Mayan ruins in Copán date back to between the fifth and ninth centuries A.D.
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The Mainland



Honduras is rich in scenic and fascinating attractions for travelers. American Airlines offers direct flights not only to Roatán (once a week
year-round and twice a week during the high season, from June 12 to Aug. 21) but also to the capital of Tegucigalpa and to the second-largest city, San Pedro Sula, opening up a plethora of activities, whether you favor ancient ruins, impressive colonial architecture or verdant tropical beauty.

 

Tegucigalpa

Even Hondurans acknowledge that the name is a mouthful; they settle for calling it “Tegus.” Situated in a mountain valley some 3,200 feet above sea level, this city of about 1 million has a milder climate than most of the tropical country. It has plenty of the ad hoc, cobbled-together sprawl that characterizes many large Latin American cities, and reminders of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 are evident. Still, this vibrant city contains some jewels from the Spanish period.

The stunning Iglesia Los Dolores, constructed over several dec­ades beginning in 1732, features elaborate religious art. And from the plaza outside the church, you can glimpse in the distance the huge statue of Jesus that stands on the hilltop El Picacho. Chiminike, the city’s children’s museum, also gets high marks from visitors for its displays about everything from Mayan history to the human body.

Stay: Once an expansive private home in one of Tegus’ upscale residential neighborhoods, the ­Humuya Inn has been refurbished into a well-regarded small hotel.

Eat: El Patio offers a refined-yet-family-friendly take on traditional Honduran food.

Getting Around: Numerous companies offer rental cars in Tegus, but taxis will save you the trouble of navigating unfamiliar streets. The cabs are not metered, so be sure to negotiate your fare before getting in.

 

Overlooking the city of Tegucigalpa.
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Copán

Archaeologically speaking, what is now Honduras bridges two broad areas: Mesoamerica (where city-building cultures like the Maya flourished) and the Intermediate Area (home to such peoples as the Miskito). Although Mexico and Guatemala are better known for such pyramid-studded Mayan sites as Chichén Itzá and Tikal, one of the best-preserved and most extensively studied ruins is the city of Copán, located in a valley in northwestern Honduras close to the Guatemalan border.

Copán was occupied during the Mayan Classic period (the fifth to the ninth centuries A.D.). While it boasts the temples, ball courts and step-pyramids characteristic of Mayan monumental architecture, it is perhaps best known for its remarkable collection of stelae: stone pillars carved with the likenesses of the city’s rulers as well as glyph writing that tells of their exploits.

Stay: The six-room Terramaya hotel offers both well-preserved colonial charm — it’s in the heart of the town of Copán Ruinas — and views of the ruins themselves.

Eat: The restaurant at the Hacienda­ San Lucas hotel is renowned for its fusion of traditional fresh, seasonal Mayan food with professional cooking techniques.

Getting Around: Once you’ve arrived by bus from San Pedro Sula, the municipality of Copán Ruinas is extremely walkable — you can even walk from town to the ruins themselves. The minitaxis here are also cheap and plentiful.