A UNESCO World Heritage Site since the 1980s and one of Mexico’s most famous, treasured and beautiful cultural heritage sites, the magical Maya ruins of Palenque nestle in an atmospheric jungle setting of morning mists, growling howler monkeys and gossiping parrots.
While the Maya ruins may not be as large as those at Tikal, the site at Palenque is arguably the most beautiful of all the classical sites. Located in the Palenque National Park and surrounded by the Lacandon jungle, the ruins cover a huge area and have only been partially-excavated. Given this, we would recommend taking a guided tour to get the most from your visit.
In 500 A.D. Palenque was a powerful Maya city and the site is full of temples, elaborate palaces and step pyramids. The tallest and most majestic of them all is the Temple of Inscriptions, dating back to the 7th century, where the tomb of the Maya King Pakal was discovered intact by archaeologists around 50 years ago. Other highlights include The Palace, a maze of corridors and rooms and the Temple of the Sun, which has a well-preserved inner temple shrine and was part of the complex known as the Temple of the Cross, a significant pyramid comprising three different temples. Also, nearby are Maya ruins at Yaxchilan, where you can climb the steps of the Great Acropolis and Bonampak, dating back to the 5th century and famous for its well-preserved frescoes depicting Maya court rituals, human sacrifice and traditional costumes.
After exploring the ruins, cool off in the refreshing bright blue waterfalls of Agul Azul or splash around in the waterfalls at Misol-Ha, which has an impressive long drop cascade with a swimming hole where you can cool off.
There is a small airport at Palenque with a flight time of one-hour 25-minutes to Mexico City, or the site is around a five-hour drive from San Cristobal.