Confusingly, Copan Ruinas is the name of the modern town at Copan, whilst Copan itself refers to the mayan ruins nearby which were declared by UNESCO
to be a world heritage site in 1980.
Situated in Honduras just 40 minutes by truck from the Guatemala border, and a 5 minute walk from the center of Copan Ruinas, Copan is easily accessible, but well off the beaton path.
The ruins are in far better condition than those of other sites, which often seem like a museum of jungle covered rubble. Whilst the tallest of the temples is only 40 metres (unlike Tikal where Temple IV reaches 65 metres), they have been painstakingly restored and are well worth the visit.
The most famous of all the ruins at Copan are those of the ornate stairway of glyphs that comprises a written record of the history of this city's people, and was completed by Smoke Shell in 756 AD.
Dating from 400-800 AD the reason given for the decline of this once powerful city was that populationexpansion in the fertile plains caused farming to moved to the hillsides nearby, which were then deforested to make way for crops. As food was more dificult to produce on these less productive lands and rain washed the silt into the valley copan began to face the dual problems of disease (through flooding) and malnutrition and Copan became inceasingly to blame for its own destruction by its enviromental damage.