Exploring the Park
The ruins of Copán lie about 1.5 kilometers from the town of Copán Ruinas, a 20-minute walk along a footpath running parallel to the highway. The Visitors Center houses the ticket office, where you pay a $15 admission fee for entry to the park (8 a.m.–4 p.m. daily), including entry to the neighboring site of Las Sepulturas.
Another $15 gets you admission to two underground tunnels where, among other attractions, you can see the Rosalila Temple in its original context. The tunnels are recommended for serious Mayan archaeology buffs, but not so much for the casual visitor. You can also buy your $7 ticket for admission to Copán’s excellent Sculpture Museum.
As far as Mayan sites go, Copán is certainly one of the most expensive (admission to Tikal is $7, for example), but the exquisite art on exhibit here is unmatched elsewhere in the Mayan world. It’s well worth it. There’s a small exhibit placing Copán’s importance in the context of the larger Mayan world at the Visitors Center.
Also at the Visitors Center are registered guides< for hire, costing about $20 for a two-hour tour. There are English-speaking guides, though their skill levels vary, so be sure to assess their mastery of the English language before sealing the deal. Across the parking lot in front of the Visitors Center is a small eatery serving drinks and basic meals. There’s also a small gift shop.
It’s a few hundred meters’ walk from the Visitors Center to the ticket checkpoint where you enter the ruins. A short nature trail winding its way through the surrounding forest diverts from the main path just before this checkpoint. A few semi-domesticated scarlet macaws sometimes hang out in this area. Try to visit the site right at opening time, as the crowds tend to get larger as the day goes on, especially on weekends. You’ll also have better-angled light for photography.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com