Reluctantly paging through my Lonely Planet guidebook in the quite cool of the incredibly westernized Bagel Barn in Antigua, Guatemala (one of my favorite places for a western breakfast in the city) I was seeking out inspiration. Divine travel guidance. Something of interest to break up the 16 hour commute between western Guatemala and eastern Honduras. I’m not a big planner but I was down to a mere 12 hours before I boarded my 4am bus to the Honduran border so I had run out of time.
I should probably stop in Copan Ruinas, Honduras.
A good traveler would be eating up the chance to easily pass through a town with a full set of Mayan ruins and soaked in a rich cultural history.
It didn’t take long for the travel guilt to seep into my brain…while I was systematically downing my morning coffee the guilt came right on in, sat down, and invited itself over for a seven course meal.
I’d be a bad traveler if I skipped the Mayan ruins, right? No matter that I had already done both Chichén Itzá in Mexico and the mac daddy of Mayan sites, Tikal in Guatemala, I booked a place to stay in Copan with a firm decision to poke around the Mayan ruins for a couple of days on my way to the Honduran coast.
I so rarely force myself to do the prescribed tourist activities in a certain region, but sometimes, particularly if I’ve had a stint of “lazy-traveler-syndrome” I suck it up and join the other travelers in one of the top guidebook recommendations.
The fact that there were actually very few tourists was actually a welcomed change from my first assumption about Copan that was based on the guidebook’s description. I lucked out with the season, the timing, something, because the town was deserted and the morning hours at the ruins were also noticeably lacking in huge tourist groups.
Which means I had a lot of personal time with some of the carvings and various sections of the ruins as my backpacker friend Angela and I used the guidebook’s written tour of Copan ruins to putter around the sites without an actual guide.
This is the point where I should wax poetic about the ruins and highlight all of the positive aspects of the town and ruins.
So book your plane ticket now and create a stampede on the way to Copan Ruins?
I visited three Mayan ruins in Central America and am actually perfectly pleased with how that worked out – each one offered up a very different experience and they complimented each other better than my advanced planning could arranged.
The Acoustics at Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Although the Chichén Itzá ruins are very small compared to the other sites around Central America I actually registered a level of shock when our guide demonstrated the absolute perfect acoustic alignment of the temples and structures.
The Undiscovered Size and Scope of Tikal, Guatemala
Hiking through the ruins at Tikal rates as one of my favorite temple experiences. Most of Tikal is still hidden in the hundreds of miles of dense green forest around the main site, Jaguar Temple so the animals are alive and roaming. The views from the top of the temple stretch forever and the sounds of the howler monkeys echo up from below the forest canopy.
The Intricately Carved Ruins at Copan Ruinas, Honduras
Copan’s climate has preserved a huge number of amazingly detailed carvings on the temples. Tikal and Chichén Itzá were noticeably light on the actual Mayan designs so Copan provided the missing link through it all. The carvings themselves tell a story that you have to simply imagine when the guides at the other ruins attempt to describe the Mayan ceremonial faces, figures, and gods.
Succumbing to Travel Guilt
Copan Ruins was a really pleasant surprise. I wont say that it’s a must-stop place, or even one of the favorite ruins that I visited, but I loved how the ruins showed me a different piece of the ancient Mayan culture – a bonus I just wasn’t expecting as I hit my third set of ruins.
I feel like the travel guilt was likely a result of that pesky travel fatigue that plagued me for a couple of months – it’s a lot more fun on the road when I’m hitting cities and towns that have me eager to explore and experience rather than that nagging obligation that I “should” visit, but travel isn’t all puppies and butterflies (or rather lollipops and rainbows as Brooke mentions) so I think the guilt worked well in prompting me to get out of a funk and back into travel mode.