Mayan Ruins of Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Plaenque’s open jungle setting is one of the most picturesque of the Mayan ruins – tall towers in green pastures surrounded by massive jungle trees and mountains. The excavated site is smaller than Chichén Itzá or Uxmal but still takes a couple of hours to explore, climbing towers and winding up and down the hills.

Although Palenque is often listed as a favorite site (it’s a top sight in Lonely Planet’s “Yucatan Must Sees”) I found the architecture and sculpture less intriguing than either Chichán Itzá or Uxmal. I’m particularly fond of the geometric patterns of the Puuc style and I love the carvings of the Chaac rain god. Here at Palenque there is little sculpture in good condition. Most of what is accessible to visitors is on the Palace (el Palacio). The more realistic than stylized human figures are beautiful and very different from what you see at other sites. Unfortunately you can no longer climb the Temple of Inscriptions to view the sculptures at the top of the temple.

There are a number of jungle paths to explore if you are so inclined. I didn’t find anything of particular interest along these paths and they are totally skippable if you don’t feel like scampering up and down slick stone stairs.


Surrounded by mountains and tall trees the site is not well lit until later in the morning. It may even be better in the afternoon. In winter the north facing front of the Temple of Inscriptions may not be fully lit at all.

Highlights Include

The Temple of Inscriptions

The temple faces north and may not be lit in the winter.


The Patio de los Cautivos (Captives) has relief carvings on the east side of the main courtyard. There are also good vantage points of the Temple of Inscriptions from the higher levels of the Palace.

Group of the Crosses

While the main temple faces south it takes a while for the sun to climb over the mountains and trees. The groups has good examples of intact combs.

Ball Court

North Group

Jungle Walk to Murciélagos (bat) Group

Misol Há Waterfall near Palenque

This fun waterfall is a short drive (30 – 40 minutes depending on truck traffic) south of Palenque on the road to San Cristobal. The 100ft foot fall plunges in a deep pool ideal for swimming.

There is also a path that goes behind the waterfall to a cave. In mid-December there were few visitors at around noon on a Monday and almost no one swimming. The drive out here is also an excuse to see the winding jungle hills of the area that you don’t see much of on the drive in from Campeche.

With more time you can continue on to Agua Azul fall another hour south.

December 16, 2019

For links to all the posts in this series see the Yucatan Peninsula page.