How to Visit Palenque (Chiapas): The Definitive Guide


Palenque: The Ultimate Guide to the Maya Ruins

Palenque, a national park and a UNESCO world heritage site, is one of the highlights of Chiapas.

I visited this region a few years ago, but I missed Palenque then. The truth is: Mexico is huge and you need time to enjoy a road trip through Chiapas.

So this time, after leaving Bacalar, we decided to stop at Palenque before heading to San Cristobal de las Casas.

The experience was amazing, because besides the archaeological site, which is fascinating, I also discovered other wonderful attractions in Palenque that I didn’t know about!

To help you plan your visit, I have created this comprehensive guide to Palenque with all the practical information you need to explore the city of Palenque, the archaeological site, and surrounding area.

I will tell you how to get there by car, by public transportation, or by tour, and I will share my experience on the road between Ocosingo and Palenque, a route that you may have heard about.

I have also included my best restaurant and hotel recommendations for all budgets.

So, what are the best things to do in Palenque? Where to stay?

Book your Tickets for Palenque

If you want to book your tour to Palenque now, without reading the article (although I advise you to do so, to learn more about the archaeological site and its practical information!), you can click on the ticket that suits you:

  • Palenque Tour with one-way transportation – the day begins in San Cristobal de las Casas and ends in Palenque City
  • Tour to Palenque with round-trip transportation to San Cristobal de las Casas

1. The archaeological site of Palenque

Palenque is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Mexico!

The ancient city of Palenque was founded in the 1st century B.C., but most of the buildings that you can admire today date from the 5th to the 8th centuries.

It was one of the most advanced cities of the Maya civilization, along with Calakmul and Tikal (Guatemala). It had a complex social and religious system.

It is famous for its architecture and, especially, for its hieroglyphs, which reveal a lot of information about the city’s calendar, history, rituals, and more.

jeroglíficos palenque
hieroglyphs palenque

Structures to see in Palenque

The archaeological site covers only 10% of the city’s total area, but it already offers many impressive sights.

Here are some of its main attractions:

Temple of the Inscriptions

This is the most famous and photographed temple in Palenque. It is very close to the entrance, but unfortunately it is closed to visitors.

Inside, they found the tomb of King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, also known as Pakal the Great, along with many offerings (jewelry, precious objects, etc.).

If you are in Mexico City, I recommend you visit the Museum of Anthropology.

It is a huge and absolutely amazing museum, where you can see a replica of King Pakal’s tomb with his famous jade mask. It is worth a visit!

Templo de las Inscripciones Palenque
Templo de las Inscripciones Palenque

The Palace

This complex is the largest in Palenque, and it probably functioned as a center for politics, administration, and even residence for the elite.

Its four-story tower is easy to recognize, but it also has courtyards, underground passages, stairs, and more.

palacio palenque
palacio palenque

The Cross Group

From the top of the Temple of the Cross, you can enjoy a stunning view: on the left, you can admire the lush and beautiful vegetation, as well as the Temple of the Foliated Cross. On the right, you can see the Temple of the Sun and Temple XIV, with the Palace in the background.

This is the perfect spot for photos!

templo de la cruz palenque
temple of the Cross Palenque
templo del sol palenque
temple of the sun Palenque
templo sol palenque
Temple of the Sun, Palenque

The North Group

After passing behind the Cross Group and along the Palace, we arrive the ball court and the North Group.

This group has five temples, the most important one being the Temple of the Count.

Fun Fact
The Temple of the Count got its name from Jean-Frédéric Waldeck, a flamboyant French explorer and cartographer who claimed to be a “count”.
grupo norte palenque chiapas
grupo norte palenque chiapas

The jungle trail

We discovered this trail by chance, when one of our friends had some stomach troubles (those things that happen on a trip😅) and had to run to the restroom.

I was waiting for her outside and saw a small handwritten sign that said “waterfalls” with an arrow. But the arrow seemed to point to a service area, so I ignored it.

But since the whole family went to the restroom and I was tired of waiting, I asked two workers if we could follow that trail. They said, “Yes, it leads to the waterfall”.

So instead of going back to the exit, we decided to take the trail to end our visit to Palenque, and it was a great idea, because we loved it as much as the ruins!

The trail let us explore the jungle where there are several structures covered with vegetation and huge trees.

From above, the howler monkeys announce their presence with their loud howls, which are frightening at first, but then simply fascinating.

selva de palenque
palenque jungle

naturaleza palenque chiapas

The Museum of Palenque

The Alberto Ruz Lhuillier Museum is named after the French-Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier, who uncovered the tomb of King Pakal in the Temple of the Inscriptions in 1952.

