Mayan ruins and mischievous Macaws at Copan Ruinas, Honduras
After a full on 10 days of diving in Utila we were ready for a change of scenery. We were going to skip the rest of Honduras and head north straight to Guatemala but made the last minute decision to stop at the Honduran town of Copan, which is right on the border anyway. We left Utila on the early 6am ferry and then took a taxi, 2 busses and a tuk tuk until we reached the famous Iguana Azul hostel in Copan at around 9pm. It is famous due to it being rated as one of the top 10 hostels in the world. First impressions were very clean and quiet for the price but I wouldn’t say top 10 that’s for sure.
Copan is a very pretty, tranquil town consisting of white buildings with red tiled roofs surrounded by beautiful green mountain farmlands. Hilly cobblestone streets where local cowboys on horseback complete with jeans, belt with huge shiny buckle, leather pointed boots and wide brimmed hat regularly trot past with a friendly dip of the hat and a smile give this place a very special old time feel.
On our first day we woke up early to enjoy a delicious breakfast of banana bread, home made yoghurt and granola in the garden cafe next door. Next with map in hand we walked with a Canadian couple and a Danish guy from our hostel towards the main tourist attraction, the Copan Ruins. It was an easy 1km out of town down a main road, once there we decided to chip in together for a 2 hour guided tour to get the most out of our experience. We had many guides surrounding us, trying to talk us into taking a tour with them but we all agreed there was a standout guide – a cheeky elderly man named Antonio Rivera aka Tony Rivers with only 2 teeth who could speak every language in the world – well at least enough to persuade people to take his tour in their language. The winning statement was when he told us that ex Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke came to Copan many years ago, he took him on a tour and at the end of the day they had a beer together – sounds about right!
As we approached the ruins we saw many beautiful scarlet macaws in trees and feeding at ground level feeders. These birds were an important in the ancient Mayan culture and are Honduras national bird, they are also sadly endangered from poaching and deforestation. We spent some time observing these amazingly beautiful intelligent birds any even some squirrels stealing their food.
We walked around the ancient ruins of Copan whilst Tony gave us hilarious commentary and interesting facts. The temples were not mind blowingly huge but the hieroglyphs were very impressive and said to be some of the best of all Mayan sites.
We viewed the pyramid that Mel Gibsons movie Apocalypto was based around where the heads were cut off and rolled down the side. We were very lucky to be able to view the ruins without swarms of tourists even though it is the top tourist spot, Honduras itself is not a very popular tourist destination due to the dangers and unrest that the media portraits.
Next we took a tuk tuk upto Macaw Mountain, a large reserve 2kms up a hill from the town that takes in injured or confiscated Central American birds taken from smugglers. We spent over an hour walking a trail where we viewed all kinds of birds like toucans, macaws, parrots, kingfishers etc that were housed in spaciously humane cages. Along the way was some lovely lookout points along a river and walk in cages. At the end we were able to have some colourful macaws sit on our shoulders which was very cool.
We finished with a coffee and cake at the macaw mountain cafe and walked back to town where we had great views of the small town nestled amongst the mountains. We saw many old men carrying tons of wood on their backs up the cobbled road, it looked like very hard work and I was impressed that they were able to do that at their age.
That night we had dinner with our new Canadian friends Andrew and Erin and another Canadian we met on the bus the precious day. We had a great dinner at a local spot with good conversation. To finish we had a huge piece of cake at cafe Welchez, a must stop cake shop for any visitors with a sweet tooth.
Before catching a shuttle the next morning we had breakfast at the local markets – a huge plate of pasta, rice fried chicken and tortillas for $2. We wished we had more time in Copan, there is so much to do in the surrounding areas such as hot springs, horse riding and many nature walks, it’s extremely cheap and the people are some of the friendliest we have encountered. There are few tourists around yet many delicious tourist style cafés and restaurants to keep you going for weeks.
Iguana Azul Hostel – 390L($20)/night big clean room, fan, shared bathrooms and wifi in common area. Nice attached all day garden cafe next door, ran by an eccentric German man that can book many tours and speaks English which is a plus.
Copan Ruinas – No need for a taxi, it’s an easy 1.5km walk down 1 road from town. Entrance 300L guides charge around 400L for 2 hours so find a group and split the cost.
Macaw Mountain – 2.5kms out of town a tuk tuk is 20L/pp, the walk back is much easier and down hill. Entrance 200L – cost goes towards the bird food and maintenance.