Copan Ruinas: More than a pile of rocks

Cobbled streets, charming restaurants, ethical forward thinking businesses, helpful smiling locals and tasty cheap eats. Copan Ruinas is a delightful little town right on the border of Honduras and Guatemala. I would suggest it’s worth visiting to break up a trip even if you’re not interested in Mayan ruins.

CopanBWs - 3.jpg

The ruins of the Mayan City of Copan are often referred to as the cultural capital of the Mayan world, needless to say this is why we found ourselves in the pueblo of Copan Ruinas. I’d heard previously that it was a cute little town and worth a visit but I didn’t realise how lovely until we arrived to find colourful traditional buildings, cobbled streets and so many friendly smiling faces. We took a private shuttle directly from Utila which including the boat was a full 12 hours of travel, so we were very relieved to find this little gem at the end of such a long journey. Here are my highlights from the three days we spent here:

TeaAndChocolateBlog - 4.jpg

Tea and chocolate: I was excited to visit this little spot just having heard its name! As we walked through the gate and into their pretty garden exhibiting artistic local photography, the welcoming energy quickly outshone its inviting name. There was a feel to the place like we’d stumbled into a secret garden. As you pass through the doors and into the dining area, the smell of natural incense and tea envelopes you carrying your soul away. The cafe and gift shop is only open from 4-6pm which at first we thought was strange, but it is the perfect time to soak up the last of the sun’s heat filtered through the tall trees, sipping on a traditional bowl of Mayan cacao or rejuvenating moranga tea. We sat enjoying the soft sounds of children playing wafting up the valley to mingle with the late afternoon bird song.

Not long after we took a seat on the sun drenched balcony did we meet the elegant and earthy owner Carolina who gave us a tour and a run-down of their project. While brimming with cosmetics, sauces, jewellery and of course many varieties of tea and cacao products (all grown and made within Copan), this was not actually a restaurant or a shop, but a front for a bigger project. Carolina, an anthropologist, along with her archaeologist father and culinary mother, have started a reforestation initiative which started in 2002. They grow over 100 species of trees and plants with a focus on medicine and healing, which enables them to blend powerful teas and balms increasing vitality and longevity. The main goal is to educate future generations on the power of mother nature. We left feeling inspired and knowing we did our bit to help educate and promote the way of the future in Copan Ruinas.

CopanBirdParkBlog - 2.jpg

Macaw mountain: a 20 minute walk from town is this big boisterous bird park. Well, it’s more of a rescue centre because all of the birds have been born in captivity then ended up here when they’re no longer wanted. Sadly, people move to Latin America and buy a brightly coloured bird as a symbol of their new tropical lifestyle. Then when they realise that the birds are super intelligent, very vocal, take quite a lot of care and can live to be 50-100 years old depending on the breed, they donate them to Macaw Mountain who have the facilities to take care of them.

Macaws are a very significant part of Mayan history and their image can be found throughout art and folk law, so one part of the project is to rehouse the rescued macaws inside the Copan Historical Park. This also adds a new breath of life and character into the ancient city. The bird park itself is set just out of town along a beautiful river so is a peaceful place to spend an afternoon. There are a lot of big cages housing hundreds of tropical birds, which feels a bit sad until you think about the size of the cages they have probably come from. Some of the enclosures are open to walk through which gives you a really up close and personal interaction with the birds. The highlight for us was being so close to the toucans, we watched one little fella taking a bath for ages (he still had his plumage on). We were hypnotised by the sound of his beak clacking against the side of the cage, it sounded like it could’ve been a plastic toy. We also really loved the interaction area where we had the opportunity to hold three of the giant macaws for a photo! We were the only ones at the park during our visit so it was extra peaceful, but I can imagine it would be quite a different experience in amongst a tour group.

Rastrajon - 6.jpg

Walk to Rastrajon: This little known set of ruins popped up on Tripadvisor as a great and free place to visit so we thought, why not? The walk out to the site was quite lovely, there is a path along the main highway up until the main entrance to Copan. Rastrajon is another 15 minutes walking, past the entrance to the Sepulturas and down the end of the driveway to the Clarion Hotel. The site is actually a project which was started by a couple of American archeologists to educate a new generation of budding locals and pique a new interest in the field.

Rastrajon - 5

If it was actually free it would be worth the walk past tranquil farmland to check it out, but at 80 lemperas ($5aud) we thought it was a bit steep for what it was. There is one replica of a facade featuring a giant puma, but even that is incomplete. There is a better example of the full scale temple in the Copan Museum at the main site. Rastrojon is thought to have been strategically built as a defence outpost and may have been home to an important figure. The view from here is quite scenic and the surrounding nature was certainly its saving grace from my perspective.

