Visiting Palenque: Land of Ruins, Waterfalls and Jungle

After our Yucatan road trip, we were looking to get off the beaten path and we were able to do that in Palenque and later, San Cristobal de las Casas. In this post, we will show you why it is worth the extra effort to visit Palenque, what to do in Palenque, and a great accommodation choice for your visit.

Chiapas was home to some of the most powerful city-states in Mayan civilization during the classical period (250-900 AD). What makes these ruins extra special is that the ruins were overgrown by the jungle and not discovered again until 1746. The ruins have been exposed for you to see and explore, but trees wind their way through buildings, very similar to the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. The jungle hangs heavy and moist over the ruins and you can hear the cries of howler monkeys and parrots in the National Park that surrounds the ruins. Aside from the ruins, the nearby area is home to some great waterfalls, wildlife spotting opportunities and makes a great spot to slow down for a few days. I would recommend a 2-night stay, but you could certainly stay longer.Chiapas was home to some of the most powerful city-states in Mayan civilization during the classical period (250-900 AD). What makes these ruins extra special is that the ruins were overgrown by the jungle and not discovered again until 1746. The ruins have been exposed for you to see and explore, but trees wind their way through buildings, very similar to the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. The jungle hangs heavy and moist over the ruins and you can hear the cries of howler monkeys and parrots in the National Park that surrounds the ruins. Aside from the ruins, the nearby area is home to some great waterfalls, wildlife spotting opportunities and makes a great spot to slow down for a few days. I would recommend a 2-night stay, but you could certainly stay longer.


The Palenque ruins are what brings most visitors to Palenque and is the headlining thing to do on your visit. The ruins see 1000 visitors a day, many of them in large tour buses. Our recommendation is to get there as the park is opening, which will also avoid the heat of the day. There are hundreds of ruined buildings, but only the central area has been excavated.As you enter, the jungle opens to reveal many of the major buildings of Palenque. You can climb most of the ruins giving you gorgeous views of the site. The walkways are lined with vendors selling Mayan handicrafts and there are some beautiful things to purchase. TIP: take a taxi or colectivo (mini-van bus) up to the upper entrance, see the major ruins and then walk downhill to the museum. Entrance to the museum is included and its air conditioning is a great escape from the heat. There are Mayan artifacts from the site, including Pakal’s sarcophagus (a copy) with signage in English and Spanish.