It is one of the most important museums dedicated to the Maya culture with its collection of more than 200 artifacts found in different areas of Palenque.

It has six rooms displaying various aspects of the city (warfare, gods, daily life, political life) as well as tombs, with a replica of King Pakal’s tomb. You should not miss this museum in Palenque!

  • The entrance ticket to the archaeological site includes admission to the museum, but remember that the museum is closed on Mondays.

My opinion about Palenque

This is one of my favorite archaeological sites in Mexico because it is not too big and it has a wild beauty with lush vegetation around it.

And the best thing: it is never as crowded as Chichen Itza or Teotihuacan.

We were three women in our thirties, with two girls aged 14 and 11, and we all enjoyed it!

Palenque familia con niños
Palenque family with kids

The map of Palenque

This is the map of Palenque where you can see all the structures accessible to the public.

mapa de palenque
palenque map

How much does it cost to enter Palenque?

You need to buy tickets at the red-orange-roofed building on the right side of the road, where there is a large parking lot. That’s where the museum of Palenque is also located.

You have to pay the first entrance fee (105 pesos for adults, or free for children under 12 and seniors) which gives you access to the ruins of Palenque and the Alberto Ruz Lhuillier museum.

Then, on your right, you will see another ticket booth where you need to pay the second entrance fee, which is for the national park (90 pesos or free for children under 13 and seniors over 60).

After that, you can continue up the road (1 mile) to the entrance of the Palenque ruins.

boletos palenque
palenque tickets

What are the opening hours of Palenque?

The archaeological zone of Palenque is open from Monday to Sunday from 8:30 am to 5 pm (last admission at 4 pm) and the Palenque Museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm.

How to visit the ruins from the city of Palenque?

The Mayan ruins of Palenque are located 5 miles from the center of Palenque. Here’s how to get there:

By car

The archaeological site of Palenque is only a 15-20 minute drive from the city center of Palenque, on the Palenque-Ruinas Highway.

Palenque has two parking lots. The first one is on the left and easy to spot, but it fills up fast. The second one is on the right and more hidden. You can reach it by a small path behind the restrooms.

Don't Fall for this Scam
Parking at Palenque is free.

Don’t pay anyone 50 pesos for security, it’s a scam. Just say “no” firmly and park your car. It’s very safe and nothing will happen to it.

estacionamiento palenque
parking palenque

With an organized tour

A tour to Palenque lets you visit the archaeological site without having to worry about the logistics and transportation.

Here are my suggestions for tours to Palenque, from San Cristobal de las Casas or from the city of Palenque itself:

  • Visit the archaeological site of Palenque with hotel pick up in San Cristobal de las Casas, and see the waterfalls of Agua Azul and Misol-Ha:

By public transportation

The most affordable way to reach the ruins is by colectivo (white van).

There is a stop (here) in front of the ADO bus station.

However, it might be full when you get there (especially on holidays and weekends), so you can also catch it here.

The ride takes 15-20 minutes and costs 25 pesos each way.

2. Motiepá Trail

The Motiepá trail is in Palenque National Park, near the archaeological site. You can access it for free after paying the entrance fee to Palenque!

The trailhead is on the side of the road, where an arch with a wooden sign says “Sendero Motiepá” (Motiepá Trail).

The trail is well-marked and takes you through the jungle to the small Motiepá waterfall, where you can swim in its natural pool, and to the Forgotten Temple, a temple that was part of the Maya city of Palenque.

The hike is very pleasant and we only saw two couples in 1h30, so we felt like we had the jungle to ourselves, with the howler monkeys’ sound. It was amazing!

My advice
The only drawback is that there are no restrooms, so if you visit Palenque with kids, I suggest you go before, for example, at the archaeological zone or the museum at the entrance.

3. Aluxes Ecopark

If you are looking for a fun activity for your family in Palenque after visiting the ruins, this is the perfect choice!

This is a large park run by a non-profit organization that rescues animals that have suffered from cruelty (illegal trafficking, exploitation).

The organization works with a team of veterinarians to feed, care for, and rehabilitate them in their natural habitat when possible.

Besides saving the animals, the organization has also restored an entire ecosystem, planting more than 10,000 trees and plants, and creating different microclimates. This area is now home to many wildlife species.

There are two easy trails to follow, one short and one long, that let you see parrots, crocodiles, monkeys in the trees, raccoons, flamingos, tapirs, jaguars, and more.

The experience was awesome, but we had to hurry up at the end because the park was closing. So I suggest you plan for 1h30 to 2h of visit to enjoy it fully.

