COPAN RUINAS, Honduras -- "Ruins" is a term the Mayan
archaeological site at Copan wears proudly as part of its name, but
it is a description the rest of Honduras has been trying
desperately to shake in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch last fall.
"Our major tourism attractions are all back up and running,"
said Gilberto Arita, president of Mayan Caribbean Tours (MCT),
which is based in the country's principal international gateway,
San Pedro Sula.
"Ruins is once again part of our past," he added, "and a unique,
exciting travel experience is what you will find in our
A frequent visitor to Honduras, I was both hopeful and anxious
about what I'd find as I returned this spring, and while
destruction was real, a great assist from the U.S. military and the
help of Mother Nature have fashioned a remarkable rehabilitation in
a very short period of time.
Most of the highway to Copan survived in excellent shape, and
while there were pieces missing, detours were only a minor
inconvenience; permanent repairs should be almost finished now.
The ruins themselves were virtually unscathed and enhanced by a
fascinating new attraction: Tunnels beneath one of the great
pyramids take you into a world that predates even the one that lies
exposed to the public.
Almost perfectly preserved in its subterranean tomb is a pyramid
christened "Rosalia," for the rose-colored stucco that covers its
surface. Separated from visitors by just a few feet and viewable
via strategically placed windows, Rosalia's star attractions are
its collection of masks and hieroglyphics dating to the sixth
A reconstruction of the pyramid forms the dramatic centerpiece
of a museum near the ruins. Amidst dozens of structures above
ground is the astonishing hieroglyphic staircase, climbing the full
height of one of the pyramids and containing some 1,250 blocks of
glyph symbols and beautifully preserved sculptures.
In the late afternoon, visitors may be treated to the return of
flocks of green parrots that roost nearby or groups of whitetail
deer that wander back as the tourists leave.
There are at least two fine hotels available to travelers to the
Copan ruins. Outside town is Best Western's Posada Real de Copan, a
lovely property in Spanish stucco and red roof tiles. In the heart
of the village is the Marina Copan, an inn with even more colonial
style structure and atmosphere.
While birding is good at Copan, it is even better at the
Lancetilla Botanical Gardens, near the coast town of Tela.
Lancetilla was created by the large fruit company whose endless
fields of pineapple and orchards of bananas and citrus fruit
dominate the area.
The abundance of such flora attracts such species as those I saw
during one short morning walk: keel-billed toucans, great
kiskadees, chestnut oropendolas, yellow-bellied sapsuckers and the
bright red hepatic tanager.
About an hour's drive east of Tela is the Cuero y Salada
Wildlife Refuge, a wetland area on the coast reached by riding a
tiny train that backs passengers in from the village of La Union
and drives forward to get them out.
Once in the park, guides escort passengers across a lagoon and
up creeks where blue morpho butterflies dart about, howler monkeys
swing through the tall mahogany trees and turtles and the
occasional crocodile sun on logs near the water's edge. Birding
here is also excellent.
Many concerned citizens have sought ways to help the people of
Honduras in the aftermath of the hurricane. My suggestion is to
book travel into that country, a move that will bring foreign
revenue and provide a life-affirming experience for the
American, Continental and Taca serve Honduras from various U.S.
gateways, and MCT provides some of the best land packages and the
most attentive service in-country. MCT prefers to sell a net rate
but will work out commissionable packages if agents prefer.
Phone: (011) 504-557-7638
Fax: (011) 504-557-6344
E-mail: [email protected]
The Honduras Institute of Tourism maintains an office in Coral
Phone: (800) 410-9608