Frequent Flier: Visiting Copán Ruinas in Honduras

Nov 27, 2013 at 7:55 a.m. ET

Ready for take off? This week Frequent Flier is heading to Honduras. Often just referred to as Copán, this beautiful Honduran town with cobblestone streets is filled with cute shops, cafés, bars and whitewashed adobe buildings with gleaming red-tiled roofs. It's also home to an impressive archeological site of the same name, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1980.

 Frequent Flier: Visiting Copan Ruinas in Honduras

Why you should go

Honduras is well known for the diving opportunities in the Bay Islands, most notably Roatan and Utila. But tiny Copán Ruinas (often just called Copán) deserves a visit. If the cobblestone streets, cute cafés and red-roofed adobe buildings don't charm you, a visit to the nearby Mayan site will surely pull you in. Not only is it easy to get around (the town is compact and very walkable), you'll find enough here to keep you busy for a few days — but build in time to simply soak up the charming, laid-back atmosphere.


Upon exiting our minibus that brought us from Antigua Guatemala to the small town of Copán in Honduras, we made a beeline through the narrow streets to Café Via Via, a restaurant and bar that also functions as a friendly guesthouse. We were impressed with both the food and the rooms (a double will run you about $16). Though simple, the good-size rooms are clean and bright, and WiFi is available in the restaurant. Grab a Salva Vida, one of the local beers, and check your e-mail, take a free salsa lesson on Wednesday night or watch a movie (only $1) Sunday through Tuesday. There is also a tour operator, Basecamp Outdoor Adventures, attached to the Café Via Via, where you can book tours and travel elsewhere in the region.

 Frequent Flier: Visiting Copan Ruinas in Honduras

See & do

Most people head to Copán to see the nearby archeological site of the same name, which you can walk to from the center of town. Copán is known as one of the most important sites of the Mayan civilization. While it doesn't have the sheer magnitude of Tikal in Guatemala or the mystique of being in the jungle like Palenque in the Chiapas region of Mexico, Copán is no less fascinating. As it stands today, the Mayan city of Copán is composed of a main complex of ruins with several secondary complexes around it. The main complex consists of the Acropolis, the Ceremonial Plaza and the Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza. More than 1,800 individual glyphs can be found on the risers of this impressive stairway and constitute the longest known Mayan inscription. Rather than size, Copán is also widely known for its artistic quality, which you can see in the many carved structures, both big and small, you'll notice as you traverse the archeological park.

Bird lovers should consider a visit to Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve, an interactive way to get to know some of the region's colorful birds. The collection of birds includes many that have been rescued or that are endangered. You'll see a wide variety of (hence the name of the reserve) macaws along with toucans, parrots and many other tropical birds. The open-encounter areas mean you get to wander with the birds, rather than look at birds in cages. There is a restaurant on site as well as a coffee roasting house (enjoy a cup when it's open and roasting), and if you bring your bathing suit, there’s a small, clear river running through the grounds. We recommend a refreshing dip at the end of your visit.

Eat and drink

Though small, you won't go hungry or thirsty in Copán. Bars and restaurants abound along the winding cobblestone streets, and you're sure to find something that calls your name as you wander. Food at Café Via Via is a good choice. It has many vegetarian options and daily specials worth checking out, and the setting is casual and conducive to lingering with a fresh fruit juice or beer. For breakfast, head to B'alam Café that is tucked away in the Yat B'alam Boutique Hotel. The tiny, welcoming space serves strong coffee and tasty breads, pastries, creative egg dishes and even bagels (which aren't often easy to get in Central America).

Take advantage of two-for-one cocktails at Twisted Tanya's (try the rum lemonade), a popular spot that attracts everyone from families to backpackers. We didn't try the food here but heard some good things.

Next up

Pack your bags and join us next time when Frequent Flier heads to the South of France.

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