  • Admission: adult 180 pesos, child from 90cm to 1m30 60 pesos, child under 90 cm free.
  • They also offer night tours, but you need to book in advance with a minimum of 8 people (450 pesos for adults, or free for children under 90 cm)
  • Open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (last admission at 4:30 pm)
  • Aluxes website
los aluxes palenque
los aluxes palenque

4. Ecomundo Park

This is a family-friendly park, located near the archaeological site of Palenque.

It has a lake, a restaurant, waterfalls, hanging bridges, viewpoints, and various activities to choose from (biking, paddle boarding, kayaking, zip line, guided hike along the trails).

  • Website
  • Open only on weekends from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Address: Km. 4 Corredor Turístico Palenque a Zona Arqueológica, 29960 Palenque, Chiapas

5. Visit to the center of Palenque

Palenque doesn’t have much to offer besides the archaeological site and its surroundings.

But since you have to go through the town anyway, why not enjoy it?

You can visit Parque Central, the square that is the heart of the city.

There you can see the Parroquia Santo Domingo de Guzman, the colorful sign for taking photos, a handicraft market, and the Lak Puj Kul Textile Museum.

You can also stroll along Central Pte. where you can find everything (shops, souvenirs, bakeries, pharmacies, etc.)

parque central palenque
parque central palenque
iglesia santo domingo palenque
iglesia santo domingo palenque
iglesia palenque
iglesia palenque
letras coloridas palenque
colorful letters palenque

6. Around Palenque

Palenque has more to offer than just the archaeological site and the town.

You can also visit some of the natural wonders of Chiapas, such as the Roberto Barrios Waterfalls, the Asunción Waterfall, the Misol Há Waterfall, the Agua Azul Waterfalls, the Catazajá Lagoons, the Welib Ja Waterfalls, or explore the Lacandon Jungle and learn about the communities of Nahá and Metzabok.

If you have some time on the road between San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque, I suggest you check out the archaeological site of Toniná (near Ocosingo).

It is not very famous, but it is a 700 year old site with a huge 7-story structure, called Acropolis, that is taller than Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Sun, and you can still climb to the top!

Toniná Chiapas
Toniná Chiapas

Where to stay in Palenque: the best hotels

Palenque is not a very nice town and, with a few exceptions, the best hotels in Palenque are outside the city or even in the jungle.

Here are my accomodation recommendations, for all budgets:

  • Mitico El Castillo: this is the most unique hotel that looks like a movie set. It’s a castle that houses a room, a shared room, a swimming pool, and a kitchen. This is the best budget hotel in Palenque, starting at only 14 $usd for a bed or 38 $usd for a room!
  • Cabañas Kin Balam Palenque: another affordable hotel in Palenque that has the advantage of being in the jungle, with fruit trees and exotic animal sounds and within walking distance of the ruins. Includes a pool and a restaurant, starting at only 24 $usd for a dorm or 43$usd for a private room!
  • Adriana Villas: an oasis of tranquility ideal for couples, with rooms and villas in the jungle, a swimming pool, hammocks, large gardens, and a rooftop terrace. With delicious breakfasts included, starting at 80 $usd per night!
  • Chan Kah Resort village: ideal for relaxing during a family trip to Palenque, offering excellent value for money. Bungalows for 2 to 4 people, 2 large natural pools, a bar, restaurant and spa, from only 100$ usd for a bungalow!

How to get to Palenque?

To reach the ruins, you must first go through Palenque city. Here’s how to get to Palenque:

If you want to know how to get to the ruins from the city, I have already explained How to Get to Palenque Archaeological Site above. 

By car

The city of Palenque is 6h30 from Bacalar, 4h50 from Campeche, 6h45 from Mérida and 5h10 from San Cristóbal de las Casas.

Of course, these are approximate GPS times, but with speed bumps, curves and tolls, I suggest you add more time to your schedule.

Since Palenque is quite far from other destinations in Mexico, I suggest you spend one day to the road and then visit the ruins the next morning.

My advice
Palenque has few gas stations compared to the demand, because it is the largest city in the area. Many people fill up several cans, so the queues can be long.

Therefore, if you have a tight itinerary, I recommend filling up the day before you leave or going early in the morning before you depart.

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore Palenque and make the most of your stay!

To rent a car, personally, I always use, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

llegar en coche Palenque
arriving by car Palenque

By public transportation (bus, colectivo)

From San Cristobal de las Casas

It takes 9h with by OCC bus (there is a day bus and a night bus). Buses prefer to take the longer route to avoid the checkpoints on the short route to Ocosingo.

