Half-hidden in the jungle lies the ancient Mayan city of Palenque. A visit is definitely a must during your trip through Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico. In this blog we will tell you exactly why we were so impressed by these ruins and we give you no less than 20 practical tips for your visit!
Why is Palenque a must do?
Although we had already visited six Mayan ruins, we also wanted to go to Palenque. Why? It is one of the largest and best restored Mayan cities in Mexico. The complex is again completely different than what we visited before.
Some of the buildings have been neatly restored and the area around it has been cleared to get a good impression of the old city. But a number of ruins still lie in a hilly jungle with monkeys, tropical birds and cats. And we haven’t even talked about the waterfall yet! The jungle trail not only leads past ancient ruins, but also a large waterfall. Don’t miss the viewpoint and the rope bridge for the best views of the waterfall!
Our fascination for Palenque began to grow when we immersed ourselves in the ancient Mayan culture. Did you know that this place has led to unique breakthroughs in Mayan archeology? In Palenque you can find a lot of inscriptions, with the Temple of the Inscriptions as the highlight. On the basis of these Mayan writings, archaeologists finally managed to decipher the Mayan script! Knowing more? Before you visit Palenque, watch the documentary Cracking the Maya Code, which you can watch on YouTube for free.
And have you always wanted to see a Mayan temple inside? We certainly did and that could finally happen here.
20 practical tips for your visit
# 1 Palenque is close to the modern city of Palenque. Buses run regularly from the modern city, but also many organized tours to the ruins. With a rental car it is less than 10 minutes.
# 2 You can find the nicest places to sleep in Palenque along that road or in the green Cañada neighborhood. We slept in Cañada ourselves and found that a lovely place with nice eateries in a green environment.
# 3 Be ahead of the crowds and go to Palenque as early as possible. So right with opening time at 8 a.m. in the morning. Even make sure that you arrive a little earlier, because there is usually already a (small) line. Later in the morning it gets (even) much busier.
# 4 The entrance to the national park costs 37 pesos and you pay at the entrance. Near the ruins – all the way at the end of the motorway, on the hill – you buy a ticket for Palenque itself for 75 pesos.
# 5 At the ticket sale is a sign that you have to buy an extra ticket to be allowed to take photos. We have not seen anyone buy this ticket and have seen everyone taking pictures. We ourselves did this as well.
# 6 To be allowed to park at the entrance we were asked for 75 pesos for “security” of the car. We do not believe that this was really the parking fee, but we still paid for it. We did not want our car to be built in like other cars, nor were we waiting for any car damage.
# 7 Guides present themselves in the parking lot for 1,000 pesos. You can then choose a jungle tour to see the jungle and the animals, or a tour of the ruins.
# 8 Although we believe that the explanation of a guide really makes a place come alive, we do not find a guide in Palenque really necessary. We rarely saw so many clear and informative signs at temples.
# 9 Watch the documentary Cracking the Maya code on YouTube in advance, which we mentioned earlier. This also gives you a lot of background information about Palenque, among others.
# 10 Take a lot of deet, sunscreen and water with you. Mosquitoes and sun are abundant here.
# 11 Palenque is a real tourist destination. If you want to score souvenirs, this is the place. In some places in the complex it seemed more like a market than a historic attraction.
# 12 Download the map of this part of Mexico in the Maps.me app. Here you can see all the trails and jungle trails of Palenque offline, so you don’t get lost.
# 13 Don’t skip the jungle trail. You will then pass the waterfall that we have already mentioned. We also found the ruins covered with trees a beautiful image. This gives a bit more of an impression of how archaeologists once found Palenque.
# 14 There is a cool tomb in the Temple of the Inscriptions, but unfortunately you are no longer allowed to enter it. In the museum of Palenque you can see a replica of the huge tomb.
# 15 Immediately to the right of this temple is one that you can enter. This was the first time we could see a temple inside. It was warm, damp and small, but really a highlight.
# 16 Climb the palace anyway. Unlike all known pyramids, here you get a picture of the political and royal heart of a Mayan city state.
# 17 Study the interior walls of the palace well. The plaster is original and if you look closely, you can still see the old flower paintings.
# 18 Entrance to the Palenque Museum is included in your ticket. The museum is really a must! We rarely saw such a good museum at a Mayan complex. The museum has an impressive collection of items from Palenque itself, grouped by building where it was found.
# 19 Make sure you don’t miss the replica of the tomb from the Temple of Inscriptions in the museum. You immediately understand why this stone work of art is so large that it could not be taken out of the temple. We were very impressed.
# 20 Right next to the park entrance is Don Muchos, where good pizzas with thin bottoms are served.