Planning Your Time
While a visit to the primary ruin site at Copán takes just a couple of hours, it takes three full days to do justice to the region, with its multiple Mayan sites, hot baths, coffee farms, and other tourist attractions. The real Mayan buff will want to spend another day or two to see the smaller city of El Puente, near La Entrada, and less-frequented sites in the hills above Copán.
It’s easy to become seduced by this beguiling region of scenic mountains and friendly countryfolk, and want to see more than Copán. The town of Gracias is a good jumping-off point for hikes in the cloud forests of Parque Nacional Celaque and explorations of the nearby Lencan villages. A cursory visit to admire Gracias’s colonial architecture, visit a couple of the nearby villages, and take a short hike at Celaque can be made with just a couple of days. Those with more time can summit Celaque in a two-day trip, hike the footpaths between the villages of La Campa and San Manuel Colohete, or spend a couple of days or more exploring the far-flung villages past Gracias toward El Salvador, like Erandique or San Juan.
Santa Rosa de Copán is the capital of the department of Copán and the unofficial capital of western Honduras. Although it doesn’t boast much in the way of tourist attractions, it’s a lovely colonial town and a convenient base for transport, with plenty of food and lodging. Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter) and during the patron saint festival in late August are especially good times to visit.
The main overland travel transport route into western Honduras from Guatemala is via Copán. Those who come in by Nueva Ocotepeque, from either Guatemala or El Salvador, should consider taking an extra day to hike into Reserva Biológica El Güisayote.
Most of the destinations in western Honduras can be visited without guides. However, several companies offer more specialized trips that may appeal to some travelers.
In Copán Ruinas, Basecamp and Yaragua Tours offer a variety of adventuresome tours, including hikes and visits to the hot springs or a coffee plantation. The Asociación de Guías Copán, with its office right at the ruins, has guides specialized in archaeology, history, nature, and even shamanism, and who can speak Spanish, English, French, and Italian.
Max Elvir, a tireless promoter of tourism in western Honduras, runs Lenca Travel in Santa Rosa, offering tours of surrounding villages and natural areas, including Celaque, Monte Quetzal, Belén Gualcho, farther afield to Celaque, Gracias, La Campa, San Juan, and Erandique, and any other place you might want to visit.
In Gracias, an excellent community tourism network has been developed. Extensive information on the region can be found on the website www.colosuca.com, and the Asociación de Guías Turísticos Colosuca–Celaque can do city tours, countryside tours, national park tours, or any combination thereof.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition