If you’ve heard about Palenque before, it’s probably because of it’s remarkable ruins. The city itself is small but bustling, situated in the state of Chiapas, in the south of Mexico.
Unsurprisingly, the main draw to this jungle city are the Palenque ruins, or Zona Arqueológica Palenque. The ruins which flourished in the 7th century are considered by the Mayan religion to be just as important as Chichen Itza and Tikal.
Even better, some travellers argue that they’re actually better than Chichen Itza as you can climb on these ruins.
Don’t let the ruins steal the limelight though, Palenque has other things to offer. The city is a great jumping-off point for day trips and other destinations such as San Cristobal. Even better, just over an hour away, you’ll find Agua Azul and Misol-ha, two of the best waterfalls in Mexico!
If you’re visiting Palenque, it’s probably because you’ve heard about the Mayan Ruins that it’s home to.
It’s a medium sized site compared to the rest that began to flourish in the 7th century. The site features a number of temples, pyramids and palaces, all with beautiful designs and inscriptions.
After the decline of the Mayan cities, the jungle recaptured the ruins, but a great job has been done excavating and restoring them.
You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time as you follow the winding paths that take you around the India-style site.
How to visit Palenque’s ruins
Visiting the ruins is an easy task that can be done independently. The best way to reach the ruins is by colectivo. These can be found along the main road or you can wait outside the ADO bus station.
The colectivos will drive past and have a sign saying ‘ruinas’ on their dashboard. The journey takes just 20 minutes and costs 25 MXN ($1.20).
You can also get a taxi to the ruins for between 50-100 pesos.
When you arrive at the ruins you’ll have to pay 2 fees. One to enter the national park and another to enter the ruins. The total entrance fee adds up to 110 MXN ($5).
Due to Covid, only 300 people are allowed in the site at one time. These people are allowed to enter at two times, 8:30am and 12:30pm.
You’ll also have to stop in the colectivo at a sanitation point on the way to the ruins too.
To account for the loss in visitor numbers, the entrance price also seems to have increased. Expect to pay a total of 170 instead of 110 pesos to enter the ruins now.
Another gutting change due to Covid is that you can no longer climb the ruins, a major selling point that differentiated Palenque from the other ruins. Don’t let this put you off though. The ruins are definitely still worth visiting, and without the crowds it feels even more intimate and special.
#2 Make sure to visit Palenque’s museum
If you are already visiting Palenque’s ruins, you may as well visit Palenque Site Museum (Alberto Ruz Lhuillier).
You can find the museum a short hike down from the ruins. Follow the well-marked trail that begins near the bathrooms.
Inside the museum you’ll find around 234 objects from around Palenque that are showcased with detailed explanations, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of the Mayan city.
The entrance of this museum is already included in the entrance of Palenque’s Mayan ruins.
TIP: Check out this compact Palenque guide to show you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Palenque!
#3 Take a day trip to visit some beautiful waterfalls in Chiapas
You won’t want to miss out on the waterfalls around Palenque as they’re some of the best in Mexico!
The waterfalls can be visited both by car and Colectivo, but the easiest option is to join one of the day tours from Palenque (more on that later).
There are 3 to choose from; Agua Azul, Misol-ha and Roberto Barrios.
Agua Azul Waterfall
69km from Palenque is Agua Azul, a multi-tiered waterfall with a number of pools that are perfect for swimming. The waterfall gets its name from its vibrant blue colour, similar to the ocean colour in the Maldives.
Make sure to walk to the top of the waterfall, to the ‘mirador’, to really appreciate the grandeur and power of the waterfall.
Entrance to Agua Azul is 50 pesos.
Located 20km from Palenque you will find Misol-ha, a 35m tall single cascade waterfall. At its base you’ll find a plunge pool that’s perfect for swimming in.
At the site, there’s also a path that allows you to walk behind the waterfall. The spray from the waterfall here is very refreshing.
Entrance to Misol-ha is 30 pesos.
Roberto Barrios Waterfall
A 45 minute drive from Palenque is Roberto Barrios, another multi-layered waterfall similar to Agua Azul but not as bright blue.
This waterfall isn’t as popular as the other two, so you can escape the crowds and have a quieter experience here.
Entrance to Roberto Barrios costs 30 pesos too.
Booking a tour
Walking around Palenque, you’ll find many tour operators offering day tours to the waterfalls. These are an efficient way to see the waterfalls as everything is organised for you.
The most popular tour tends to be a 6-7 hour tour to Misol-ha and Agua Azul. You can book this tour online on Viator, for about $28, but it’s much cheaper to book it when you arrive. When booking the tour in Palenque, expect to pay around 300 MXN ($14.50) – 350 MXN ($17) for this tour.
It is also possible to visit the waterfalls independently, but by the time you add up the transportation costs and entrance fees it can actually work out more expensive. With a tour, everything is already organised for you too, so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy.
If you love animals and being surrounded by nature then Aluxes Eco Park can be a good way to spend the morning or afternoon.
Some of the animals you can see include crocodiles, jaguars, leopards, monkeys and parrots. The park rescues and rehabilitates animals that have been victims of cruelty and animal trafficking, so it’s not the regular zoo you might think of!
After planting 20,000 trees in the area, the park has begun to flourish and a new ecosystem has been created. Now the park is a beautiful place full of life and colour.
You can visit the eco park for 150 MXN ($7).
#5 Relax by the pool in a hotel
Palenque is a very hot and humid place, so we wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to escape the heat. The waterfalls are a great way to do this, but for a bit more luxury a pool may be a better option.
Within Palenque there are a number of hotels that have pools and sun loungers. A lot of them will let you use their pool as long as you purchase something from the bar or restaurant, a pretty good trade!
Hotel Maya Tulipanes Palenque is a great option for this. Entrance is free, their drinks are very reasonably priced and there’s not only a pool but a hot tub.
You’ll really feel like you’re treating yourself at this hotel, but without paying an extortionate price. You can speed up the relaxing process with a delightful massage at the onsite spa facilities or simply enjoy a drink at the bar.
As you splash around in the lagoon-style pools, you’ll be able to hear the monkeys cry in the jungle trees all around you. Alternatively, you can enjoy the jungle symphony whilst enjoying dinner in one of the two restaurants.
The central courtyard of the hotel truly feels like a magical oasis with its palm trees and flourishing greenery. In amongst these you’ll find not only a swimming pool, but also a hot tub. You won’t ever want to leave with their on-site restaurant that serves both delicious international and local dishes.
Located a short walk from the bus station, you won’t need to be dragging your luggage all around town. It also makes your visit to Palenque ruins super convenient.
The hotel owners steal the show here, making you feel at home straight away. The resident cats and dogs also add to the friendly atmosphere of the place. If you need any help with your visit to Palenque ruins, the owners will be more than happy to help.
Palenque can get pretty hot, which makes having a pool almost a necessity. Thankfully Casssa Vlanca has one for you to cool down in after your day of sight-seeing.