COPÁN RUINS lie 2km east of town, a pleasant fifteen-minute walk along a raised footpath that runs parallel to the highway. Entrance to the site is through the visitor centre on the left-hand side of the car park, where a small exhibition explains Copán’s place in the Maya World. Inside the visitor centre there’s a ticket office and a desk where you can hire a guide – an excellent investment if you really want to get the most out of Copán. On the other side of the car park is a cafeteria, serving drinks and reasonable meals, and a small souvenir shop.
Archeologists believe that settlers began moving into the Río Copán valley around 1400 BC, taking advantage of the area’s rich agricultural potential, although construction of the city is not thought to have begun until around 100 AD. Once the most important city-state on the southern fringes of the Maya World, Copán was geographically isolated from the main Maya region, except the city of Quiriguá, 64km away to the north. However, despite the distances involved, relations were maintained with other Maya cities, particularly Tikal and Palenque.