To save time on your trip, I suggest you take the night bus. You can also take a colectivo to Ocosingo (2h30, 90 pesos), and then another colectivo to Palenque (3h, 120 pesos)

From Tuxtla Gutierrez

First take an ADO or OCC bus to San Cristobal de las Casas (1h30, several departures a day) and then follow the same route as above.

My advice
 Many travelers are wary of the San Cristobal-Ocosingo-Palenque route, either by car or colectivo, because of the negative things they hear, especially about the roadblocks.

To learn more about my experience and this route, you can click here

station bus ado palenque
station bus ado palenque
Palenque transporte público
Palenque public transportation

By plane

Palenque has no airport.

The nearest airport to Palenque is Carlos Rovirosa Pérez airport in Villahermosa, Tabasco State (87 miles, 2 hours).

You can travel from Villahermosa airport to Palenque by car or by ADO bus (leaving here). You can check schedules and buy tickets on the ADO website

Villahermosa airport has flights from several Mexican destinations such as Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Cancun, Merida and Reynosa.

To find a cheap flight to Villahermosa or anywhere else in Mexico, I recommend you use our flight comparison service in partnership with Skyscanner – it’s the best way to get the best price!

The Ocosingo-Palenque route (roadblock)

You may have heard about the safety issues on the road between Palenque and San Cristobal de las Casas, especially near Ocosingo.

Sometimes, members of the local communities set up a roadblock and ask for money.

This is what I experienced on my last trip to Palenque:

There was a lot of traffic on the highway and we wondered if there was an accident.

Since there was a long line of cars that were completely stopped, we couldn’t see where the traffic jam began. After about 20 minutes, the cars started moving again and that’s when we realized that there was a roadblock on the road.

We couldn’t see the cause of the traffic jam because there were too many cars in front of us. After about 20 minutes, the cars started moving again and we saw that there was a roadblock.

There was a large banner with the demands of the local communities to the government. They put a piece of wood with nails on it in front of each car and asked for money to remove it.

The man who approached our window gave us a paper with the demands and asked us for 100 pesos. We stayed calm, politely told him we only had 50 pesos, and he let us go without any hassle.

It only happened once on our way, but the idea is always the same: they put up a rope and ask you for money, so it is very important to have some cash in change. It is not dangerous, but it is annoying because you lose time on the road and you have no choice but to wait.

Besides the possible roadblocks, the road is also very curvy and there is only one lane on each side, so you can’t drive very fast (25-37 mph), so plan for more time than what your GPS tells you

ruta ocosingo palenque
ruta ocosingo palenque

Where to eat and drink in Palenque

  • Ha’Ki: I really liked this restaurant in Palenque, with its terrace near the central park and great service. About 100-120 pesos per person – breakfasts, salads, desserts, crepes, soups, soups, meats, sandwiches, pasta. The fried bananas with cream and cheese stole the show!
platanos fritos cafe ha ki palenque
platanos fritos cafe ha ki palenque
palenque cafe haki
palenque cafe haki
  • Las Tinajas: if you prefer a more “complete” restaurant, this place has a great selection of dishes with quite big portions (120-240 pesos). I really liked the chicken milanesa with cheese (190 pesos) and the caldo tlalpeño.

It is a covered restaurant with a terrace (very practical in the rainy season! We just had a heavy downpour…)

Caldo Tlalpeño méxico
Caldo Tlalpeño méxico
  • Café de Yara: the perfect place to try organic coffee from Chiapas, with a small dessert. And the service is very friendly!

PS: I was also recommended Café Fuga and Café Jade as cafés to visit in Palenque, but I didn’t have time to go.

cafe palenque
cafe palenque

What to bring to Palenque?

Palenque is always hot and humid, no matter the season, but it gets even hotter in the rainy season!

Here’s what you should pack for your visit to Palenque

  • A hat or cap and sunscreen
  • Comfortable walking shoes to avoid slipping on the temple stairs or on the trails
  • Mosquito repellent because there are many mosquitoes in the jungle
  • Lots of water, as it is hot, and you will need it after climbing up and down the many steps of the different structures
  • A raincoat because when it rains, it POURS!
  • Cash for entrance to the ruins, souvenirs, etc.
  • Good travel insurance

What is the best time to visit Palenque?

The best time to visit Palenque is from December to February, when the weather is drier and cooler.

I visited Palenque in early August, during the rainy season, and it was very humid.

It rained frequently during our two days in Palenque. Sometimes it was a downpour, sometimes just a sprinkle, but it didn’t stop us from exploring the ruins and hiking the trails.

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visit Palenque Chiapas


I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

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