Ultimate guide to Palenque
Palenque is one of the most important archaeological Maya sites in Mexico. Located in the Chiapas state, it is one of the most visited sites, after Chichen Itza and Tulum ruin. The site isn’t that big, but it contains some of the finest sculptures and carvings in Maya history and it has been a very important location to discover the Mayan culture and lifestyle. After its decline, the jungle has taken over the ruins. But now, a lot of the temples have been restored and they are open to the public. There are still a lot of structures that are hidden in lush vegetation, which you can also visit. A lot of travelers are wondering about how to visit the ruins, whether or not to spend a night and what other activities can be done in the region. Keep reading to discover more about Palenque.
How to get there and away
Palenque can be reached in different ways. The town of Palenque can be reached by air, bus, collectivo or taxi. We don’t recommend using a taxi unless you have a lot of money to spend. Check our post on how to travel Mexico by land to get more information about the different types of transportation.
ADO buses ride to the Palenque bus terminal multiple times per day. Depending on your departure location, you can either take a night bus or a day trip. ADO is an air-conditioned, comfortable and secure method to travel in Mexico, but it is a little expensive. If you’re on a budget, you might want to consider traveling second class or by collectivo. A taxi from the bus terminal to El Panchan costs around 70 pesos. You can also get a collectivo to El Panchan, which is a lot cheaper. To catch a collectivo, stand by the road that leads to the Zona Archeologica and raise your hand when one of the minivans passes by. They don’t have set stops and they will pick you up and drop you off anywhere you want.
Palenque Airport is an international airport that hosts multiple airlines like AeroMexico, American Airlines, and Delta. There is no ADO terminal at the airport. Most travelers take a taxi into town or to the El Panchan area. The ride from the airport to the town will take around 30 minutes and will set you back around 250 Mexican pesos. Find the cheapest flights to Palenque here.
Spending a night or not?
Palenque can easily be visited in one day if you don’t want to spend the night. Since there are a lot of bus options, you can choose whether or not you arrive in the morning or during the day. So if you take a night bus to Palenque, you can leave your bags in a locker at the bus station, go straight to the ruins and then get a bus back out. A lot of travelers choose this option and it’s good to know that this is possible. It’s actually pretty easy to do. We decided to stay one night and it set us back quite a lot of money. If you’re short on time or money, this might be the best way.
Where to spend the night
Palenque offers two accommodation possibilities. You can stay in town or stay in the jungle next to the ruins. We tried both and both are good options. When staying in the jungle at El Panchan, remember to take enough cash, because there are no ATMs at all and everything is to be paid in cash. We made the mistake to take just a little too little cash and ended up sharing plates because of the cash issue.
In town, there are ATMs and hostels accept credit cards. It is still easy to get to the ruins since there are plenty of taxis and collectivo lining up to accept your money to take you there. We don’t suggest taking a full tour of the ruins. The cheapest option is taking a collectivo and it’s is more than sufficient to get to the ruins.
How to visit the ruins without spending the night
Make sure to book a night bus that arrives in Palenque early. Buses arrive in the Palenque bus terminal, which is in the town. All ADO bus terminals have lockers or luggage storage possibilities since you won’t be dragging your bags through the ruins. From the bus terminal, you can easily get a taxi or collectivo to the ruins. Taxis will be waiting for you in front of the terminal and they are more expensive than collectivos. To catch a collectivo, you need to walk to the street that leads to the ruins and hail down one of the minibusses.
The other way around, it’s easy to get from the ruins to town. You might need to wait for a few minutes before a collectivo arrives or leaves. We were lucky to be able to catch one of the minibusses directly when we got out. But even if there are no buses at the time you get out, there will probably arrive one pretty soon. If you prefer taking a taxi, that’s also an option, but it will be more expensive.
Would you rather explore the Mayan ruins with a tour group?
El Panchan is a small jungle village, filled with jungle lodges and a few restaurants. The first restaurant you’ll encounter is called Don Muchos. It’s very popular and you can eat well here. At night, they usually have live music and entertainment. This place is excellent to spend some time and meet new friends!
