Copan Ruinas: Easy Indiana Jones Adventure
By Jill K. Robinson
Copan: Major Mayan kingdom that flourished between 5th and 9th centuries A.D.
The sounds of the modern town of Copan Ruinas -- buses, trucks and radios -- faded away as I walked slowly down the old Mayan road toward the historic ruins of ancient
I'd seen the Mayan ruins of
THE RUINS OF COPAN
The ruins at
Visit the archaeological site early, like I did, to avoid the heat and day-tripping crowds. As I walked among the ruins, stelae protruded from the ground like teeth. Intricate carvings writhed around these pillars: pictures of deities and past rulers, some with incredible names like Moon Jaguar, Smoke Monkey and 18 Rabbit. Thick metal chains guarded the blocky stone men and discouraged my natural desire to touch them. But you can lean very close to inhale the designs of the place archaeologist Sylvanus Morley called the "
Of any Mayan site in the Americas,
Only 20 minutes after having my morning coffee on my first day in
The town of Copan Ruinas is cradled in a valley in western
VALLEY OF THE MAYA
Like most of the 140,000 annual visitors to Copan Ruinas, I was lured by the mysterious stone temples to the edge of town. But I quickly learned that the Maya scattered their legacy throughout the area. Las Sepulturas, an ancient residence, links to the main ruins by a mile-long stone path. The small sites of Los Sapos,
The Los Sapos ruins nestle within the Hacienda San Lucas property, which offers equestrian tours and access to hike its nature trails. If you're not staying at the Hacienda, you can get access to the trails for
My day of adventures had worn me out. Surely even Indiana Jones ate three meals a day. Open restaurant doors beckoned, and smells of fish, tortillas and barbeque mesmerized me. I chose Carnitas Nia Lola, on the edge of town with views of tobacco fields. My dinner was a "tipico" beef dish right off the charcoal grill with fried plantains, rice and hard country cheese. A cold glass of beer was delivered atop the waitress' head.
Nearby Twisted Tanya's Restaurant celebrates happy hour from
The vanishing rays washed Copan Ruinas in a gentle light. I climbed to the hills overlooking the town, which melted into an earth-toned mishmash of buildings, pastures and cobblestone roads. Nearby were the stone memories of the Maya, and surrounding both curled a thick ocean of emerald jungle.
The two Copans, old and new, weren't as far apart as I'd imagined. Although the outward appearances of the village and people have changed over time, much has remained the same. The connection was difficult to see while in the realm of one or the other: looking at ruins or eating at restaurants, reading history or riding through a coffee farm. From the perspective of the unbiased hills, both clung together as a whole community, old evolving into new over thousands of years -- an island amidst the jungle.
GETTING THERE: Continental, American, Delta, TACA and Spirit airlines provide nonstop service to
Mayan ruins of
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(c) 2009 Travel Muse Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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