How to get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque
Palenque is a top destination for archaeology and Mayan history lovers. Its main attraction is the complex of ruins located just 10 minutes from the town.
These ruins are the second most visited in the country as they are some of the largest and well-preserved in Mexico. The complex dates back to 226 BC and is well hidden in the rainforest, giving you an Indiana Jones feel. Some even prefer them to Chichen Itza as you’re also able to climb on these ruins!
Aside from the ruins, you can visit a number of waterfalls and lagoons in Palenque. There are tours available from the town that cover two waterfalls, Misol-Ha and Agua Azul. Both are incredibly impressive and a welcome relief from the heat. Catazaja Lagoons is also the perfect place to spend the day relaxing whilst enjoying the beauty of nature surrounding you.
New to Palenque? Our compact Palenque guide shows you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Palenque!
2 ways to get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque
The most popular ways to travel the 220 km (136 miles) from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque are an 8-hour-45 minute bus or a 6-hour taxi. A bus ticket only costs 418 MXN ($22), whilst a taxi costs around 3,400 MXN ($180).
The advantage of taking the bus is that it’s significantly cheaper and you have a choice to take an overnight trip. This means you won’t spend a whole day travelling and you can save some money on accommodation too. Bus fares start from 418 MXN ($22) and travel time is about 9 hours.
Even though it’s a long journey, taxis are still available for a reasonable price as both destinations are within the same state, Chiapas. Taxi rates start from 3,400 MXN ($180) when you take the route via Ocosingo. But as this can be risky, we recommend taking the longer (and a bit more expensive) route via Villahermosa.
One of the taxi companies we can recommend is Taxi Seguro San Cristobal, an authorised company from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque.
Road Safety from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque
San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque are two of the most famous destinations in Mexico and have a good safety record.
However, there have been some issues regarding the roads in between these towns, particularly the one from San Cristobal to Ocosingo. This route is infamous for its roadblocks and has had several incidents of robbery.
Alternative route via Villahermosa
Thankfully, there is a good alternative route to get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque, which is via Villahermosa. This town is part of a different state (Tabasco) and is much safer.
The route via Villahermosa takes 7 to 9.5 hours, a bit longer than the direct route via Ocosingo, which is just 5 to 6 hours. But we think the security of the Villahermosa route is well worth the extra time.
To be clear, the road via Villahermosa also has occasional roadblocks. But they happen only once in a while, unlike the daily roadblocks in Ocosingo. Also, more cars and public transport operate on this route so if ever there is a roadblock, you most probably won’t be alone.
Buses take a safer route than taxis
Bus operators know the dangers of passing through Ocosingo, so they only take the route via Villahermosa. However, taxis and some other private transfers often prefer the shorter route via Ocosingo.
To be fair, taxi’s normally travel in a convoy as a form of defence. They travel on a short line of minivan shuttles and other private transfers for safety. Still, the convoy isn’t always effective, so we would recommend asking the taxi driver to take the route via Villahermosa instead.
Renting a car?
Driving on your own from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque is possible, but we don’t recommend it.
Buses and taxis are safer as you will have a local driver who knows the area very well. They are trained to take the safest roads and know how to act in case they drive into a roadblock.
But if you’ve already decided on renting your own car, then make sure you take the Villahermosa route. Study the route beforehand too. Some roads can be very bumpy and it always pays to be prepared!
If you drive via Ocosingo and in just one car (not as a part of a convoy), you’re an easy target.
Why we don’t recommend travelling via Ocosingo
Roadblocks. You will pass by some of the poorest towns in Mexico. The locals have created roadblocks to be like toll gates. For each roadblock, you will be asked to pay around 100 MXN ($5) to be able to pass. You will encounter several of them along the way. Prepare your 100-peso bills beforehand so you won’t have to get them from your wallet (or they might take your entire wallet too).
Robbery. This isn’t common, but there have been instances of robbery and you can easily be the next victim. It has even happened to a convoy of 2 cars before. The cars were stopped and everything of value was taken away. We don’t think it’s worth taking the chance when there is a safer route via Villahermosa.
Narco territory. The road between Ocosingo and San Cristobal is a well-known Narco territory, as well as the base of a few political and militant groups. Their enemy is the government, not the tourists. But that also means the government has very little control over this area.
No order. Because of low government presence, if anything happens to you, you are most likely on your own. Authorities may not be able to help you to take back your lost things or post a complaint for an injury. There have been incidents where the government even covered up crimes to stop any further investigation.
While speed is important, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. For guaranteed safety, always pick the Villahermosa route.
