Palenque is in Chiapas, Mexico famous for the ruins of a Mayan city dating from about 600 to 800 CE. Set amidst thick trees, Palenque still evokes some of the wonder that the early Spanish visitors must have felt when they first came across the ruins. The pre-historic city and the national park have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Palenque is a medium-sized archaeological site, much smaller than Tikal or Copán, but it contains some of the finest sculpture, architecture, roof combs, and bas-relief carvings of the Mayan era.
The closest airport is Villahermosa, about two hours away by road. Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the airport for San Cristobal de las Casas is five to six hours away by bus. Both airports are well serviced with flights from Mexico City and other points in Mexico.
The easiest way to get to Palenque is by bus. There are many buses daily from San Cristobal de las Casas (five hours), Tuxtla Gutiérrez (six hours), Villahermosa (2.5 hours), Merida (8 hours), Campeche (5 hours), Cancún (13 hours). Daily (one or two buses) also ply from Mexico City (16 hours), Oaxaca (15 hours), Playa del Carmen (12 hours), and Tulum (12 hours).
It is also possible to get to Palenque from Flores in Guatemala by bus (6h, leaving Flores daily at 5am, US$35).
The ruins are about 6 km from the town of Palenque and minibuses run between the town and the "Ruinas" every 10 to 15 minutes (M$20) during the day. Flag one on Benito Juárez, on the way back, catch one at the main gate or near the museum.
- Archeological ruins
The village has a lovely, tree-sheltered zocalo where bands will play in the evening. Join the Villagers for a drink on the square.
You can get some Maya-style artwork from outdoor vendors who set up unobtrusively at the ruins.
Sleeping accommodation can be found either in the city of Palenque, or just outside the limits on the road to the national park.
- Mayabell Very near the ruins and has many options to stay, from hammocks to cabins inside the jungle. Showers, restaurant with live music and shows during the night, a big swimming pool and parking space, also for RV's.
- El Panchan. It is relatively near the ruins and has cabanas and small cabins and common sleeping areas with hammocks. A cabana with access to a common showers and bathrooms facility is M$80. The little Otulum river runs through the location.
- Jungle Palace (In El Panchan). Offers mixed budget accommodation from camping, dorms, and small cabañas all with shared bathroom. Showers have hot water. Dorms M$70, Camping M$30, Cabaña (for 4) from M$200.
- Margarita and Ed Cabañas (In El Panchan). Very friendly, clean, but not super cheap. They have icey cold air-conditioned rooms, a bare necessity after hiking through the ruins at Palenque during rainy (and pretty much all other) seasons. Private with A/C from US$30.
- Posada Na'Chan Ka'an, 2a. Avenida Sur Pte (Av. 20 de Noviembre) (In the city center at the corner where the colectivos for the ruins leave). Check-in: 24h, check-out: by 12.00. Very friendly, clean budget spot in the town of Palenque. Laundry, free internet and WIFI. Hot water (also in dorms). Baggage locker M$10/day. Dorms M$80, single M$250, double M$300, triple M$350.
Don Muchos is a great restaurant at El Panchan as well. Great stone-oven pizzas and live music. The stone-oven pizzas cost M$60 and are very good.