Honduras features white sand beaches overlooking the second-largest barrier reef in the world. This Central American country also features jungle-covered mountains, white-water rivers, Maya ruins, many species of colorful birds and more. As recently as a decade ago, travelers avoided Honduras due to its violence and crime. However, the good news is that gradually, Honduras is coming back from its dreadful past to offer travelers an amazing vacation destination. Besides its idyllic beaches, quaint cobble-stone villages and delicious cuisine, the country offers some truly unique attractions for curious travelers.
1. Copán Ruins and the Hieroglyphic Stairway, Honduras
Like other Central American destinations, Honduras features some particularly fascinating Mayan ruins. As part of this, a staircase, covered with Mayan hieroglyphics is possibly the largest single text in the world.
Located in western Honduras, the city of Copán was once the civil, political and religious center of the Mayan civilization for almost 400 years. This particular site in Honduras has several fascinating ruins to explore. According to Britannica, at least 16 kings ruled Copán from around 426 to 822. However, by 1200, the Maya had completely abandoned the site.
Copán covers around 250 acres, including residential areas, stone temples, pyramids and more. However, possibly the most fascinating is the Hieroglyphic Stairway, leading to one of the temples. The stairway features around 1,260 hieroglyphic symbols carved on its 63 steps. Standing at almost 100 feet in height, the collection of hieroglyphics provides a window into the rich history of the area and the Mayan culture.
While researchers initially had no idea what the symbols meant, they eventually realized that the staircase offers a record of the names and details of the various Mayan kings who ruled here.
2. Rosalila Temple, Copán
Staying in Copán, there is one Mayan temple on the site that was found in an amazing state of preservation. This includes its colorful and elaborated painted stucco decoration. Unlike the other buildings on the site, the Mayans carefully and ceremoniously buried the Rosalila Temple. They filled each room with mud and stones for protection. Meanwhile, the Mayans carefully covered the stucco panels with white plaster which protected most of the original paint.
Along with the stunning temple, a number of artifacts were found relating to religious ceremonies performed on the site. These included seven ceramic incense burners, with charcoal inside, flint knives used for sacrifice and ceremonial scepters wrapped in cloth. Archaeologists believe jade jewelry, stingray spines, shark vertebrae, jaguar claws and other artifacts were used in Mayan rituals.
Besides the real Rosalila Temple, visitors can explore a life-size copy of the structure in the Copán site museum. Here, you can get an idea of what the temple would have been like when still in use.
3. Swan Islands, Honduras
Located around 95 miles off the coast of Honduras, Great Swan Island currently hosts a small Honduras naval squad. However, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the USA used the islands as a radio hub where they broadcast propaganda to Cuba.
Nowadays, Honduras plans to transform these beautiful islands into a tax-free retirement resort. However, originally, the soldiers on the larger island kept a herd of cattle, which reportedly died out. According to Atlas Obscura, rumors are that there is still one cow remaining on Swan Island that could be affected by construction work there.
At the opposite end of the island from the military base, visitors regularly see fresh tracks, but no one has actually spotted the cow. While there isn’t much to see besides the beautiful island scenery, a boat trip to Swan Islands could be a pleasant, quiet day out in the sunshine.
Visit Honduras in Central America to experience its history, Mayan ruins and beautiful island scenery.