7 Amazing Things to Do in Palenque, Mexico

Palenque Maya Calendar

Ancient ruins hidden in the jungle, waterfalls flowing into pools perfect for swimming, monkeys howling in the trees, and jaguars prowling in the shadows. Palenque, Mexico is a magical destination that is best known for its famous Maya ruins, but there’s so much more to see here.

Palenque (pronounced pah-LEN-keh) is a town in the Lacandon Jungle in Mexico’s southeastern state of Chiapas.

Although many travelers choose to visit as a day trip from San Cristobal de las Casas, Palenque makes for the perfect base for exploring the surrounding jungle and its treasures and it’s worth staying a few days or more.

This guide to the town of Palenque, Mexico covers everything you need to know to visit, including how to get there, when to visit, where to stay, and the best things to do in Palenque.

👉 TIP: Since they share the same name, it’s easy to get the town of Palenque, Mexico (what we’re covering in this article) and the Palenque Archeological Zone mixed up. Check out Exploring the Palenque Ruins for detailed info on visiting the Palenque Archeological Zone.

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Looking for the top Palenque tours?

🌞 Best Day Tour from San Cristobal: Agua Azul & Palenque Day Trip from San Cris
💦 Best Waterfall Tour: Agua Azul & Misol-ha Waterfalls Tour
🗿 Best Palenque + Waterfalls Tour: Palenque, Agua Azul & Misol-Ha Waterfalls
🐒 Best Hidden Ruins Tour: Bonampak & Yaxchilan Ruins
🛶 Best Rafting Tour: Bonampak & Rafting in the Lacandon Jungle

ancient Maya ruins with tree roots
Tree roots crawling over the ruins in Palenque.

How to Get to Palenque, Mexico

The closest airport to Palenque is Villahermosa International Airport (VSA) in the neighboring state of Tabasco. The quickest way to get to Palenque is to find a cheap flight to Villahermosa and rent a car in Mexico. It’s a 2.5 hour drive from Villahermosa to Palenque.

🚗 We recommend searching Discover Cars for the best car rental deals in Mexico. With them, you get no hidden fees, 24/7 customer support, and free cancellations.

You can also get to Palenque by booking a flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez (TGZ) in Chiapas. Many visitors choose to use the nearby colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas as their home base in the state.

Once you’re done seeing some of the amazing things to do in Chiapas you can move north to Palenque by colectivo, bus, or rental car.

➡️ Check out the Ultimate Chiapas Travel Guide for everything you need to know before visiting Chiapas, Mexico.

Bus From San Cristobal to Palenque

To get to Palenque from San Cristobal de las Casas by bus, take this ADO bus from San Cristobal to Palenque.

🚌 You can compare routes and book Mexico bus tickets online in English with Bookaway.

The first class ADO bus route is about 10 hours (instead of 5.5 hours by car) because it takes a detour to avoid roadblocks by locals protesting the government that can occasionally pop up along the direct route. The roadblocks usually aren’t dangerous, but they do slow down traffic.

Check out our Complete Guide to Mexico’s ADO Buses for everything you need to know before your bus trip.

Palenque Tours from San Cristobal

Short on time? This highly-rated day tour from San Cristobal to Palenque includes pick up at your San Cris hotel, a swim in the Agua Azul Waterfalls, a visit to Misol-Ha Waterfalls, and an exploration of the Palenque ruins.

Best Time to Visit Palenque, Chiapas

Since it is in the middle of the jungle, Palenque has a tropical climate and it can get very hot and humid. There is no actual dry season and the rainiest months are June through October.

The best time to visit Palenque is from November through March for “cooler” weather (around 75-80 F) and less rain.

Is Palenque, Mexico Safe?

Palenque and its famous Palenque archeological ruins are a major tourist attraction in Mexico. The area is generally considered safe for tourists.

Looking for Mexico safety tips? Check out the 60 Best Mexico Travel Tips for a Mexican’s advice on everything from what to watch out for to how to eat tacos the right way.

