Latest update: 12 May 2023
I find one of the most beautiful Mayan ruins I have ever seen in Palenque. It’s in the middle of the jungle and is even extra impressive because of the screams of the howler monkeys. The ruins are the highlight of the town of Palenque in Mexico.
The center of Palenque
From the bus station of Palenque, I walk straight into the La Cañada district. This part of Palenque is beautifully overgrown with trees and plants. You’ll find accommodation options and a handful of restaurants. Crossing the bridge, I end up in the town’s center with shops and restaurants. This is the real Mexico. It’s nice to walk around a bit, and I treat myself to tacos at Tropi Tacos (Google Maps location). Restaurant Las Tinajas (Google Maps location) is a good option for hungry people: the huge portions will last me three days.
What to do in Palenque?
In Palenque, there are no significant sights besides the ruins. The town is mainly a base for visiting the waterfalls. To see the falls and the ruins, you need a total of two days. Maybe one extra day to chill and walk through the town. Visit the Palenque ruins and Agua Azul on day 1 and the waterfalls of Roberto Barrios and Misol-Ha on day 2. Read all about the waterfalls around Palenque.
The Mayan Ruins of Palenque
I hire a guide with a few other travelers to discover the ancient Mayan city. Negotiations are opened at 1600 pesos and closed at 1000 pesos (2018 prices). The tour is worth every peso. The guide keeps our attention for two hours with background information, personal stories, and jokes. Of course, he talks about architecture and history but also knows how to make that tangible by giving practical examples. Like how the Maya completed a 100-kilometer relay race to the Gulf of Mexico to provide the Mayan king with fresh fish twice a week.
The guide keeps showing us the best places to take pictures and can answer every question. For example, he explains the ball game the Maya played: the winner was killed and sent to the underworld to fight against the evil forces that threatened agriculture. Or, as others believe, the loser was killed to do so.
After the tour, we walk around on our own. Another traveler drew me a map with the road to a forgotten temple. We walk through the jungle, and if you have read The Ruins, you will understand why I get visions of possessed vines with that map and in this environment. We don’t find the forgotten temple, but because the area is so beautiful, it doesn’t matter.
The entrance to the ruins of Palenque is 90 pesos. A taxi from the center costs (in 2018) 60 pesos, and a colectivo 25 pesos. So if you are with several people, you can consider a taxi.
Accommodation in Palenque
In Palenque, you can choose to stay close to the ruins, but it’s a bit more pricey. Good options are, for example, Chan-Kah Resort Village (in the middle of the jungle, with a swimming pool and Starbucks) or Hotel La Adea, where you will also find a handful of restaurants and bars nearby.
The accommodation in the center is a lot cheaper, but there are few hostels. These are your options at Hostelworld.
How do you get to Palenque?
The road between San Cristóbal and Palenque has been the scene of roadblocks and robberies for years. Although that is less the case now, I advise you to take the detour via Villahermosa. Especially in the evening and at night! It takes longer and is more expensive, but I don’t feel this is a risk I want to take. It’s up to you of course, but please always ask about the current situation. Go to the bus station and get an ADO or OCC bus. If you already know when you want to travel, ordering your bus tickets online is best. The sooner you book, the cheaper it is. Make your reservation via Busbud.
More Mexico inspiration?
Helpful links for your Mexico trip
- Travel guides. I love the practical travel guides from Lonely Planet, buy them at Bol.com or Amazon.
- Flights. Compare all your options! Definitely check out Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
- Travel documentation. Make sure you have the right documentation to travel to Mexico. iVisa can help you out.
- Bus. Book bus trips in Mexico with Busbud or 12Go.
- Accommodation. All-time favorite: Booking.com. Find hostels via Hostelworld.
- Money. Your bank cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel.
- Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. ‘Free’ walking tours are available at GuruWalk. And for bike tours, try Baja Bikes.
- Attractions and museums. Get a 5% discount on museums and attractions at Tiqets with the coupon code KIMOPREIS22.
- Car rental. My go-to car rental companies are EasyTerra and Sunny Cars as they have all-inclusive / worry-free offers.
- Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
- Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? You have many options! For the Dutch, try ANWB vakanties, Tui or Sawadee, or maybe you can find a sweet deal at Vakantie Discounter or D-reizen?
Or: try a yoga retreat in Mexico!
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First published: November 2018. Updated since.