Copan Ruins in COPAN, HONDURAS


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archaeological Park Entrance Sign

Copan Ruins

A Brief Overview
The Copan Ruins are located in the western part of Honduras, about 60 kilometers from the border with Guatemala. Copan - known as Xukpi to the Maya - was the dominant Mayan city in the south of their territory. Its rich stone sculptures and intricate hieroglyphs make Copan a feature attraction along 'La Ruta Maya'.

Ruins in Copan Honduras

The Principal Group of attractions in Copan consists of five basic areas of interest:


The 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.

The 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.

In Copan we combine a modern ambiance with a legendary past. The Mayan culture, one of the most important in America, flourished in the western part of Honduras, leaving many different costumes and traditions which can be traced to long times past.

The majority of arqueologists, agree that Copan formed part of the three largest and most lavish cultural centers of the new world. The Mayas developed a civilization based on a complex sociopolitical structure; at the same time they incurred, with amazing dexterity, in the fields of science, mathematics and astronomy. They also developed a writting system based on hieroglyphs, which enabled the interpretation by epigraphs of not only contribution made in this disciplines to shed light on aspects of their historic evolution.

Equally impressive is Mayas art which is evidenced in the careful planing of their ceremonial centers, their arquitecture based on the constructions of scaled graded pyramids, their sculpture, which keeps well today on their altars and historical monuments, the remains painted murals and the beauty of their work in jade, ceramic and stone.

Copan, considered by many one of the most spectacular city's of the ancient Mayas civilization, is situated in the southwestern part of the Mayas region. It flourished during the 7th century of our era and is representative today of what Athens, to the old world; the cradle of its civilization. Because of this and other reason, UNESCO declared it a world heritage site in 1980.

Ancient Ruins in Copan


Exploring the ruins 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 Chamelecon. 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.

The many different areas of Copan offer 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:

Ruins in Copan Honduras


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The Ball Court - The ball court is the second largest to be found in Central America.

The 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.

The 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.

Copan Ruinas

Did You Know?

As 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.


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