The archaeological site of Copán is one of the most important ones of the ancient Mayan civilisation. It is located in the heart of the Copán valley in the far north of Honduras, close to the Guatemalan border. It was the Mayan town at the easternmost border of the Mayan culture area. The original name is still unknown, for this reason it is called Copán ruinas, after the nearby city. Since 1980 the archaeological site is declared as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Examinations at the site began in the first half of the 19th century. It is one of the most informative sites about Mayan culture, therefore is is often referred to as the ‘Athens of the Maya’ by the researchers. It was a splendid and important Mayan town during the classical period, with its main era during the 8th century. The site was strategically well placed, which helped in the rise of the city. The greenish tuff stone, which was used to build the steles and buildings, was found close by. Furthermore, the biggest source of jade was found close to the ancient town, the precious stone was used to produce jewellery and other tools.
Apart from the fact that Copán ruinas was an important ceremonial and scientific center in the ancient Mayan times, it also was an astrology observation center. The buildings are distributed in a fourfold scheme, representing the worldview of the Mayan civilisation. The four residential areas represent the four cardinal points. In the center of the town you will find the the main building and residence of the emperor, as he was the keeper of harmony in the human and divine world. The archaeological site has five main zones of interest for the visitors:
The archaeological site of Copán ruinas has a visitor center, where you can book guided tours through the ruins. Furthermore, you will find a huge museum, called Museo de Escultura Maya, about the Mayan culture and its sculpture and art. The archaeological park is a spacious area. Besides visiting the ruins, you can have extensive walks through the woods and learn about the connection of nature and Mayan culture.
From the town Copán Ruinas you can take a nice walk, there is even a sidewalk along which you will already find some stone sculptures from the Maya civilisation. The walk will take about 20 minutes.