The Mayan Ruins of Copan lure many travelers, including me, to the northwest corner of Honduras for a glimpse at an ancient civilization. Constructed over a thousand years ago, this archeological site is known more so for its sculptures and hieroglyphics than for its scale.
This was a quick last minute detour on the way to the Bay Islands and definitely a worthwhile one. Copan was the first touristy town on this trip and pleasantly put together compared to others I’d later encounter. The ruins are located a short walk from town. Entrance was a reasonable $15 and our group of 6 hired an English-speaking tour guide for around $3 each. The highlights for me were the famous stairway and the large ceiba trees.
While the ruins are what draw people to visit Copan, the surrounding area has enough appeal to warrant staying longer. Many fellow travelers were choosing a $15/3 hr horseback riding trip, but after my sister’s coworker emailed that a $75/full-day Finca tour was the highlight of her trip I splurged for that instead.
By 8:30am that morning I was in Carlos’s Toyota pickup truck heading up a road out of town for a good 45 minutes. Deep in the Honduran countryside, nearly at the Guatemalan border, Finca El Cisne sprawls out over 2000 acres. The primary crop grown on the land appeared to be coffee, but on our horseback ride through the family’s land we also saw starfruit trees, banana trees, plantain trees, avocado trees, a tilapia fish farm, cattle, pineapple plants, cacao trees and more.
It took a bit to get comfortable on the horse since I average riding once every 5 years. Predictably, just as I was starting to feel like I had a handle on things my horse took a sharp turn (I was clearly not in charge) and I heard the tear of my hiking pants from the barbed wire before I felt the sting of the cut. The damage to my pants was nothing a seamstress in Copan couldn’t handle in 2 hours for $1, but for the rest of the ride I was afraid to look down, imagining blood gushing down my leg, me coming off as a complete amateur and the ride ending early (maybe in reality it was only a minor scratch and all was well).
Back at the main house, a delicious lunch was prepared for us. It was one of my favorite meals on the trip to date. The table was spread with an avocado salad, homemade tortillas, homemade cheese, vegetables, mashed potatoes and followed with coffee and a banana dessert. Everything was grown there down to the coffee beans. It was worth the $75 just for the feast!
Carlos then gave us a tour of their coffee processing set-up. This is based on memory so hopefully I’m doing his process justice here. During harvest time the red, ripe cherries are handpicked during the morning.
In the afternoon they’re sent through a pulping machine, which works by crunching them slightly to break the skin/pulp away from the bean. The beans are filtered down to basins to ferment for roughly 24 hrs after which they head to more basins to be washed, scrubbed and separated (unripe beans or waste will float to the top). Finally they’re ready to be dried – which might be in the sun depending on the weather or in a dryer machine. A lot of effort goes into ensuring only good quality beans make it to our cup and even more to ensure they’re grown without harsh chemicals, on Carlos’s land. I was impressed by Carlos’s knowledge of his business – complete with a pH analysis of his soil – and his dedication to staying current and environmentally conscientious. He’s good people.
While that alone probably seems like a full day, there was more! Twenty minutes back down the road to Copan there is a hot spring for relaxation. I had just enough time to check out each pool, including the mud bath. It was the perfect way to end the day.