Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zones to have an unforgettable experience. I have heard many things about Honduras over the years. About the beauty and murders. And the contradiction that is Central America, since Honduras can boast having a city that is the murder capital of the world. . But when I took the Overseas Adventure Travel trip, Route of the Maya, we spent two nights in Copan, Honduras to see the ruins at Copan. It was a true highlight for me. And I have seen my share of ruins before.
The Mayan site of Copan is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is afforded the full protections of such. It was discovered in 1570, but was not fully excavated until the 19th century. The history of these ruins in the Copan Valley is long and complex and best suited for learning more detail by clicking on the link provided by UNESCO. By taking the trip itself and listening to the fantastic tour guides we had, I learned a tremendous amount as well. But there were among the most beautiful Mayan ruins I have ever seen, complete with replicas of skulls all over the complex, the ceremonial areas, the large pyramid structures, and the ball courts. Ball courts were used for both recreational as well as religious gatherings, so they have considerable importance in Mayan life.
Sadly, many of the ruins are not withstanding weather conditions. In some cases, they excavate only to bury again since they must bury the sites in order to preserve therm. In other cases on this trip, we learned that the area where the Myan people lived is really much larger then we are able to see. They know where other ruins are but are unable to obtain funding to excavate. We know the Mayan people haven’t really “disappeared” as legend has it, because they were all around us. They simply got absorbed into other cultures. My trip leader was both Mayan and Jewish.
As we were leaving the Copan Ruins, we were treated to a feeding of free flying macaws. This was such an unexpected delight, and a precursor to how I spent my afternoon; at the bird sanctuary and nature preserve that is McCaw Mountain. We got there on bumpy roads via tuk-tuk, so it was an adventure both coming and going. We were one with the macaws and the toucans for a couple of hours, which was fabulous. The entire bird park was one big eco system of what Central America has to offer. I had been in Central American over two weeks by the that time, some of it traveling solo and going on hikes, so I was fully able to appreciate that what I saw is so representative of Central America itself. There were ferns, coffee plants, rivers, birds, and all the other flora and fauna that is typical of any Central American country. I had to take care, since I noticed that black ants were attracted to my tennis shoes. But I kept walking the gentle wooden path of the bird park, going in and out of the cages to be with the birds and take photos. An additional the payoff was the end, when we saw birds not in cages, but freely in the open spaces. They were absolutely gorgeous too.
It’s fair to say that Honduras has as many hiking trails additional ruins, natural scenery and spectacular beauty as I saw all over Central America during my five weeks there. I know someone who spent a month in Honduras and saw many of the same phenomenal things I did on my entire trip which spanned five countries. We were only there for two nights, and part of the allure of this trip for me was to see the Copan ruins easily without any of the hassles I had read about n term of getting to see them. They are however, near other ruins in the Copan Valley, so there is clearly a lot to see there.
One of the most fascinating things we saw was neither historical nor animal in nature, but part of how the people cope at the border crossings in the border town of El Florido, Guatemala on the drive to Copan, Honduras. As we were driving up from El Salvador, we saw many trucks try to make the border crossing but could not. We were told there are often border snags for the drivers in terms of paperwork. The drivers know it can take several days to straighten out, so they spend nights sleeping not in their trucks, but in hammocks underneath the trucks. This is quite an unusual sight, even though hammocks are very popular all over Central America.
Honduras can also be visited independently using Viator.com day tours; OAT is one of the few tour companies that provide the opportunity to visit this fabulous country as part of a packaged tour. For more information on McCaw Mountain and other destinations in Honduras, click here.