There are also a lot of jungle lodges to be found in El Panchan. Some are cheaper than others and some are cleaner than others. Check the above link to find accommodation in El Panchan. If you don’t want to book in advance, there’s a good chance you can still find a bed once you get there.
Back in 2012, El Panchan used to be a hippie paradise where mushrooms and probably some other stuff ruled. When returning in 2017, we discovered the place grew out to be a tourist haven. The hippie vibe is definitely still there, but the free spirits roam next to the tourists who expect a different level of care.
Palenque ruins are counted among the most important ruins of the Mayan culture. The site appears to be much smaller than Tikal or Chichen Itza, but years ago a lot of new structures have been discovered in the jungle surrounding the current site. It’s possible to take an extra tour into the jungle to see temples and structures that haven’t been fully excavated. We didn’t take this tour, but if you’re into Mayan history, this tour is probably very worthy of your time. The ruins also include beautiful falls or Cataratas. We stayed to watch these for a long time, dreaming about how wonderful it would have been to swim the fresh pools.
Palenque ruins have been an important site for history. Even though the site is smaller than many others, the architecture is different and a lot of new information has been found on these grounds.
If you’re interested in the history and meaning of Palenque ruins and artifacts this article can lead you to further discoveries.
In order to get into Palenque ruins, two fees need to be paid. First, you pay an entrance fee to get into the National Park. Anno 2017 this fee was 32 Mexican Pesos per person. After paying this fee, the collectivo will take you into the park to the entrance of the actual ruins. There you will have to pay another fee to enter. Anno 2017 this fee was 70 Mexican Pesos per person.
Other nearby activities
Palenque is located in the Chiapas region in Mexico. A trip to the ruins can easily be followed up by some other stops in the area. We visited Misol Ha Falls and Agua Azul en route to San Cristobal Las Casas in the days following to our Palenque visit. When traveling to Yucatan, Merida and Chichen Itza are great stopovers. Check out the other natural beauty in Mexico.
Are you an LGBT traveler and curious about how LGBT friendly Mexico really is?
We didn’t encounter any trouble at all when traveling in Mexico or Palenque. We booked a private cabin with a double bed and enjoyed our stay a lot. I wouldn’t worry too much about traveling to Palenque as LGBT.
Good to know
- Temperatures in Palenque can rise to 35 degrees Celcius and more. Be prepared!
- El Panchan has no ATMs
- You have to pay twice to get into the ruins
- Palenque can be visited independently
- Don’t forget to search for the waterfalls. They’re magnificent!
- You can book mushroom tours in Palenque (El Panchan)
- You can book jungle tours in Palenque (El Panchan)
- Organised transportation can combine visits to Misol Ha and Agua Azul in one day
Read this before booking organized transportation
We decided to use our last pesos to book a transportation tour to San Cristobal las Casas. This tour took a shorter route than the ADO bus and would take us to two stunning natural sites en route: Misol Ha and Agua Azul. Did it sound to good to be true? Maybe! Did we wonder why the ADO bus took such a big detour? Yes! But we wanted to see the two natural sites and decided to book the tour anyway. After a few typical Mexican picks up delays, we finally boarded a minivan and were on our way to the first stop: Misol Ha. This visit was awesome and we would recommend everyone to visit these falls. It wasn’t until after we visited, that the driver took some time to mention that the road to San Cristobal appeared to be blocked. He made it seem as if this was news, fresh from the press. Of course, it wasn’t. The road had been blocked for months and every local knew about it. The driver told us about our options: we could go back to Palenque after the next stop or we could make our own way to San Cristobal. We didn’t need much time to decide since we love traveling on our own and finding our way. We decided to find our way to San Cristobal and got a small refund on the price of our tour. So after the second stop in Agua Azul, we got into a collective to Ocosingo. We had to walk past the roadblock in order to continue our journey and arrived in San Cristobal around 11 at night.
When booking organized transportation from Palenque to San Cristobal, remember that you will probably need to find your own way or return to Palenque to get an ADO bus that will make a detour past the roadblock.
Would you rather book a guided tour to Palenque and other Mayan ruins in the area? This sublime G Adventures tour has a little of everything. Check the Mayan Discovery two week tour here!