Palenque is situated in the mountain state of Chiapas, the southern most state of Mexico. While Palenque is famous for its Mayan ruins, visitors to Palenque will not want to miss the other lesser-known attractions that are as scenic, beautiful, exotic, and exciting as the ruins are interesting. Visitors to Palenque could easily spend a few days in the Chiapas countryside visiting exotic waterfalls, cascades, rivers, caves, canyons, lagoon, and seeing extraordinary wildlife. These are all day trips that visitors could mix and match with each other or with the ruins – perhaps visiting the ruins in the heat of the day and another attraction later on.
Palenque would be a nice 2-3 day add-on to a longer vacation at one of the other major Mexican travel destinations. There is nothing hurried about Palenque. Visitors can enjoy the slow-paced, culture, taking a needed break from the hullabaloo of the large tourist city.
Things To Do In Palenque
Well, the Palenque Mayan ruins, of course.
Agua Azul – Beautiful, translucent blue waters pour from a rocky cliff into a broad pool of green water bordered by thick tropical vegetation. The cascading waters brings with it a mineral called calcium carbonate calcite, which for thousands of years has built up on the stones below creating flowstones (layered deposits of the calcium) Seasonally, a torrential rain gushes through nearby limestone mountain caves, dissolving the rock and carrying the calcium downstream. It’s then re-deposited as travertine (a hard white or light-colored limestone) onto the rocks. Over time, the deposits layer into extraordinary shapes that look like little frozen waterfalls.
When the flow over the falls is quite low, visitors will find a hidden treasure under the backside of the falls. Beneath the falls overhang a trail leads to a small cave that goes back about 325 yards to a waterfall inside the cave. Swimming in the surface pool is permitted during times of low flow.
Canyon Cruise – at nearby Chiapas de Corzo, visitors can take in a boat ride on the Grijalva River that flows within the Sumidero Canyon and is among the top vacation destinations in Chiapas. The tour goes 23 miles north to the Chicoasen hydroelectric dam. The scenery is rather ordinary until you pass under the bridge, after that things start to get interesting.
The bridge marks the entrance of the old gorge that the Grijalva river flowed through before the dam was built. These days the true canyon begins beyond the bridge and the walls eventually rise to a staggering 2640 feet above you. The river was not navigable prior to the construction of the dam because of swift rapids and waterfalls in the narrowest parts of the passage.
Canyon layers are peppered with little caves that drain water during heavy rains. Various birds nest here and the boat captain will point out migratory birds whenever he sees them. He will also point out a section of cliff known as the “Christmas Tree”. During heavy rains, water cascades down this section of cliff face from a drainage cave just above, and the partial evaporation of rainwater leaves bits of calcium on the rock. Over a millennia of time, the deposited calcium has built up, forming terraces in the shape of a Christmas tree.
Visit San Cristobal (aka San Cris) - The central zocalo (Plaza Civica) and streets of San Cristobal are full of shops, restaurants and Mexican color. The zocalo is the heart of town, with the main cathedral adjacent to it. Street performers, balloon vendors, families, couples and kids stroll sidewalks or sit on park benches enjoying the scene. Extending out from the zocalo are quaint cafes, craft shops, artisans, trendy art shops, museums, bars and live music.
Casa Na Bolom - One of the most popular places to visit is Casa Na Bolom (House of the Jaguar). An historic monument originally built to house a religious seminary in 1898; the interactive complex houses a museum, cultural center, hotel, restaurant, and artisan center.
How To Get To Palenque
By Plane -- Tuxtla Gutierrez is the main international airport in Chiapas. Located 18 miles outside the city, it receives flights to Chiapas from Mexican cities.
By Bus – From Tuxtla airport take a taxi to the bus station and catch a bus to Palenque. Smaller companies also offer first-class service to Tuxtla.
Visitor Information –A tourism office in downtown Palenque is located on a corner of its main square. However, there is no phone at the downtown office. To get info over the phone, call the tourism office's business office (tel. 916/345-0356).