Copán Ruinas, despite its names, is a small town in southwest Honduras where are located the country's most important Mayan ruins. Curiously, the town is named Ruins of Copán and the archeological site is simply called Copán. I think it should be the other around.
The relax and friendly ambience of the locals make this town a very nice place to visit or to take a few days of rest. A few hundreds metres from the town, several very interesting sites can be visited. In addition to the archeological site of Copán, there is a superb museum of Mayan Sculptures, and a rescue centre for the magnificent macaws (big colourful parrots).
This small museum, located on the central plaza, offers a taste of the grandeur of the sculptures found at Copán.
Here is Central America most impressive museum on the Mayan Culture. Most of the exhibits in the collection are originals from the archeological site of Copán, from the site Las Sepulturas or else from the region around the town.
In 1989, among the ruins of Copán, archeologists have discovered the Rosalia temple, under structure #16. The Mayan temple was built in AD 571, and was painted with a vibrant red, colour of luck, blood and sacrifice for the Maya. Obviously, the temple found at the museum is a replica and it appears very different from the ruins seen in most other sites. Archeologists claim that most Mayan structures were covered in plaster, and painted in bright colours. Nowadays, nature has destroyed most of the plaster, and only the bricks or stone from the base structure can be seen.
Copán is not the largest site in the Mayan culture, its population was estimated to be 24,000 inhabitants at its peak. In comparison, Tikal in Guatemala once had some 100,000 peoples. For unknown reasons, Copán was the principal centre of Mayan culture for 400 years. Although it was smaller and less powerful than other great Mayan cities, Copán was far ahead for the quality of its sculptures, its knowledge of astronomy, and in the writing of hieroglyphs.
The first peasants came into the valley around 1000 BC, but the Mayas established themselves only around the year of the Christ. They started building structures toward AD 100, and the written history has started only in AD 426 with the start of the royal dynasties. The most important architectural period has begun in 553 with the construction of the Rosalia Temple (see above) and lasted until AD 738. Then, the city started to decline and by AD 1200, there were only a few farming villages.
The site Las Sepulturas is located two kilometres from Copán and is thought to have been a residential complex for the Mayan elite.
The site still sees ongoing archeological excavations.
Located some 80 kilometres from Copán Ruinas, this Mayan site is much more modest. They are 210 known structures covering some 2 km2, but only the main group has been restored.