In western Honduras, near the Guatemalan border, is a verdant valley that is surrounded by forested mountains and thick jungle vibrating with the sounds of monkeys and tropical birds. In the midst of this serene valley lies Copan, a vast archaeological site containing the ruins of what was formerly one of the most impressive cities of the ancient Mayan civilization.
Once an important Mayan center of government, art, culture and astronomy, Copan today is a large complex consisting of two large pyramids, several plazas, a ball court and numerous stone temples, altars and stelae, which are known for their hieroglyphics and intricate carvings that depict history, events, beliefs and customs of the ancient Mayans.
While the complex is divided into many sections, the main attractions include the Acropolis, the Ball Court, Hieroglyphic Stairway and the Great Plaza. The Acropolis features two large plazas and temples built as a portal to the other world. Beneath the Acropolis are several tunnels revealing the stages of the Mayan civilization. Two of these tunnels are open for public tours. The Mayan Ball Court is the second-largest of its kind in Central America. The largest, ancient Mayan text known to the modern day world, the Hieroglyphic Stairway, is a monument of 63 steps and several thousand glyphs that recount the history of Copan’s royal house. Scattered all around the well-groomed lawn of the Great Plaza are many altars, stelae and sculptures, which sport inscriptions that illustrate the politics and accomplishments of the Copan dynasty. There is also a museum at Copan where visitors can see artifacts and learn more about the site and the ancient Mayan civilization.