"America, say historians, was peopled by savages;
but savages never reared these structures;
savages never carved these stones."
John Lloyd Stephens, Explorer
(visiting Copan 1839)
Copán, in Honduras, was one of the largest Maya cities during the Classic period. It
is also the largest southern site. At its peak, Copán reached a
population of 18,000. Ultimately, warfare and misuse of the land caused the
dynasty to fall. The last recorded date is A.D. 1200.
The ornate buildings and sculptures make Copán one of the greatest
treasuries of art and architecture in all the Americas. The monuments
portray Copán's rulers on the platforms, pyramids, stairways, and
plazas. Copán's Hieroglyphic Stairway contains the longest written
inscription from pre-Columbian America. The 72 steps are inscribed with
more than 1,250 hieroglyphs which tell the story of Copán's rulers
up to A.D. 755.
Games played at Copán's large Ball Court drew thousands of people to
this ceremonial center. Although the Maya ball game is best known for the
sacrifices that followed, to the ancient Maya it was an important
dramatization of part of their Creation Myth.
Copán is perhaps the most enchanting of all Mayan archaeological
sites, and unquestionably the most artistic, this intriguing ancient city
is easily reached from San Pedro Sula. The Western Highway, which leads to
the Guatemalan border, will take you through lovely mountain scenery into
the Copán Valley, where the ruins are located. Total travel time
between San Pedro Sula and Copán is no more than 3 hours.
Copán may be close - but it is a thousand years away!
Many tourists that visit Copán only walk into the main
archaeological park, and never realize that there is a charming colonial
town adjoining the archaeological park. In addition, there is a good museum
with many local artifacts located in the center of town, and finally,
there is Las Sepulturas, the only residential Mayan site that is open to
the public in the Mayan World. This small site answers many questions about
how the elite of this magnificent civilization lived. If you have the time,
you should plan on an overnight stay at Copán.
[Please Note: If travelling by public transport it takes at least 5 hours
The Hotel Marina Copán
This is a favorite place to stay. Built from a family home during the golden age of the discovery of Maya Archeology, it has more than half
a century of tradition. Among the hotel's first guests were members of
the famed Carnegie Institute, the chief investigators of Copán
during the 1930s and 40s. Located near Parque Central, in the charming,
colonial village of Copán Ruinas,today's hotel combines family
hospitality with modern conveniences such as air conditioning, cable TV,
restaurant, bar, pool and gardens.
List of Tours which include Copan