Guides like to say that Tikal was the New York City of its time, while Copan was its Paris. Full of artists and intellectuals for hundreds of years, Copan was a city where what was on the pyramids was more important than how high they rose. So you don’t come here to be wowed by the scale, rather to take in the beauty and skill of the Mayan people.
This site offers the best chance in the Maya world to go back in time to an age when the buildings were covered with stucco and painted with lively scenes: you can still see the original pigments.
Also unusual for Mayan sites, this one has an attractive colonial town near enough for walking, Copan Ruinas, full of good-value hotels and restaurants.
The Main Site
Several grassy plazas and a ball court are surrounded by pyramids and other temples, many decorated with lively carved stone symbolic figures and former kings. Nearly every surface is covered by some relief or carving. Stone stelae illustrate the various rulers over the centuries and tell stories spanning more than 600 years.
Two tunnels under one pyramid provide a view into how one pyramid was built on top another, as well as how the civilization evolved over time and became more sophisticated. The tunnels are only open to a few people at a time.
To understand what the temples looked like in their heyday, enter here to so a reconstructed pyramid that is brightly colored and covered with painted figures. Original sculptures and painted sections are on display showing what is often missing from visits to ruins now.
This site a little more than a kilometer from the main archeological park, included in the admission, is where the elite lived and buried their dead. It contains tombs—some elaborate, some simple depending on rank—for the city’s royalty and spiritual leaders.
Basic admission is $15 per person, $10 for the tunnels and $5 for the
sculpture museum. Open daily from 8 am to 4 pm. The site is located just
outside of the attractive Copan Ruinas town, on the western edge of
Honduras close to Guatemala.