Palenque is often associated with the well-known Mayan city and the modern city is skipped in travel guides. But modern Palenque has more to offer than just ruins. How about huge waterfalls and a beautiful green hill in the city?
Where should you be in Palenque?
Palenque is a 10-minute drive from the Mayan ruins of the same name and along that road are many beautiful resorts. But we would advise you to leave the road and spend the night in Palenque itself. If you do, choose the Canada neighborhood, a green oasis on a hill in the middle of Palenque. That is not only ideal if you are traveling with a rental car, also the ADO bus station is very conveniently located right next to Canada.
The neighborhood is perhaps a bit tourist-oriented, but above all it is wonderfully green and full of tasty places to eat. Recommended are especially Chivos and the popular Café Jade. During our time in Palenque there was always a line in front of restaurant Maya Canada, so that might just also be a top place.
We slept in hotel Maya Tulipanes Palenque, a great and affordable choice for this city. The rooms were spacious and had large, comfortable beds. There was also a small swimming pool with lounge beds. A great and comfortable hotel, but not spectacular. Yaxkin Hostel is a popular spot among backpackers with a smaller budget.
Tip: for a really good supermarket – with more than just chips and coke – you have to be at the Chedraui. They have a good bakery too, so perfect place to stock your lunch for that day.
Do you prefer to sleep outside the city? Then Hotel Villa Mercedes, Cabanas Kin Balam and Hotel al Aldea del Halach Huinic are good options. Slightly more budget? Then consider the beautiful Hotel Boutique Quinta Chanabnal. One last tip: at the end of that road, in front of the gateway to the Palenque National Park, you will find Don Muchos. The pizzas with a thin bottom were great.
The best trips from Palenque
Palenque is a perfect base to discover the green surroundings. Palenque is located on the border between the mountains of Chiapas and the less hilly coastal area. In short: here you will find the most beautiful waterfalls! Popular options are Agua Azul and Misol Ha. Less well known are the waterfalls of Roberto Barrios and Welib Ja.
We chose to visit a well-known and less well-known waterfall. Our favorite was without a doubt waterfall Welib Ja. We paid 20 pesos entrance per person (so converted 50 cents) and almost had the waterfall for ourselves. The water was ice cold, but Sebastiaan dared to go for a swim. I myself went no further than my waist.
Tip: the water from the small waterfall on which you can walk is a lot warmer!
Our second choice was the Agua Azul waterfall, a 1.5-hour drive from Palenque, a popular spot with Mexican tourists. Unfortunately, the waterfall was really not worth the 3-hour ride. The huge cascade waterfalls were absolutely beautiful, but it was so touristy. Already at the entrance it started: we were asked twice to buy a ticket, they both had the same ticket. The first time 25 pesos were asked and the second time 40 pesos. We refused the second time to pay again, but we don’t know which of the two was the scammer.
The waterfalls of Agua Azul are very long and there is a path along its entire edge. You can enter the water in three places: at the very beginning and twice at the end. Go to those further down the road, because there are far fewer people there. Be prepared for lots of intrusive sellers, as there are dozens, perhaps a hundred food stalls and shops along the path. With much higher prices than normal in Mexico. In short: it was not exactly a quiet, local experience to enjoy nature in peace.
Please note: do you want to follow the road after Agua Azul, towards Ocosingo (with the Tonina ruins) and San Cristobal? Then read carefully about the safety of this road! Angry locals and crooks are said to have started an uprising in this region and therefore the police and the government can no longer guarantee safety on this road. We read that travelers experienced the roadblocks as peaceful and did not mind involuntarily donating money to the poor people. For example, we would not experience the threat of machetes and damage of our rental car, so we decided not to visit San Cristobal. Also on the road to Agua Azul are children and women with ropes on the road hoping to force you to buy something from them. That’s pretty harmless and they just let you drive on, if they find you don’t want to stop.
In addition, you cannot skip a trip to the famous Mayan ruins in Palenque. Read in this blog why we were impressed by Palenque even after visiting six other Mayan cities, including 20 practical tips for your visit.