Itinerary from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque
There are 3 bus departures from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque every day – one at noon and two at night. These buses are operated by OCC, a sub-branch of Mexico’s most popular bus company (ADO). OCC offers first-class buses that include AC, reclining seats and a toilet.
Looking to save time as well as a night on accommodation? Then go for the night bus. If you are a good sleeper, you will be able to get a good night’s rest and wake up the next morning in your new destination.
The buses do make a few stops along the way where you’ll be able to stretch your legs and go to the toilet.
A bus ticket costs 418 MXN ($22) and the fastest bus can complete the journey in around 8 hours 45 minutes.
Bus schedule from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque
You can also get to the terminal by taxi that takes around 5 minutes from the city centre. Rates start at 40 MXN ($2.10).
Bus arrival in Palenque
Once you arrive in Palenque, the bus will drop you off at the central bus terminal. There are a number of accommodation options within a short walking distance from the bus station.
If you’re staying outside of town, or just don’t want to walk around with all your luggage, the best option is to take a taxi with rates starting from 60 MXN ($3.15).
San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque by Taxi
Duration: 6 hours
Cost: 3,400 MXN ($180)
Duration: 6 hours
Cost: 3,400 MXN ($180)
When taking a taxi or other forms of private transfers from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque, you can choose which way to take: via Villahermosa or via Ocosingo.
We won’t get tired of saying this: pick the Villahermosa route. It really is the more logical option especially if you’re travelling with kids.
The safer route via Villahermosa is more expensive
Because the way via Villahermosa is longer, it is also more expensive. Travel time is around 7 hours and rates start from around 5,000 MXN ($265) for a 3-seater car, about $80 pricier compared to a taxi ride through Ocosingo.
This is why many taxi operators and travel agencies choose to take the 6-hour Ocosingo route. There are roadblocks, but the drivers are trained to react and deal with the locals.
They also know the safest roads, so most of the time you can really complete the trip by just paying a few hundred pesos extra. But don’t expect to get any peace of mind throughout the journey.
Recommended taxi companies
We recommend travelling with Taxi Seguro San Cristobal for an affordable and secure ride. Taxi rates from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque via Ocosingo start from 3,400 MXN ($180). That’s for a car that can seat 3 people.
Travelling with more people? You can also get a 9-seater shuttle from Wayak for 7,130 MXN ($375).
Note that you can always ask taxi operators to take you via Villahermosa for an additional cost (which we think is worth every penny). If time and budget are more important to you, make sure to be very prepared when taking the way through Ocosingo.
Safety tips when travelling via Ocosingo
Pick a trusted taxi company. We don’t advise just hailing a taxi from the street. Pick one that receives good reviews or ask your hotel’s staff to help you find a trusted ride.
Ask if they’re travelling in a convoy. Many tour operators choose to travel on a convoy when taking on the Ocosingo route. Make sure that your taxi driver plans to join one. If he doesn’t, find another taxi.
Secure your valuables. Hide all gadgets and anything flashy (especially jewellery!).
Separate a few 100-peso bills ($5) from the rest of your cash. This way, you can easily pay for roadblocks without showing all your money. A wallet full of cash can be very tempting for the hungry locals.
Look brave, not fierce. One wrong look can piss off the locals. Try to look calm and confident, but be careful not to seem annoyed, aggressive, or even scared.
Travel during the day. No taxi will want to travel at night anyway. That would be like asking for trouble.
Our favourite places to stay in Palenque
Hotel Chan-Kah Resort Village – Treating Yourself
If you’re looking to treat yourself, Chan Kah Resort is one of the best places to do that in Palenque. You can give yourself the gift of relaxation without the expensive price tag. Plus, you can speed up the relaxation process with a delightful massage at the onsite spa facilities, or by enjoying a drink at their bar.
Possibly the best part, 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 thriving greenery. And you’ll find not only a swimming pool, but also a hot tub. You won’t ever want to leave, and don’t have to, 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’s location also makes your visit to Palenque ruins easy and convenient.
When you think of Palenque, the ruins surrounded by jungle immediately come to mind. Staying at Cabanas Bambutan is the perfect way to experience Palenque, surrounded by nothing but nature and wildlife.
Their bamboo-style buildings help you to feel connected to nature, whilst still providing ultimate comfort and a good nights sleep. Enjoy a drink at their onsite bar or chill out in the lush gardens.
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.
Ela is a storyteller, content producer, solo traveller and a mermaid-in-training. When she’s not in front of her laptop, you will find her barefoot and living her best tan on some island in the Philippines… Or exploring the depths of its seas as a budding freediver. An island girl at heart, she’ll be happy anywhere there is sea, sand, sun and coffee.
Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.