first of many. Copan, Honduras

Published: December 10th 2016
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The misleading town - Copan Ruinas

After an easy trip in yet another shuttle, we arrived in Copan Ruinas which is the misleadingly named town near but not at the Copan ruins. The town is a miniature version of Antigua. A small town square, cobbled streets, nice colonial house and a generally good relaxed and laid back feel.
One we arrived we ventured out to the macaw mountain bird park. It was founded to help the diminishing scarlet macaw population and provides a shelter for injured or rescued macaws. The aim is to quickly release the animals or if that is not possible to breed offspring and release them.
Macaws are awesome birds with vivid red yellow or blue feathers and a huge wingspan. The park houses also other endemic bird species and we were lucky to see a variety of Tucans, parrots, owls and eagles.
Not to miss are the photo opportunities with not one but several macaws on us including one on the head.

After such an exhausting excursion it was of to the Tea and Chocolate place. As the name suggests they have tea and chocolate in a place overlooking the surrounding countryside.
This is the
That's what hot chocolate should look likeThat's what hot chocolate should look likeThat's what hot chocolate should look like

Made from fresh ground chocolate beans
place to get the best hot chocolate in the world. It's made from freshly ground Coco beans, is served in a coconut shell and tastes fantastic. This is yet another place where conservation and preservation is the driver for the business. The hills around Copan were deforested which leads to the usual erosion problems. This place started to plant native trees and shrubs to help counter this. The tea they sell is made from these local plants. All in all a worthwhile visit also because they had chocolate tasting.


Our first Mayan ruins. How exciting.
Obviously one thing you cannot miss in these parts of the world is to visit the remains of one or many of the great Mayan cities that dotted the countryside for a thousand of year.
The Mayans build huge cities all over Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador up until 900AD at which point they suddenly seem to have abandoned these cities. Why this happened is still open for debate but the most popular theory is that mismanagement of resources is to blame. Some of the cities had over 100,000 inhabitants which required a constant supply of wood for cooking, to burn ceramic and
First pyramidFirst pyramidFirst pyramid

Many to follow
to execute the grand building projects. That stripped the surrounding areas of all forests. Such a large population required also a lot of food as well, which meant even more destruction of forests for fields. That together with a multi year or decade drought most likely caused or contributed to the demise of these cities. The Mayans didn't vanish though. Many migrated north to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico to build even bigger cities over the next couple of hundred years. That is until they were rather rudely interrupted by the all conquering Spanish which put the final stop to all Mayan building projects. Some of the Mayans stayed in the area though and their descendants still live all over and keep the Mayan traditions and languages alive.

Now on to the Copan ruins. It was once a powerful and great city which is reflected in its buildings. These days it is especially known for the well preserved fine stone carvings and stellae that are unique to this site. You also got to love a place which has kings with names like 18 Rabbit, Monkey, Shell and Smoke Squirrel.
We took a guide and got way too much but nonetheless interesting information about the site. It is quite bamboozling to hear the whole story of a civilisation, the city and the various rulers within a 3 hour period. All this while climbing on, up or around ruins. I spare you the details though.

The benefit of going to slightly out of the way places is that there are not that many tourists (we saw 6 on our site excursion in an hour) which also means that the rules are more relaxed and we could still climb on things. Dillon and I took advantage of this and spend time climbing the temples and exploring the areas we hadn't visited during the guided tour.
After we finished with the site we went to the rather excellent museum. It house some of the more impressive carvings and has a replica of a temple. The temples looked quite different in their time as they weren't just the stone facades that we saw at the park. They were rendered in white stucco and then painted bright reds and yellows. Makes them even more impressive.

Copan was an excellent start to the many Mayan ruins that we will visit.

We are all in

hot water

After a hard day climbing and exploring it was time for some r&r. Well if you consider driving 1 hour over bumpy roads as r&r.
At the end of the road however were the jaguar hot springs. The initial impression was depressing as there were just two old concrete pools filled with water and teenage school kids playing loud music. Luckily someone then took us to the VIP section which is across the stream, through a cave and into a different world. A natural hot spring which spews water at 85 degree Celsius into the jungle. The clever people who build this place are using this water to feed 10 or so small rock pool baths which are set into the jungle and are all at different temperatures. We spend a few happy hours putting on mud, washing it off, soaking in the different pools and using the natural sauna. Once we were completely relaxed we spend another hour on bumpy roads back to town.

That's it for Honduras. A quick stop to see Copan. Unfortunately the rest of the attractions are quite far away so we opted to go back to Guatemala.

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


Hola HondurasHola Honduras
Hola Honduras

The border crossings are surprisingly simple and usually don't take more than 20 minutes
Nice birdyNice birdy
Nice birdy

Tucan at the rescue centre
Some rebuilding still neededSome rebuilding still needed
Some rebuilding still needed

Most of the site looks like this. Often only a couple of percent of a site has been excavated and rebuild. They are often just to big

Copan is known for its fine carving
Grand staircaseGrand staircase
Grand staircase

All some are inscribed which makes this the largest inscribed staircase in the mayan world

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