Palenque Attractions | Things to do in Palenque
You'll feel as if you've stepped back in time when you admire the beauty of Palenque's nature and fascinating pre-Hispanic architecture. The mysterious archeological sites located around Palenque are worth exploring many times over when you’re not enjoying the natural wonder of the area’s jungle, waterfalls and lakes.
Several tours run by expert guides depart from the city of Palenque. Make the most of your vacation when you visit the various attractions featured on these excursions. If you prefer, you can also explore these fascinating and memorable sites on your own, all you need is a map, a car and an adventurous spirit.
Palenque Archeological Site
The Palenque archeological site is one of the most fascinating in Mexico. Learn about ancient rites and myths as you explore the majestic Mayan architecture featured at the site. Located approximately 10 minutes away from the urban area, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the late twentieth century.
Famous for its well-preserved architectural beauty, the ruins have various sculptures and bas-reliefs. Believed to have been constructed in 1 A.D., the city was already a powerful capital in the area by the year 500, though by the time the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the sixteenth century, the city had already been abandoned.
The archeological site is approximately 4,500 acres in size and has around 1,400 structures, of which only 10% have been explored. It is known that the city had well-defined areas set around an administrative and ceremonial center, including residential, funeral and work areas.
Among the main buildings featured at the site is the Temple of the Inscriptions, which houses the tomb of King Pakal, the most important Mayan tomb ever discovered. The temple is also known for its sophisticated decoration and inscriptions of hieroglyphic texts and the Mayan calendar.
The museum is less than a mile away from the ruins themselves and houses pieces from different eras that were discovered during explorations of the site. These exhibited artifacts have been vital in understanding this enigmatic culture.
Bonampak Archeological Site
Located in the heart of the Lacondon Jungle, this archeological area is as mysterious and fascinating as any in the Mayan world. Famous for the paintings found within the buildings, the site’s name means “painted murals”. The murals painted within the three rooms of the Acropolis all seem to tell a one story of rulers, a battle, the torture of the captives and a victory celebration.
Yaxchilan Archeological Site
Yaxchilan is a monumental Mayan city that began as a small village more than two thousand years ago. To get there, you have to cross the largest river in Mexico and the longest in Central America: the Usumacinta. Yaxchilan is notable for its great number of stone sculptures, including steles, lintels and carvings of the ball players. Building 33 is home to a sculpture of a Mayan ruler and considered to be the most impressive structure of the Great Acropolis.
Agua Azul Waterfalls
Just over an hour away from Palenque, within the Chiapas jungle, you’ll find the Agua Azul Waterfalls. These beautiful cascades form natural pools with different shades of blue due to the flow of the Tulija River. Delight your senses with the bright green colors of the surrounding vegetation, stunning blue waters, the refreshing breeze and the sound of the water hitting the rocks below.
Take a trip to Lacanja Chansayab, located at the edge of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. Walk through the lushest jungle in Mexico, cross rivers and discover waterfalls and archeological sites that have been sheltered by natural surroundings that only a Lacandon person can take you through. Make the most of your opportunity to discover this fascinating indigenous community and enjoy an unparalleled experience.
Approximately 12.5 miles from Palenque is the Misol-Ha Waterfall, a beautiful 80 foot cascade ending in a refreshing pool of water that is perfect for swimming. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may wish to follow the path that leads to the back of the waterfall, where you’ll walk between calcareous rocks and smaller waterfalls until you reach the cave that is hidden behind the falls. With the help of a local guide and a lamp, you’ll easily be able explore this dark cavern.
Located just over 15 miles north of Palenque, this beautiful lagoon was formed by the overflow of rain waters running off the Usumacinta River. It's the perfect place to see manatees and otters, and a bass fishing tournament is held here each October.
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