If you’ve heard about Palenque before, it’s probably because of its remarkable ruins. The town itself, small but bustling, is situated in the state of Chiapas, in the south of Mexico.
Unsurprisingly, the main draw to this jungle city is the Palenque ruins or Zona Arqueológica Palenque. The city, which flourished in the 7th century, was considered by the Maya to be just as important as Chichen Itza and Tikal. Some travellers argue that these ruins are actually better than Chichen Itza because you can climb the pyramids.
If you’re visiting Palenque soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which area to stay in, where to find the best restaurants and how to get around this jungle town in Mexico.
Is Palenque worth visiting?
Palenque ruins alone are enough reason to make the journey to Palenque. They’re unforgettable.
But don’t let the ruins steal the limelight. Palenque has plenty of other things to offer. The town is a great jumping-off point for day trips and a nice stop on your way to 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!
How many days should you spend in Palenque?
An ideal itinerary for your time in Palenque is spending one day visiting the ruins and the other day visiting the waterfalls. Staying two nights should be enough for these activities, before continuing your journey to San Cristobal or to Bacalar on the Yucatan peninsula.
To make the most of your time in Palenque, we’ve put together a list of the top things to do in Palenque.
Where to stay in Palenque
Palenque is a reasonably small and condensed city, with just two options on where to stay — in Palenque town or close to the ruins, more in the jungle.
Location #1: Palenque Town — close to the bus station and restaurants
If you’re looking for convenience, then we recommend staying within the actual town of Palenque, rather than further out into the jungle. If you’re arriving or leaving by bus, you’ll be closer to the ADO bus station, saving time and money on taxis.
Even though staying further out into the jungle may put you closer to Palenque ruins, it’s still easy to get to the ruins from the town. There’s a colectivo that can pick you up from the ADO bus station for just 25 MXN ($1.50) and bring you there in only 20 minutes.
The added bonus of staying in this area is that there are plenty of restaurants and quaint cafes within walking distance of most accommodations.
Accommodation in Palenque Town
You won’t struggle for accommodation in Palenque Town. There are a number of cute Airbnbs, homestays and hostels. As a result of not being as touristy, Palenque also offers a number of relatively cheap but really nice hotels. You can indulge in a bit of luxury without having to splash the cash.
Location #2: El Resbalon — close to the ruins in the jungle
Some travellers choose to stay here in order to be closer to the ruins and to enjoy the gorgeous views and tranquillity (although the howler monkeys might keep you up at night!).
Accommodation in El Resbalon
You can score a night at a jungle retreat at pretty low prices. There are a number of 4- and 5-star hotels and resorts for $50-100 per night.
If you dream about spending the day lounging by the pool surrounded by jungle, a hotel like La Aldea del Halach Huinic will be one of the best options in the area. And trust us, you’ll need a pool. Palenque is HOT!
Where to eat in Palenque
Overall, Palenque has a pretty good food scene with a variety of options and breakfast for low prices.
There are lots of restaurants and cafes offering breakfast for around 100 MXN ($5.90). These usually include coffee, juice, bread and jam, plus an egg dish such as an omelette or huevos rancheros. It’s pretty much a breakfast banquet!
Cafe Jade — the winner of breakfast banquets
Set along a jungle-lined road within Palenque Town is Cafe Jade. If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast to set you up for the day, then head here.
They provide the combination we’ve described above and they do it well. The juice is fresh, the coffee is delicious and the portion sizes are huge!
Restaurante Bajlum — discover delicious Mayan cuisine
To get a taste of what the food in this area was like hundreds of years ago, don’t miss Baljum. The owners of Restaurante Bajlum have spent over 10 years researching the intricacies of authentic Mayan cuisine. It’s not just about enjoying the food, you’ll also get to learn about a nearly lost cuisine.
The restaurant only seats 20 people, so best to make a reservation.
Pizza Express — great cheap pizza by the bus station
Situated on the main road near the bus station is a tiny restaurant called Pizza Express. If you’re looking for a dining experience, this isn’t the place.
What Pizza Express does well is making delicious pizza with a wide selection of toppings, plus mouth-watering garlic bread! You can eat in or take away. Perfect if you’re heading to the bus station or have just arrived from a long journey.
Also read: Top 5 Things To Do in Palenque
How to get around Palenque
Palenque is a relatively small town and great to explore on foot. The perfect way to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle.
Colectivos are essentially Mexico’s version of a bus service, mainly used by locals. They are usually white minivans that are a cheap way of getting around.
Colectivos tend to advertise some of their destinations, but if in doubt, flag it down and ask. If it’s not going exactly where you want it to, you can just use it to go in the general direction that you want.
An easy and cheap way to get to Palenque ruins is by colectivo. You can flag them down from outside the ADO bus station in town. Plenty of colectivos will drive past you and will have a sign on their dashboard saying ‘ruinas’. The journey should take around 20 minutes and cost 25 MXN ($1.50).
There are plenty of taxis roaming around that can easily be flagged down from the street. Most destinations are likely to be only a short distance away so taxi fares should be relatively cheap.
Expect to pay between 40-100 pesos for short taxi rides and around 200-250 when coming from the airport.
We’ve mentioned in the top things to do in Palenque that there are a number of day trips in the surrounding area. If you want the freedom to explore, you may be considering renting a car. Is it a good option?
Well, large car rental companies don’t operate in Palenque, so you’ll either have to rent a car from a local company or pick it up from the much bigger city of Villahermosa.
Renting a car from a local company does come with some risks because it can be harder to prove the reliability of the company. And Villahermosa is 2 hours away so picking up the car from there may not be that practical either. Cars can be hired for $17 a day. But then again, day trips from Palenque are relatively cheap too.
How to get to Palenque
|from 735 MXN ($43)
|Bacalar to Palenque
|from 1,030 MXN ($60)
|Merida to Palenque
|San Cristobal de las Casas
|from 420 MXN ($25)
|San Cristobal to Palenque
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, you’re almost ready for your adventure in Palenque. The next step is to create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of things to do in Palenque. Simply choose your favourite activities and places to visit, and you’re all set to make lasting memories 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.
- Bungalow-style rooms
- Situated within the jungle
- Spa facilities
- Large swimming pools
Double rooms start from $80 per night
Hotel Chablis Palenque - Mid Range
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.
- 15 minutes from Palenque ruins
- Close to the bus station
- On-site restaurant
- Outdoor swimming pool and hot tub
Double rooms between $40-$80 per night
Cabañas Bambután - Budget Friendly
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.
- Unique accommodation
- Friendly and helpful staff
- Onsite bar
- Surrounded by nature
Double rooms start from $15-40 per night
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