The ruins of Copan have the most exquisite detail of any Mayan site I’ve visited! While it’s not as large as Chichen Itza or Tikal, the site is packed full of beautiful, and sometimes frightening, sculptures and stelae. Many of these represent various Mayan gods and former rulers. Copan was one of the most southern Mayan cities, and makes for a fascinating day of sightseeing!
A center point of the ruins is the massive staircase, full of hieroglyphs, statues, and carvings. While the site is clearly Mayan, the detail and style is very distinct from other Mayan sites. I definitely recommend a visit, especially as it’s on the main travellers’ route from Guatemala to Honduras!
You can wander around several paths in the archeological site, and walk along the tops of several temples. As you’re walking from the ticket booth to the site entrance, there is a wilderness walking trail that takes you through the surrounding jungle where you can see various wildlife, birds, and flora. It takes about 30 minutes, and is worth the time.
I really enjoyed my time in Copan, and am ready to head on to my next destination – the little mountain town of Gracias!
Flores is a beautiful little town on an island in Lake Peten Itza. It’s a nice area to go kayaking/canoeing, but the main draws are the nearby attractions – especially Tikal.
1500 years ago, Tikal was the key Mayan city in the region and fielded many temples, palaces, fortifications, and trade routes. The site covers an area of 60 square kilometers. It’s worth taking a full day to explore the area and the many out-of-the-way temples. Bring plenty of water though, as it can get very hot and humid!
You can easily do a day trip to Tikal from Flores via a shuttle. It takes a little over an hour to reach the ruins from town. Another great and less known day trip is to the Biotopo Cerro Cahui, a national reserve teaming with wildlife and has very well maintained trails. Get here by taking a public bus (more like a van) from the main town market in Flores/Santa Elena to El Remate. From El Remate it’s a 15 minute walk to the park entrance along the lakeshore road.
The loop trail in Cahui takes around 3 hours, and you’re likely to see all kinds of wildlife. I saw 3 monkeys, hummingbirds, giant butterflies with what looked like an owl eye on its wing, and a funny rodent critter that was leaping from tree to tree. At the park entrance a ranger will give you a map and can answer any questions that you may have. They don’t speak much English though, so some Spanish knowledge will be useful.
My journeys in Guatemala continue onto Lanquin, and little town with beautiful parks, hikes, and caves!