The road from the town of Gracias down to Santa Rosa de Copán travels through gorgeous pine forests and sloping, green hills. But we weren’t able to enjoy it. There were so many potholes in the “pavement” that it was best to think of the journey as a video game–something along the lines of Angry Potholes–in which gaping holes appear out of nowhere and it’s your job to avoid them. At one point a particularly huge pothole had a blow-up Santa Claus stuffed into it as a grim warning to steer clear or join the jolly man in the abyss. Good luck.
We finally reached Santa Rosa de Copán more or less in one piece. The highlight of our two days in this town, which had more intact Colonial charm than we’d anticipated, was our first trip inside a Central American cigar factory.
Unfortunately, the Flor de Copán cigar factory in town is now owned by the multi-national Altadis company and that means regulations, including a rule against taking any photos inside the facility. So, you’ll have to trust us when we tell you that the factory was gorgeous, the tobacco leaves looked rich enough to eat and the workers (mostly women) were focused and precise. The amonia-heavy smell of drying and curing tobacco and the sound of the worker’s rudimentary, almost antique tools enhanced the atmospheric 40 minute tour. Well worth 40L (US$2).
We heard rumors of a smaller, locally owned cigar factory in town that allows photos but we could never get anyone to tell us exactly where it was.
A lesser-known factory in Santa Rosa de Copán is the plant where a local soda brand called Copán Dry is made. The neon-colored stuff comes in flavors like banana, cream soda, grape, pineapple and “punch” which they make by mixing all the flavors together.
Copán Dry staff were delighted (and a bit surprised) to see us and they even gave us each a cold one. They also told us that the local Coca Cola distributor has been known to buy huge volumes of Copán Dry then smash the bottles. The tactic is costing Copán Dry so much that they may be forced to move to plastic bottles.
In Santa Rosa de Copán we were hosted at two very different hotels. Hotel Elvir is the established brand in town with a pool, big restaurant and rooms that are well-appointed and comfortable, if a bit too much like a Best Western. The building and courtyard at the Elvir have a wonderful old-world look and feel which eases you into and out of your explorations of the town.
We spent our second night in Santa Rosa de Copán at Hotel Antiguo Roble. There’s no pool or fancy restaurant or tour agency at the front desk but this place, in a converted colonial home, is full of character and simply achieved style including locally carved wood furniture.
While in Santa Rosa de Copán, don’t miss Kaldi’s Koffee, a chic cafe down the street along the side of the cathedral, or the small shops around downtown selling handmade saddles for next to nothing.
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