Copán Ruinas

09th May 2011

A short walk on a shady footpath from the little cobbled village of Copán Ruinas [5] (a surprisingly un-touristy tranquil pueblo) is the ruins of Copán, one of the most important Mayan cities from 250AD to 900AD. Known as the “Paris of the Mayas” since it is the most enchanting and artistic of all the Mayan sites, it is a World Heritage site for its sculptures and hieroglyphics. Once 30,000 people lived in the valley but due to soil depletion, wars and revolt, the city was abandoned well before the arrival of the Spanish.
The principal site contains temples built around a great plaza, one on top of another. One of the temples, still buried under the present visible one, has been reconstructed in the museum. Large (3 to 5 meters high) stone stelae stand in front of the temples. These are intricately carved statues with the image of the ruler on one or two sides with hieroglyphics on the others, once covered in red. Carved altars used for sacrifice sit in front of the stelae. An acropolis, ball court, and necropolis complete the archaeological site. Large ceiba trees covered in bromeliads tower over temple ruins while their roots twist among the stone blocks of the walls giving the whole site a mysterious air.
Las Sepulturas nearby show residences around courtyards believed to be homes of the rich and powerful. It was connected to the main ceremonial site by a causeway.

Temple 16 has seen many phases

An exact replica of a temple inside the Temple 16 has been constructed in the museum

A stela - a carved statue of the ruler

Another stela

Tomb with stela and sacrificial altar in front

Tree roots help preserve the ruins

Hieroglyphic stairway, protected by a canvas awning

What it would have looked like

Carving of a jaguar

Intricately carved stela

Back of a stela

Bat carving


Colourful macaws, sacred to the Mayans, live at the site

Sacrificial altar

Mayan stepped arch

A smaller temple

Altar in the shape of a turtle

Ball court

The old man of Copán

Altar with grooves to carry away the sacrificed blood

All the stones were carved using stone tool

Altar with the 16 dynastic kings


Two local Mayan descendants rest in the ruins

Elaborate altar

Mayan calendar

Carved monkey


Ceramic figures found in a rulers tomb

Ceramic figures found in a rulers tomb

Ceramic figures found in a rulers tomb

Ceramic figures found in a rulers tomb