Our second day in Copán, we set out to see the Ruins. We were told that it was only about a fifteen or twenty minute walk, so Trent, Audrey, Evelyne and I ventured out of the small city in the direction we thought the ruins were. We meandered through the small city and weaseled our way to the outskirts of town where the paved road turned into a windy, dirt path. We soon discovered that it was definitely the wrong way, but it was beautiful and unspoiled.
Once we reached the dirt path, we decided to turn around and ask for directions again. We had literally been next to the ruins, but instead of turning right at the end of the road we were originally on, we turned left (unbeknownst to us, the wrong way) and our fifteen to twenty minute walk turned into two hours.
It was frustrating being lost, but it was amazing being able to see day-to-day life for the people of Copán. No tourists, nothing fancy or fake, it was just… real.
After we finally arrived at the ruins, we went to buy our passes. Of course they wanted our passports before they would issue us tickets. Since we were walking around an unknown city and had no need for our passports, or so we thought, we had them safely tucked away at Via Via, our hostel. Sweaty and frustrated, we headed back towards Via Via. Once we arrived, we were informed that the hostel had a shuttle that went to Luna Jaguar – the aguas termales (hot springs). So we paid for the shuttle and entrance passes to Luna Jaguar for 440 Lempiras (about $20), had some lunch and waited for the 1:00 shuttle to pick us up outside the hostel.
Then came the fun part. It’s only about 24 kilometers to the hot springs from Copan, but it takes about an hour because the roads are so bad. After about fifteen or twenty minutes, we turned onto a dirt road. Dirt road as in potholes half the size of a small car, only room for one vehicle, insane curves and for the majority of the ride you’re hugging the side of a mountain. I looked out the window once or twice when we were hugging the side of the mountain and it wasn’t such a good idea. However, once we finally arrived, we discovered the ride was definitely worth it.
The Luna Jaguar Spa was beautiful. Stone pathways connect thirteen pools, each filled with water at different temperatures. The higher up the mountain you go, the hotter the water becomes thanks to the volcanic spring. We were given a “tour” and told which pools were too hot to touch. At the very top of the mountain, overlooking the pools, there is a covered balcony where you can get a hot-stone or chocolate massage for 550 Lempiras (around $26).
There were Maya replicas dotted all over the place.
Trent, Audrey and Evelyne relaxing in one of the pools. That waterfall behind them was so hot you couldn’t touch it without getting severely burned.
Audrey, me, Trent and Evelyne enjoying the afternoon at the springs.
Me, Audrey and Trent having a mud bath. That cinder-block looking thing in the bottom left of the photo is full of cold, thick mud. You just cake it all over yourself and relax. I thought it felt disgusting, but it didn’t bother Audrey and Trent, and they had a blast putting it everywhere.
Washing off the mud. :)
The bridge that leads to the hot springs. The entrance side has a guard and is locked. Once you purchase tickets, you’re given a wristband. After you show your wristband to the guard, he will open the gate for you to cross the bridge. Locals come to the river to bathe and do laundry (there is no fee for river access), but paying visitors can cross the bridge and enjoy all that the springs have to offer other than just the river.
This waterfall flows into the river. It is crazy hot, so the water around it is quite warm. It’s a great place for locals to enjoy a swim or have a warm bath. Although it’s not very far or very deep to walk across the river to, the current is ridiculously strong and the rocks are slippery. It took Trent, Audrey and I a good ten minutes just to get across the other side.
This man is about to take a bath. For obvious reasons, I thought it was rude to stare and take pictures of him, so this is the only photo I (quickly) snapped.
A little ways down from the bridge and past the waterfall is another area that locals frequent. It is out of the way of staring tourists, but the water is still warm and it’s easier to access from the woods. There is a log they can walk along with a wire above to help them balance and navigate through the strong current. We started to walk towards this area, but several locals were arriving and we decided to let them be. I’m not quite sure if this man was simply crossing the river to get to another destination or if he’s coming for a bath, but you can see his horse loaded with chopped wood and stopping in the river for a drink.
Close to the entrance (and exit), there were two pools. We were pruney and done relaxing in the hot springs, so we headed to the cooler pools before leaving to go back to Copán. The left pool was full of men, and the right pool was full of women. We definitely didn’t want to join the men, but we were hesitant to join the pool full of women because we were scantily dressed in comparison. As you can see, we all had on two pieces and all the other women had on shorts and t-shirts. Audrey, Evelyne and I decided to go on and jump in, and we uncomfortably headed to the end of the pool to reach the water running out of the fountain.
After relishing the water for a very short amount of time, we headed back across the pool to dry off. Audrey timidly requested to ask a question to one of the ladies. After a quick exchange, we discovered that the pools were not separated according to gender as we had previously thought, but the left pool was deeper and none of the women could swim. So Trent joined us in the “ladies” pool and we began conversing more after finding out the lady spoke English. She lived in Tegucigalpa and was on a weekend getaway with some friends. We asked about the appropriateness of our swimsuits, and she laughed and said that while Honduran culture is much more modest, the ladies in the pool were all wearing more clothing because they “are fat.” She was a very nice lady, and we sent well wishes as we went to the toilet/changing area before departing.
The spa is very relaxing and beautiful, and back home it would cost a fortune to visit. That’s just one of the perks of Central America: you can get a lot for very little. The only downside to the spa – the toilets and changing areas had no electricity, so we had to take turns standing outside the slightly open door to let some light in to do our business and guard us from random people walking in. Fun times. :)
Wanted to hear about our encounters with the Honduran military? They’re coming. I just ran out of room here, but the post will be up Friday. :) Thanks for reading, and check back soon!