The second part of our trip – from Guatemala to Costa Rica was now officially underway. The previous evening, we had met our new guide, Isaac from Costa Rica, and the eight new travellers who joined our tour to replace those who finished in Antigua. Today was also to be a big moving day – an 8-hour road trip that first retraced our route back through Guatemala City and the Valley of the Motuga River, before crossing the dry mountain range south of the river to reach the Honduran border late in the afternoon. It would be a short stay in Honduras – less than 24 hours, in fact.

The central plaza in Copan

Streets of Copan

An enormous centuries old tree

Pathway to the East Courtyard

Heiroglyphic staircase and carved stella

Our destination was Copan, a small town 11km over the border famed for its Mayan ruins. These were the reason we had travelled so far and, after a good night's sleep, our local guide Cesar, arrived to take us for a walk through the archaelogical site.

Panorama of the East Courtyard

Walls of the West Courtyard

Temple pyramid in the West Courtyard

It is interesting to compare the Mayan sites of Tikal (which we visited earlier) and Copan. One archaeologist said that Tikal is to Copan as New York is to Paris. It seemed apt, as Copan is a much smaller site without the towering temples and pyramids, but with a much richer artwork. Many of the friezes, stellae and carvings remain to showcase the art of the Maya.

Temple carvings

The hills backing Copan

Stone frieze

Ball court

Cesar was a great guide and, as we wandered from acropolis to royal plaza, temples, grand plaza and ball court, he explained how the various pieces and edifices fitted in with the history of the rise and fall of Copan, which flourished from the 6th to 9th centuries, before being abandoned due to diminishing resources and the resultant wars.

A selection of .....

... the ornate carvings .....

.... of Copan

The visit was accompanied at times by a cacophony of scarlet macaws. Nesting boxes are provided here to help conserve these magnificent parrots and it was a joy to watch them fly overhead in a flash of red, yellow and blue, or play in the tree-tops. Less joyful were their raucous screeches.

After an early lunch it was time to move again, as yet another long road trip awaited. Leaving Copan in our mini-van, we recrossed the border into Guatemala for a long detour to the Guatemalan – El Salvador border (the more direct crossing from Honduras to El Salvador was not possible as the these two countries are still a bit tetchy over the short war they fought back in the 1960s).

Sunset over El Salvador

Evening falls on the valleys of El Salvador

The dry mountain spine of Central America

From the border, we followed the dry central spine of mountains deeper into El Salvador to arrive at the little town of Suchitoto well after dark and some six hours after we had left Copan. It was a tired group of travellers who tumbled into their beds that night.