Welcome to this Palenque, Mexico travel guide.
Located deep in the jungle in the state of Chiapas, Palenque is becoming a more popular destination, and for good reason.
The Mayan ruins found here are some of Central America’s best, with many travelers coming here with the sole purpose of seeing these.
In this guide, we’ll explore Palenque, the great things you can do here as well as my recommendations to make the most out of your trip!
Things to do in Palenque
Palenque is often considered as one of the best areas to get immersed in nature in Southern Mexico.
If you’ve recently arrived in San Cristobal then you must visit Palenque.
If you stay in the protected zone, where the ruins are found, you will be surrounded by exotic animals that make their presence known.
Make sure you bring your camera as Howler monkeys, Jaguars, rare birds are all located here.
Why Travel to Palenque?
The main reason to visit Palenque is the ruins. These Mayan ruins, which were known as Lakahama, date back to 226BC.
Unlike many other ruins in the country, these have been relatively untouched during the excavation process, meaning they’re surrounded by the same jungle that has flourished here for thousands of years!
The other great reason to visit is for its ambiance, jungle hostels and “off the beaten path” vibe.
In that respect it can be tricky to get to Palenque, depending on where you are starting from (anyone who has visited will tell you).
How to get to Palenque
In reality, there are 3 different modes of transport you can take to get to Palenque.
Most people I spoke to were traveling from the Rivera Maya region (either Playa del Carmen or Tulum) and traveled via the ADO bus.
The journey takes around 10 hours so if you take this method I recommend you get the overnight bus.
You can also fly to Palenque from Cancun which I suggest you avoid (if you want to have a more adventurous experience).
Some of the views in the early evening and during the morning are epic to witness (even out the coach window).
For those who are fully-independent and have decided to rent a car in Mexico, you can always drive to Palanque from wherever you are.
However, I still believe the coach is the best idea if you want to get fully immersed in the whole experience and avoid complications on the road.
💡Smart Travel Tip
Buses from the Riviera Maya (Cancún, Playa del Carmen, etc) take well over 12 hours! The best option is to fly into Villahermosa via domestic flight from Cancún or Mexico City and take the two-hour bus.
Things to do in Palenque, Mexico
In this section, we will now explore some of the best things to do and see in this cool jungle town.
I’ve also included a couple of low-key gems that are not typically visited!
As mentioned, are a must during a visit to Palenque. There are lots of tours that cover the ruins.
It’s best to get on one of these as they also include a jungle walk. There are two slots that start early morning or late night where you descend into the jungle.
With a jungle tour, you get to experience the life of the jungle including listening to the loud shrieks of howler monkeys and the chance to spot a wild jaguar roaming around.
Entry prices are cheap, and the shade provided by the jungle should mean that you can visit anytime during the day and not get too hot. Be sure to visit Sombrillas Waterfalls whilst here also!
Temple of the Foliated Cross
Located close to the ruins, this modest yet inspiring temple is great to see and is good for those looking for photo ops.
The temple is actually one of three that was created by the ancient ruler of Palenque – K’inich Kan Bahlam.
Aluxes Ecological Park
Whilst I don’t usually head to zoos when abroad, this one really stood out for me.
As well as providing conservation practices for the jungle, they house some very exotic animals, including the black panther and bright colored toucans.
When you want some downtime from hiking and exploring, head to the quaint, small park in town.
As well as featuring a pretty small church, you’ll also find lots of souvenir shops and cheap eats around.
Whilst not as illustrious and grand as the markets found in Oaxaca, the two small markets in Palenque are great for an off day from your hikes and jungle tours.
based in the center of town has many small shops selling handicrafts and other Chiapan novelties.
For the foodies, head to Mercado Guadalupe, which is located Avenida Norte Poniente.
Lots of fresh fruit, meat, and you’ll also find small sit-downs and try out Chiapan specialties such as ningüijute and chispola.
Palenque, Mexico: Travel Tips
My top recommendation is to stay in the Palenque Archaeological Zone.
You’ll pay a very cheap fee to enter (A one-off and they will give you a wristband), and there are tonnes of accommodation options here.
I stayed at Cabañas Kin Balam Palenque, which is a great cheap stay and just a short colectivo ride to the ruins and jungle.
If you decide to go on a jungle walking tour or want to visit the ruins early before crowds arrive, its best to already be in the zone!
Another recommendation that I really enjoyed was a visit to Aluxes Park.
Whilst everyone may not want to, it’s fascinating to learn about some of the endangered animals in the region, and it costs just a few dollars.
Travel Insurance for Mexico
I always recommend backpackers and travelers (no matter who you are) use World Nomads Insurance for fully comprehensive cover.
If you are due to travel soon, you can get a Get A Free Quote by clicking the link or the image above and filling out your details – that way you’ll get instant cover from the exact date that you choose.
On many occasions World Nomads has provided me with reliable insurance cover for travel in Latin America and the rest of the world.
Best Time To Go To Palenque
Another important thing to note is the weather. The hottest temperatures are found between May – July, where temperatures are regularly between 90-93°F.
To avoid rain, traveling between November and May promises the best chance of a wet-free trip. I suggest heading between February and May.
Palenque, Mexico: Travel Guide
We have explored the mysterious and wild town of Palenque plus a visit to the ruins.
You should now know what to do and see around the town!
As mentioned earlier, be sure to stay in the Palenque Archaeological Zone to get the most authentic experience.
If backpacking Mexico remember to keep safe at all times and be prepared to surrender to nature and teeming wildlife that surrounds you!
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