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Archaeological Site Copán Ruinas

  • (worth a trip)
  • 5-10 km
  • Easy
  • High
  • half day
  • 3 3

The greatest treasure of Mayan art in the Americas

Ruinas de Copán, Copán Ruinas, Honduras
The Maya ruins Las Sepulturas are close by and also worth a visit. You can walk there or take a guided horse back tour.
The entrance fee to the archaeological site is $15

If you want to visit the tunnels you have to pay another $15 directly at the entrance.

The entrance fee to the Mayan sculpture museum is another $7.

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:

  • Ball Game Court: This was the social center of the city. It is the most artistic ball game court in Mesoamerica with the goals in form of guacamaya (Ara) heads.
  • The Great Plaza: You will find it towards your left side when entering. The square is decorated with the many steles and altars decorated with inscriptions and hieroglyphics, as the site is famous for being the most artistic Mayan civilisation.
  • The Hieroglyphic Staircase: The staircase of this temple has the largest inscription which is left by the Mayan culture. It is believed to represent a huge family tree of the Copán dynasty. However, the hieroglyphs could not be deciphered until know, as the staircase had been destroyed and the many hieroglyphs were scattered around the place, creating a huge alphabet soup.
  • The Acropolis: This building is located at the southern site, or to your right side when reaching the great square. It is divided into two parts, the occidental and oriental square and is made up of many terraces and platforms on which you will find further buildings. Archaeologists have dug tunnels under the Arcopolis to see earlier stages of Mayan civilisation. These tunnels are also open to the public.
  • Altar Q: This altar has been deciphered entirely, and it is known that it represents the 16 members of the great dynasty of Copán.


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.

How to get there

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.

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  • Archaeological Site Copán Ruinas
  • Archaeological Site Copán Ruinas
Archaeological Site Copán Ruinas Archaeological Site Copán Ruinas