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  • Writer's pictureDave Jackson

How to visit Palenque Ruins | Is Palenque worth visiting?

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

So you are thinking what's the best way to visit Palenque ruins (Ruinas Palenque) and deciding whether it's worth doing a day trip from San Cristobal to Palenque ruins or spending the night.


Palenque ruins from above, temple of the Sun & Groupo Norte
Palenque ruins from above

 

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Is it worth visiting Palenque Ruins from San Cristóbal?


First things first, I would say it's probably not worth the trip to the ruins if you are planning to do it as a day trip from San Cristóbal. The day trips leave at 3:30 am and drive through areas which aren't advised to travel through (by the UK government as of April 2023) as the route is shorter that way. However , it still takes 5 hours each way, so you wouldn't return back to San Cristóbal until 10:30 pm!


The tours do normally stop at a couple of other places, such as Agua Azul, to try to break up the journey, but if your main aim is to see the Palenque ruins it will be a 19-hour day for 2 hours at the ruins!


If your Mexico itinerary involves travelling to Guatemala or travelling between San Cristóbal and the Yucatan peninsular (or vice versa), visiting Palenque should definitely be incorporated into your plan.


Visiting the Ruinas Palenque from Palenque


After arriving in Palenque on the overnight bus from San Cristóbal, we were lucky our room was ready so we checked in & had quick showers. We had been prepared though to just dump our bags at reception and head out smelly to make the most of our short time here. It's highly advisable to get to the Ruinas Palenque as early as possible due to it getting hotter as the day goes on. With this in mind, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and jumped on a collectivo.


How to get the bus to Palenque Ruins from Palenque


There are a couple of places you can jump on the bus to Palenque Ruins. The start of the line and the best place to jump on is 3a Pte. Nte between Primera Avenida Nte. Pte & 2a Avenida Nte. Pte. The reason why this is the best spot is it gives you the best chance of having a decent seat, you can jump on near the ADO bus terminal on the main road, however by this stage the collectivo could be quite full so the ride may not be quite as comfortable.


Another bonus, this is right around the corner from the accommodation and breakfast spot I recommend below!


The collectivo from Palenque to Ruinas Palenque should cost $25 MXN per person and take 15/20 minutes.


Groupo Norte - Palenque Ruins, Mexico
Groupo Norte - Palenque Ruins, Mexico

How much does it cost to visit Palenque Ruins?


Ignoring the collectivo to and from the ruins, the cost of entry is split into two fees;

The national park fee (CONANP) - $104.16 MXN per person

The Cultura (Ruins entry feel) - $90 MXN


If you decide to take a guided tour there are a couple of options;

The short tour, 1 hour which is the through the ruins only - prices quoted are $1,500MXN

Or

Ruins + jungle tour, 2 hours - $2,300 MXN


Less than 10% of the ruins have been excavated, and so the jungle section is only accessible with a guide.


How long is needed to visit the Palenque Ruins?


The answer to this greatly depends on whether you are doing a tour or not. If you are doing the longer tour with the jungle, 3/4 hours will be probably be needed. We decided against a tour, in which case 2 hours was plenty to see both the ruins and the museum.


Palenque Ruins' opening hours


The ruins themselves are open between 8:30 am and 5 pm, Monday to Sunday, with the last entry being at 4 pm. I would advise getting there as early as possible as the day trippers aren't there first thing so it will be easier for taking photos and it will be cooler earlier in the morning too.


As for the museum, the museum is open Tuesday to Sunday 9 am - 4 pm. If you can avoid visiting the ruins on a Monday it will be best as you'd miss out on the museum, however, if the only day you can go is a Monday, still go then as the ruins are the main attraction!


History of Palenque Ruins


Palenque is one of the most important Mayan ruins of Mesoamerica from the classic period that ran from 250 to 900 AD. Palenque was the capital during a powerful dynasty which ruled over areas known today as Chiapas & Tobasco. The origninal name of Palenque was Lakamha & the area ruled over was y known as B'aakal (bone).


Palenque Ruins' original name was 'Lakamha'. There was a small village on the site dating back to 150 BC, however, the first stone buildings weren't started until 250 AD. The larger more impressive structures weren't built until several hundred years later between 600-900AD.


Palenque reached great power between 615 and 783AD, this is when the most intense building activity took place. The main palace was started during the rule of K'inichJanahb' Pakal, however, the famous observation tower was built by his ancestors in eighth century AD.


The three tier Temple of the Sun was constructed by Pakal II and B'ahlam Kan K'inich and was decicated to the god 'Gili'. You can clearly see the preserved face of the Jaguar god of the underworld which is closely related to Gili. There is a shrine inside with a sun panel with jaguar like attributes which is thought to commemorate the birth of Lord Serpent-Jaguar II.


Palenque was abandoned towards the end of the classic period, this is thought to be due to high population density, it was thought that there were between 8,000 & 10,000 people living in Palenque in 750AD in around 2.2km2 (4 people per square meter!). This caused overexploitation of the surrounding natural resource. This contributed to a general crisis and a decline of political and economic order.


What are Palenque Ruins like?


Having visited a number of Mexican ruins (Chichén Itzá, Tulum and Teotihuacan) we really liked Palenque Ruins. Being surrounded by jungle with a constant chorus of howler monkeys & tropical birds adds to the mysterious feeling of this abandoned city.


Although the site is huge, as only 10% of it has been excavated and is open to the public, it doesn't take that long to explore. The jungle provides welcome shade you do not experience at Chichén Itzá and Teotihuacan so you can explore at your own pace. You are in the jungle so it is still humid.


Also, unlike at Chichén Itzá, you are able to climb a couple of the temples here giving a different perspective and some lovely views across the site.


However, I would have to say we both preferred the sunrise tour of Tikal, but that it not to say you can't do both!



What to take with you to Palenque Ruins


Water - At least a litre per person I would say. It's good to drink plenty of water when it is hot and humid!


Sun hat - Although there is a fair amount of shade at the ruins (especially compared to Chichén Itzá and Teotihuacan) it's a good idea to wear a hat to protect your head, especially if you are follically challenged like me!


Sun cream - As above, there is shade, but consider a high-factor sun cream especially if you are fair-skinned.


Insect repellent - We visited in the dry season so there weren't many around, but on other reviews there are a number of comments about being plagued by mosquitoes in the rainy season. It's best to pack mosquito repellent containing deet for this part of the world!


Comfy shoes - We wore trainers but realistically we would have been fine in flip-flops. If you are a little unsteady in flip-flops maybe steer clear as a few of the staircases are steep with not much foot space.


Also, if you are heading into the jungle, it's probably best to steer clear of flip-flops.


Where to stay in Palenque


We opted to stay in a budget accommodation in Palenque which was really central, cheap & perfect for what we needed. It was called Hotel Naj Kin. The price was $403MXN & $50MXN extra for aircon. Perfect for a cheap night's accommodation. They even let us check in at 7 am when we arrived off the night bus, at no extra cost, as our room was free!


Where to eat in Palenque


We ate at a couple of nice spots in Palenque. Cafe Campo is where we went for breakfast both mornings; it was so tasty. Check out their omelette & chiquillas.


As for evening meals, we didn't feel like Mexican food when we were in Palenque & ended up opting for burgers. We went to La Lapita Vintage, where the burgers were tasty & the couple who owned the place were very friendly. Not the best burger we've ever had but pretty good.


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