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Copan Ruins is located in western Honduras, 60 kilometers from the border with Guatemala and a day trip from Roatan. Copan known as Xukpi to the Maya, was the dominant Mayan city in the southern part of their territory. Its rich stone sculptures and intricate hieroglyphs make Copan a feature attraction along "La Ruta Maya".


Copan offers visitors a feast of Mayan artifacts to discover. The detail and sheer volume of carvings and stelae are impressive; 4,509 structures have been detected with 3,450 of the structures found only 24 sq km surrounding the Principal Group. The Principal Group consists of five basic areas of interest:


  1. Acropolis divided in two big plazas the west court and east court. The west court houses temple 11 and temple 16 with altar Q set at its base. Temple 11 was built as a portal to the other world. Temple 16 sits in between the east and west court; it was built on top of a previous temple without damaging it. Altar Q depicts the 16 members of the Copan Dynasty.
  2. Tunnels - Archeologists have dug 4km of tunnels under the acropolis to view earlier stages of Copan civilization. Two of the tunnels are open to the public for an additional fee.
  3. Ball Court - The ball court is the second largest to be found in Central America.
  4. Hieroglyphic Stairway: The most famous of Copan's monuments, 63 steps and several thousand glyphs tell the history of the royal house of Copan and is the longest known text of ancient mayan civilization. Unfortunately, the steps have fallen out of place leaving the exact meaning undeciferable.
  5. Great Plaza The immense plaza is famous for its stelae and altars that are found scattered around a well groomed lawn. In addition to the park, two museums contain more artifacts and information about the mayan civilization. One museum is housed at the archaeological site, the other in the town of Copan.

Exploring Copan Ruins

A great day trip from Roatan.

You see a huge complex consisting of several plazas and many temples built on various levels. This larger site, Copan, is Mayan, whereas the smaller one, Las Sepulturas, is Lenca and about a kilometer from the main one. Both sites sit in an unbelievably verdant valley bisected by the Rio Chamelecón. Forested mountains surround big tobacco farms in this valley. The sky is free of pollution and you can watch the shadows of passing clouds move along the mountains and over the tobacco fields. The setting is pristine in its beauty and serene in its peacefulness. The jungle that surrounds Copan is lush, tall and filled with sounds of a variety of animals. One sees monkeys, colorful guacamayas (large parrots), tree sloths and peccaries,which look like very large, short-haired, fat, round guinea pigs and have gold pelts flecked with black.


Copan is one of the greatest treasures of art and architecture in the Americas, Copan is known for its beautiful temples, altars and stelae. The stelae are three to five meters tall and two to three meters around. Carved in extremely intricate high relief, they are portraits of the greatest rulers in the history of the city. Many are round on one side (the figure side) and flat on the other. The flat sides are laden with hieroglyphs which describe the power and politics of the dignitary depicted and the ideology of the times. Impressive in detail and humbling in size, these unique sculptural monuments make Copan shine among the ruin sites of the Maya and are invaluable to our understanding of this lost civilization.


Please visit to discover more about Copan.

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“I tried to discover,
in the rumor of forests and waves,
words that other men could not hear,
and I pricked up my ears to listen
to the revelation of their harmony.”
Gustave Flaubert

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