety concerns, or skip straight to the Bay Islands to lap up the Caribbean and not worry about being the next statistic.
Whist I can’t ignore the fact that Honduras does have one of the world’s highest homicide rates and is home to the most violent city on the planet, chances are you’ll probably be fine if you’ve crossed the Guatemalan border and landed somewhere like this.
Café Welchez – corner Avenida Centroamericano & Calle 18
Set in the lush, green hills in the west of the country, Copán Ruinas is a town that’s lean on attractions, but is full of charm and many-a-gaucho that have a penchant for jeans and cowboy hats. Plus the valley that surrounds it offers a chocolate farm, horseback riding, zip-lining, hot springs, Macaw Mountain and some spectacular Mayan ruins.
You could easily do the town in an hour – wander its cobbled streets, take a breather in Parque Central, check out the handicraft stands just off its southwest corner, maybe even grab a smoothie or excellent coffee at Café Welchez.
Twisted Restaurant – corner Calle 18 & Avenida Copán
Baleada with chorizo & egg at Restaurante Típicos Alexandra – Avenida Mirador
Restaurant Yax K’uk’ Mo – Calle de la Plaza
One night in Copán Ruinas may be enough if you’re only here for the ruins, but two or three allows you time to see more of it. You could see the couple of museums about town, enjoy a few more languid drinks overlooking the plaza at Twisted Restaurant, and have more time to sample the small restaurant scene..
Head to Restaurante Típicos Alexandra for some pincho mixto (beef & chicken skewers; 100) or the Honduran national dish of baleada – a flour tortilla laced with bean purée and filled with a variety of goodies.
For more baleada fun go to Restaurant Yax K’uk’ Mo, or just sweat it out in their internal courtyard and chow on pupusas, grilled meats or pollo frito (85). They even do breakfast.
If the restaurant scene gets a little tired, pay the street food vendors a visit. Grilled meat, fried chicken and potatoes or tacos. As the rain decided to bucket down on us, we took shelter and filled up on grilled chorizo and pork served with tortillas, frijoles and salad. Not bad for 70 lempiras. Find them on the south side of the plaza.
Now, what almost everyone comes here for. Copán Ruinas, the site.
One word of advice is to have an early breakfast and head to the ruins as soon as they open – before the temperature rises, that notorious humidity drenches you and before others decide to descend. Not that it gets overly busy down there. All the absent people are on the Bay Islands, remember?
The ruins are an easy 15-20 minute walk from town, too.
The site may not be up there with other Mayan sites like Chichen Itza, Palenque or Tikal, but it does have some of the most extensive and interesting hieroglyphics in the region. You could even forgive the operators for charging a whopping $15 entry, although if you’re a local you only pay $8.
Many of the carvings, sculptures and hieroglyphs you see around the site are replicas, the originals of which you can see in Museo de Escultura on the northwest corner of the site. Entry for that is an additional $7 for foreigners.
If you want to head into the tunnels, an additional $15 is charged. Many say it isn’t worth it as the tunnels were dug by archaeologists beneath the acropolis to view earlier stages of the civilisation.
About 10 minutes away by foot is Las Sepulturas, another archaeological site that shows how noble folk lived back in the time. There’s free entry to this one if you’ve already purchased entry to Copán Ruinas.
The shuttle to Copán Ruinas departs Antigua at 4 am and arrives at 10 am. Cost is US$19 per person and we booked it through Lanquin Travel in Antigua. Check the map for location.
Crossing from Guatemala to Honduras does require a 30 lempira payment on the Honduras side. There are money changers on either side of the border, should you require some Guatemalan or Honduran cash.