Ultimate guide to Palenque – Uncover the Cradle of Mayan Civilisation

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What we talk about in this article

Palenque is one of the most important archaeological Maya ruins in Mexico or maybe even the world. Located in the dense jungle of the Chiapas state, it is one of the most visited sites, right after Chichen Itza and Tulum ruins.

The ancient Maya site isn’t that big, but it contains some of the finest sculptures and carvings in Maya history. Therefore 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, where to stay in Palenque, and what other things to do in Palenque.

Keep reading to discover more about Palenque and how to visit these ruins.

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Palenque - Photo by K_tzito on Pixabay

Palenque Ruins

Palenque ruins are counted among the most important ruins of the Mayan culture in Central America. 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.

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.

Of course, like every other ancient structure, Palenque fuelled some thoughts about extraterrestrial occupancy. These thoughts are backed up with interesting articles and books.

The Palenque 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.

Alternative Palenque ruin tours

The Jungle tour of the hidden temples

This is an interesting extra to see the less touristy part of Palenque. Most tours also get to see wildlife during this trip.

During this tour, you get 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 mushroom tour

This tour speaks to the imagination as well. We didn’t take this tour, but we met people we booked it and we heard a lot about it. It’s all about the magic and seeing the colors of nature…

You can book both of these tours in El Panchan.

Ultimate guide to Palenque - Uncover the Cradle of Mayan Civilisation
Me admiring Misol-Ha Waterfall
Ultimate guide to Palenque - Uncover the Cradle of Mayan Civilisation
Ruin at Palenque

Things to do near Palenque

Palenque is located in the Chiapas region in Mexico. A trip to the Palenque 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.

Read this before booking organized Transportation


We encountered a little problem when booking an organized tour in El Panchan. We booked a tour to visit Misol Ha Waterfall and Agua Azul, to get transported afterward to San Cristobal de las Casas. Read about it in our post:

Travel scam – An unexpected roadblock

Would you rather book a guided tour to Palenque and other Mayan ruins in the area? Check the Mayan Discovery two week tour here!

Agua Azul
Agua Azul

Palenque Entrance Fee

In order to get into Palenque ruins, two entrance fees need to be paid.

First, you pay an entrance fee to get into Palenque 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 entrance fee to enter the archeological site. Anno 2017 this fee was 70 Mexican Pesos per person.

Palenque Tips

  • 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)
  • Organized transportation can combine visits to Misol Ha and Agua Azul in one day
Ultimate guide to Palenque - Uncover the Cradle of Mayan Civilisation
Waterfall at Palenque

How to get to Palenque

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 through Mexico by land to get more information about the different types of transportation.

ADO bus

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.


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.

Collectivo - minivan

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.

Ultimate guide to Palenque - Uncover the Cradle of Mayan Civilisation
Inge at Palenque
Ultimate guide to Palenque - Uncover the Cradle of Mayan Civilisation
Lobke at Palenque

Where to stay in Palenque

Palenque can also 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 in Palenque, just because the experience is worth it!

Palenque offers three accommodation possibilities:

  • You can stay in town
  • Find lodging on the road to the ruins
  • Stay in the jungle next to the ruins

We tried the first two options and they both worked fine.

TIP! When staying in the jungle at El Panchan Palenque, remember to take enough cash, because there are no ATMs at all and everything is to be paid in cash.

Spend the night in El Panchan Palenque

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. Most places can be booked upon arrival.

In El Panchan, the most popular choices are the campground Jungle Palace Palenque, who don’t take bookings online.

Margarita and Ed’s Cabanas is another option. We stayed in these cabins years ago and they were a basic and budget-friendly option.

Spend the night on the road to the ruins

In my opinion, this option is actually the best option, whether you’re traveling as a couple or alone. The road between Palenque town and the ruins has tons of beautiful accommodation options.

Casa Lakyum has a swimming pool and the place looks absolutely stunning! Casa Lakyum is a more budget-friendly option and it’s a lovely and romantic place for couples. It gets a fabulous rating and has the best value for your money in Palenque.

For budget travelers, Cabanas Kin Balam is a very popular choice. This place has private cabanas and dorms. On top of that, there’s a swimming pool! This lodging is located right in front of El Panchan, so you can easily get dinner and drinks in El Panchan Palenque in the evening!

For luxury lovers, Hotel Quinta Chanabnal is an extraordinary and romantic place to spend the night. There’s a swimming pool and that’s very much needed in this place! This hotel is not the cheapest option.

Hostel Palenque Backpacking

You can find hostel style lodging in El Panchan, as well as in town and different locations around Palenque ruins.

Casa Palenque Janaab is in Palenque town, close to the ADO bus terminal. There are dorm rooms and private rooms. Backpackers in Mexico love this place for various reasons! It’s centrally located and the prices are unbeatable for this location.

Cabanas Kin Balam is a great choice for backpackers who want to stay close to El Panchan. This place also has dorms and a swimming pool!

Casa Bambutan is located out of the city center and outside El Panchan, but it is highly appreciated by travelers. This budget-friendly accommodation has dorms and private rooms.

Spend the night in Palenque town

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.

Casa 5 B&B is a highly rated lodging in Palenque town. It’s great for budget travelers.

Hotel Chablis Palenque is a little more expensive, but it has a beautiful swimming pool and it’s still affordable!


LGBT Travel to Palenque

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.


When backpacking in Mexico or traveling to Mexico on a tropical holiday, you MUST visit Palenque! It’s just a magical experience, even without the mushroom tour!

Get your accommodation on the road between Palenque town and El Panchan. That’s just the best option!

Combine your visit with a trip to Aguas Azul en Misol Ha.

And more important! Let us know how your trip went!

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