Published On: Mon, Jun 16th, 2014

Palenque, an ideal Destination for a Summer Vacation

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Palenque is a city and municipality located in the Southern state of Chiapas, Mexico. The city was named almost 200 years before the famous nearby Mayan ruins were discovered in the 18th century.

There’s evidence of farming at Palenque as far back as 100 B.C., but the Maya Classic period, when the civilization flourished, was between about A.D. 200 and 900. Mayan scribes recorded reams of information in well-preserved coded glyphs carved into lintels or affixed to their temples with stucco, chronicling a detailed history of Palenque’s golden age — though precious little about its fall.

The ancient Mayan site of Palenque was unknown to the Spanish when they founded the town, but since its discovery in 1740 by Father Antonio Solís, it has been important to the city and municipality both culturally and economically.

Palenque made international news in the early 1950s, thanks to an unprecedented discovery by Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier. He was excavating a temple buried deep in the rain forest when he removed a stone slab from the floor and discovered a secret staircase, packed with rubble and leading down into the heart of the pyramid.

The tomb of Mayan Emperor Pakal

The tomb of Mayan Emperor Pakal

Palenque always seemed painfully out of reach, hours by bus from the nearest town. But even Chiapas’s winding mountainous roads haven’t stopped generations of archaeologists, history buffs and New Agers from making the pilgrimage to this extraordinary place, in an attempt to unlock the mysteries of the Maya.

But now, with the opening of the new airport, there’s a palpable sense of momentum in Palenque town: Roads are being repaved, new public art has been erected and the central square has been dug up as the city prepares to unveil a new and improved look for the expected influx of tourists.

Aeromexico, United Airlines, American Airlines and many others offer nonstop flights from major American cities to Mexico City. Interjet Airlines flies from Mexico City to the brand new Palenque Airport, with fares starting at about $220 USD round-trip.

If you are planning a trip to Palenque, take into consieration that many establishments in Chiapas accept only cash and often can’t make change for large bills; so please plan accordingly. ATMs are available in Palenque town.

A good piece of advice is to skip Palenque town and instead check into one of the many hotels and resorts, from budget to luxe, that line the three-mile road between the city and the entrance to the archaeological site.



El Panchán

Affordable lodging and camping at a funky jungle compound near the entrance to the ruins. Cabins from about $18, cash only.

Piedra de Agua

A tranquil boutique hotel whose 10 rooms feature private terraces with hot tubs and hammocks. Rooms from $95.


Don Muchos Restaurant & Bar

Pizza, pastas and nightly live entertainment at this “Italian Mexican” gathering spot in El Panchán. Entrees about $10. Cash only.

Restaurante Maya Cañada

Authentic regional fare in town, including chapay (heart of palm, about $5) and Palenque-style enchiladas bathed in Chiapanecan mole sauce (about $7).


Palenque Archaeological Zone & Museum

Entrance fee of about $4.50 includes admission to the museum. Many companies offer one- and two-day package tours of major archaeological sites (Palenque, Yaxchilán, Bonampak), waterfalls (Agua Azul, Misol-Ha) and an ecological reserve (from $10 not including admission fees to $85 inclusive).

Agua Azul

The Waterfalls of Agua Azul are located in the Municipality of Tumbalá, 69 kilometers South of Palenque by the road that leads towards San Cristóbal de las Casas.

This waterfalls consist of many cataracts following one after another, forming a sequence of cascades. The larger cataracts may be as high as 6 meters (20 feet) or so. Swimming is allowed under own risk.

Agua Azul

Agua Azul


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  1. Robert Martin says:

    Good article. I have visited many times but much prefer to stay in the center of Palenque. Many nice hotels at good rates and a good selection of restaurants . And a nice place for an evening stroll.

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