Honduras has a really bad reputation among overlanders as having horrible border crossings and corrupt cops. Also, being the murder capital of the world does not help sell it to travelers. You can understand why most people chose to cross through Honduras in one day. After spending five blissful months in “dangerous, violent” Mexico, I thought I needed to form my own opinion on Honduras and give the country a try. I am so glad we did.
We crossed the border from Guatemala to Honduras at El Florido on a Sunday and were the ONLY ones there. It was so easy and so mellow that we kept waiting for something bad to happen. The entire crossing took 45 minutes and was totally stress free. After the tourist police drama in Antigua that morning and a five hour drive, this seemed way too easy.
Honduras is so different than Guatemala. Within miles you transition from people wearing traditional Mayan clothes and busy, frenetic roads, to mellow, sleepy Honduras, where everyone wears modern dress (well if you count cowboy hats, machetes and rubber boots as modern) and there are very few cars and people. The Hondurans also look totally different than Guatemalans, it is like the Mayan gene pool suddenly stopped. I personally thought the people of Honduras as a whole were very beautiful, and was curious about their ancestry.
From the border we drove along the steep, green mountain roads hazed in smoke and humidity (It was over 100 degrees) until we reached the town of Copan Ruinas and set up camp in a dirty lot behind a Texaco station (it was cheap and right next to the ruins….).
If you have been traveling through Mexico and Guatemala visiting all the Mayan ruins, Copan can be a bit of a let down if you compare it to places such as Tikal or Palenque. Copan is all about two things, the stunning and important Mayan sculpture and the scarlet macaws. The sculpture here has the most detail that we saw at any of the Mayan sites, and the staircase with over 1,600 glyphs is the longest known Mayan inscription found, giving historians great insight into the history of the Mayan rulers.
Also, all over the ruins, especially at the entrance, there are scarlet macaws that just took our breath away. These birds once revered by the Maya, were huge, colorful and unlike anything I have ever seen. There is a program to reintroduce the macaws (the national bird of Honduras) back into the wild after deforestation and poaching, and the group of about 20 at the ruins is a result of this program.
My only complaint about Copan was how expensive it was. It cost $15 to see the ruins, another $15 to see the tunnels and another $7 to see the museum with all the original sculpture. So to see it all it costs $37 per person! We skipped the tunnels but enjoyed the museum. You can park for free in the parking lot though…..
The small and charming town of Copan Ruinas is an easy walk from the ruins and has a lot to offer. We stayed for two days and spent most of our time blowing our budget at Sol de Copan, a German brewery with the best beer you will probally drink in Central America. You can also get some pretty great German food, Tomas even makes his own German sausage. The brewery is closed Mondays, so plan accordingly. We also found some artisanal cheese, great coffee shops and delicious ice cream.
Overall, our first few days in Honduras were nothing like I expected. Craft beer, local cheese, super nice people and a sleepy and safe vibe. You just never know until you experience a place for yourself.