Palenque is in Chiapas, Mexico famous for the ruins of a Mayan city dating from about 600 AD to 800 AD. Set amidst thick trees, Palenque still evokes some of the wonder that the early Spanish visitors must have felt when they first came across the ruins.
Palenque Mexico is actually a medium-sized archaeological site, much smaller than the huge sites like Tikal or else Copán, but it contains a few of the finest sculpture, architecture, roof comb as well as bas-relief carvings of the Mayan era.
A new airport just opened in Palenque with direct flights from the United States. Another airport in Villahermosa is bout two hours away by road. Tuxtla Gutierrez, the airport for San Cristobal de las Casas is five to six hours away by bus. Both airports are well serviced with flights from Mexico City and other points in Mexico.
The easiest way to get to Palenque is by bus. There are many buses daily from Tuxtla Gutierrez (six hours), Villahermosa (2.5 hours), Merida (8 hours), Campeche (5 hours), Cancun (13 hours). Daily (one or two buses) also ply from Mexico City (16 hours), Oaxaca (15 hours), Playa del Carmen (12 hours), and Tulum (12 hours).
It is also possible to get to Palenque from Flores in Guatemala by bus (6h, leaving Flores daily at 5am, USD 35.00).
The ruins are about 6 km from the town of Palenque and minibuses run between the town and ruins every 10 to 15 minutes during the day (20 pesos, december 2013). Combis - shared taxis - are also available. Just wait at the park gate at El Panchan. A colectivo will pick you up.
- Archeological ruins
Spend a whole day exploring the site which spreads over 15 sq km. Only the central acropolis has been excavated. The Templo de Las Inscripciones, a burial monument, is the tallest building. El Palacio, the rulers' residence, was built in stages from 400 AD to 900 AD and underwent restoration in 1955. There's a 27 peso fee to enter the national park, and then another 54 peso for the ruin site (december 2013).
A short hike to the nearby Mishol-Ha waterfall offers a variation on the ruin touring. This is a high waterfall into a natural pool with a path leading behind the falls to a cave. Bring a swimsuit and only swim during low flows.
Many tour operators will offer guided visits of the ruins, providing added background and knowledge regarding Palenque's history.
You can get some Maya-style artwork from outdoor vendors who set up unobtrusively at the ruins.
Sleeping accomodation can be found either in the city of Palenque, or just outside the limits on the road to the national park.
- El Panchan, . It is relatively near the ruins and has cabanas and small cabins and common sleeping areas with hammocks. A cabana with access to a common showers and bathrooms facility is 80 pesos, approximately 8 USD. The little Otulum river runs through the location.
- Jungle Palace, (In El Panchan). Offers mixed budget accomodation from camping, dorms, and small cabañas all with shared bathroom. Showers have hot water. Dorms M$70, Camping M$30, Cabaña (for 4) from M$200. edit
- Margarita and Ed Cabañas, (In El Panchan). Very friendly, clean, but not super cheap. They have icey cold airconditioned rooms, a bare necessity after hiking through the ruins at Palenque during rainy (and pretty much all other) season(s). Private with A/C from US$30. edit
- Posada Nan Chan Ka'an, (In the city center at the corner where the colectivos for the ruins leave). checkin: 24h; checkout: by 12.00. Very friendly, clean budget spot in the town of Palenque. Laundry, free internet and WIFI. Hot water (also in dorms). Dorms are very hot with no fans, no lockers, the tin roof is extremely loud when it rains, the corner outside is unnecessarily loud from early in the morning, and the staff isn't that friendly. Dorms 80MX, double 300MX, triple 350MX. edit
- Just 2 Km from the ruins there is a newly opened Eco park that rescues endanger animals and breeds endanger spices from the area. It is Aluxes http://ecoparquepalenque.com worth a visit on the way to and from the Archeological Ruins. They also offer night tours and special activities for children.
Don Muchos is a great restaurant at El Panchan. Great stone-oven pizzas and live music. The stone-oven pizzas cost 60 pesos and are very good.
- El caracol de jade, 1a Ote Nte (Jiménez) (West of the square, just next to the church stairs). Simple place with outdoor seating, serving cheap antojitas. Has a vegetarian section in the menu. Good selection of agua frescas. 15-50 pesos. edit
Other ruins in the general area are Yaxchilán and Bonampak. These can be arranged by day trip (650 pesos, december 2013) or overnighter (1,250 pesos, december 2013) with any agency in town. Misol Ha and Agua Azul are famous waterfalls in the area. The towns many tour agencies organises 7 hour combination trips to both falls for 130-150 pesos, excluding entrance fees (30 and 38 pesos respectively). (December 2013) The falls are just an hour or so outside of the city, but the tours are arranged so that there is time to swim and eat (at Agua Azul).