After leaving George’s place in El Salvador we decided to treat ourselves to a couple of nights at the San Salvador InterContinental hotel – Dan collected points with Holiday Inns and InterContinentals while he was working away from home in the UK, so we were lucky enough to get this stay for free! It was a very chilled couple of days spent enjoying room service, air conditioning and the use of a bath, while also giving us a chance to do a bit of planning for Honduras. We had decided that we wanted to go straight from San Salvador to Copan Ruinas, where we could visit the famous Copan Mayan Ruins, but figuring out how to get there proved a bit tricky. We couldn’t find any information about shuttles going there directly from San Salvador (possible because we weren’t staying in a hostel), and the only direct international buses we could get would have taken us to the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa (don’t ask us how to pronounce that).
So we decided to venture there by public bus, but before we could attempt the journey, we hit a bit of a snag in our plans: getting cash. The San Salvador InterContinental is right next door to the Metrocentro Mall, which we’ve heard is the largest mall in Central America, so although we had struggled to get cash out at other times during our stay in El Salvador we thought getting cash out in the mall would be a breeze. But after more than an hour of trudging around and trying at least 10 different ATMs, we realised how wrong we were. In the end we had to get cash out from the front desk at the InterContinental, at a 5% commission rate – so something we would advise before travelling to El Salvador is to be prepared to struggle with ATMs, and when you can get cash out, always get as much out as possible (which in a lot of cases isn’t much – we found that the maximum cash limit at a lot of ATMs was ridiculously low!).
After that small setback we set off on the gruelling 11 hour bus journey from San Salvador to Copan Ruinas, which we will write about in a separate post. We eventually arrived at around 7pm and made a beeline straight for the closest hostel on our list: Hostel Berekah. Lucky for us they had a private room with bathroom available for $20 USD per night, with breakfast included, which we gratefully accepted before collapsing in an exhausted heap.
The next day, after the amazing breakfast at the hostel where we got to try our first Honduran baleadas (a folded tortilla stuffed with refried beans and cheese), we hopped in a tuk tuk and went to visit Macaw Mountain. Just a short 5-10 minute ride outside of town, Macaw Mountain is a beautiful nature reserve where rescued macaws that have been mistreated in captivity or traded illegally are rehabilitated, with the hope of eventually releasing them into the wild. Those that can be freed are released at the nearby Copan Ruins, but those that aren’t fit to live in the wild are kept and taken care of at the reserve – and when you visit you even get to meet some of them!
That night we had a chilled night in the hostel and cooked ourselves a big batch of pasta and vegetables, then the following morning we got up and headed out to the famous Copan Ruins. We got a tuk tuk out there, but it was unnecessary – it took less than 5 minutes, so we decided to walk on the way back! The ruins themselves were extremely impressive, and had a very different vibe from Chichen Itza and Tikal. For a start, they were really quiet – we only saw a handful of other tourists while we were there, compared to the crowds at Chichen Itza and Tikal. Secondly, they almost felt more real, like you could get a sense of how life was truly lived there. Chichen Itza is all polished and pristine, while Tikal has the grand, towering temples, but Copan looked like a place people really lived in, with small temples, houses and other less imposing (but no less impressive) structures. Out of those three sets of ruins, Copan was probably our favourite.
Afterwards we returned to the hostel for another quiet night, before setting off on the next stage of our journey: Lake Yojoa and the D&D Brewery.