CopanBWs - 3.jpg

The ruins of the Mayan City of Copan are often referred to as the cultural capital of the Mayan world, needless to say this is why we found ourselves in the pueblo of Copan Ruinas. I’d heard previously that it was a cute little town and worth a visit but I didn’t realise how lovely until we arrived to find colourful traditional buildings, cobbled streets and so many friendly smiling faces. We took a private shuttle directly from Utila which including the boat was a full 12 hours of travel, so we were very relieved to find this little gem at the end of such a long journey. Here are my highlights from the three days we spent here:

TeaAndChocolateBlog - 4.jpg

Tea and chocolate: I was excited to visit this little spot just having heard it’s name! As we walked through the gate and into their pretty garden exhibiting artistic local photography, the welcoming energy quickly outshone it’s inviting name. There was a feel to the place like we’d stumbled into a secret garden. As you pass through the doors and into the dining area, the smell of natural incense and tea envelopes you carrying your soul away. The cafe and gift shop is only open from 4-6pm which at first we thought was strange, but it is the perfect time to soak up the last of the sun’s heat filtered through the tall trees, sipping on a traditional bowl of Mayan cacao or rejuvenating moranga tea. We sat enjoying the soft sounds of children playing wafting up the valley to mingle with the late afternoon bird song.

Not long after we took a seat on the sun drenched balcony did we meet the elegant and earthy owner Carolina who gave us a tour and a run down of their project. While brimming with cosmetics, sauces, jewellery and of course many varieties of tea and cacao products (all grown and made within Copan) this was not actually a restaurant or a shop, but a front for a bigger project. Carolina, an anthropologist, along with her archaeologist father and culinary mother have started a reforestation initiative which started in 2002. They grow over 100 species of trees and plants with a focus on medicine and healing which enables them to blend powerful teas and balms increasing vitality and longevity.  The main goal is to educate future generations on the power of mother nature. We left feeling inspired and knowing we did our bit to help educate and promote the way of the future in Copan Ruinas.

Macaw mountain: a 20 minute walk from town is this big boisterous bird park. Well, it’s more of a rescue centre because all of the birds have been born in captivity then ended up here when they’re no longer wanted. Sadly people move to Latin America and buy a brightly coloured bird as a symbol of their new tropical lifestyle. Then when they realise that the birds are super intelligent, very vocal, take quite a lot of care and can live to be 50-100 years old depending on the breed, they donate them to Macaw Mountain who have the facilities to take care of them. Macaws are a very significant part of Mayan history and their image can be found throughout art and folk law, so one part of the project is to rehouse the rescue Macaw’s inside the Copan historical park. This also adds a new breath of life and character into the ancient city. The bird park itself is set just out of town along a beautiful river so is a peaceful place to spend an afternoon. There are a lot of big cages housing hundreds of tropical birds, which feels a bit sad until you think about the size of the cages they have probably come from. Some of the enclosures are open to walk through which gives you a really up close and personal interaction with the birds. The highlight for us was being so close to the toucans, we watched one little fella taking a bath for ages (he still had his plumage on). We were hypnotised by the sound of his beak clacking against the side of the cage, it sounded like a it could’ve been a plastic toy. We also really loved the interaction area where we had the opportunity to hold three of the giant Macaws for a photo! We were the only ones at the park during our visit so it was extra peaceful, but I can imagine it would be quite a different experience in amongst a tour group.

Walk to Rastrajon: This little known set of ruins popped up on Tripadvisor as a great and free place to visit so we thought, why not? The walk out to the site was quite lovely, there is a path along the main highway up until the entrance of the main entrance to Copan. Rastrajon is another 15 minutes walking, past the entrance to Sepulturas and down the end of the driveway to the Clarion Hotel. The site is actually a project which was started by a couple of American archeologists to educate a new generation of budding locals and pique a new interest in the field. If it was actually free it would be worth the walk past tranquil farmland to check it out, but at 80 lemperas ($5aud) we thought it was a bit steep for what it was. There is one replica of a facade featuring a giant puma, but even that is incomplete. There is a better example of the full scale temple in the Copan Museum at the main site. Rastrojon is thought to have been strategically built as a defence outpost and may have been home to an important figure. The view from here is quite scenic and the surrounding nature was certainly it’s saving grace from my perspective.

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