Of course, you don’t want to think about everything that can go wrong, but accidents do happen.

Considering travel insurance for your trip?

World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.

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Of course, you don’t want to think about everything that can go wrong, but accidents do happen.

Considering travel insurance for your trip?

World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.

7 Best Things to Do in Palenque, Mexico

There are so many things to do near Palenque that it’s hard to choose! It makes an excellent base for exploring all the natural wonders in northern Chiapas, like waterfalls and hidden jungle ruins.

1. Climb the Palenque Archeological Ruins

Explore the Palenque Ruins in Chiapas, Mexico

The Palace temple at the Palenque archeological ruins is one of the most iconic sights in Mexico. At its height, Palenque was one of the Mayan civilization’s most important cities.

The archeological zone is part of the Palenque National Park, so expect to see toucans fly by and spot howler monkeys swinging in the trees. The Palenque ruins are definitely one of the top 3 ruins to visit in Mexico and an experience you won’t soon forget.

The Palenque archeological zone is open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm (last entry is at 4 pm), but the onsite museum is closed on Mondays.

It really is worthwhile to hire a guide for the ruins. They walk with you and point out fascinating details about the inscriptions and teach you about the history and culture to help you get a much better understanding of Palenque and the civilization that built it. It’s best to hire an official guide ahead of time so you don’t have to go through the hassle of finding one that speaks English onsite.

2. Visit the L’Huillier Palenque Museum

Access to the Alberto Ruz L’Huillier Palenque Site Museum is included in your entry fee to the archeological zone. Find it on this Palenque map so you don’t miss it!

The museum gives you an opportunity to learn more about the ancient civilization that built the ruins. It’s filled with artifacts and fascinating historical and cultural exhibits about Palenque. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm.

3. See the Misol-Ha Waterfalls & Agua Azul Waterfalls

Cascada Misol-Ha Day Trip

There are countless cascadas (waterfalls) in this jungle paradise, but the most well-known are Cascadas Misol-Ha and Agua Azul. They’re both located south of Palenque and a quick day trip away.

The easiest way to see both of these scenic falls in one day from Palenque is to book a tour to the Misol-Ha and Agua Azul Waterfalls.

If you have plenty of time, you can also catch a colectivo, or shared transport van, in town to get to the falls. The colectivo makes stops along the way so the ride from Palenque takes about 1.5 hours one-way to Agua Azul and about 45 minutes to Misol-Ha.

You can see other beautiful waterfalls that are a bit more off the beaten track by taking a tour to Roberto Barrios Waterfalls or visiting Welib Ja. If you really ditch the beaten path, book an adventure tour to Metzabok Lagoon.

4. Explore the Bonampak and Yaxchilan ruins

Yaxchilan Ruins Labyrinth

This is the closest you’ll get to an authentic Indiana Jones adventure! The Maya ruins at Bonampak and Yaxchilan are deep in the jungle and visiting is an unforgettable experience.

Even just getting to them is an adventure in itself. You take a boat ride along the Usumacinta River to get to Yaxchilan, then take Lacandon transport through the heart of the jungle to reach Bonampak.

To get to these incredible ruins, book a day trip to Bonampak and Yaxchilan ruins from Palenque.

5. Go Rafting in the Lacandon Jungle

Yaxchilan Tree Off Path Travels

La Selva Lacandona, or Lacandon Jungle, is one of the last-remaining rainforests where jaguars live. It stretches from Mexico into Guatemala and up into the Yucatan Peninsula.

An awesome way to explore the Lacandon Jungle is to take this rafting and Bonampak ruins tour.

It includes pickup in Palenque and round-trip transportation to the Lacandon Jungle. Stop for breakfast along the way before arriving at your first destination: the Lacanja River.

Keep an eye our for howler monkeys and other wildlife as you make your way to the water to begin your rafting adventure down the Lacanjá River.

After lunch, enjoy a guided where you learn about the local ecosystem and culture. The next stop is a visit to the ancient Mayan archeological ruins at Bonampak.

If you’d rather visit the jungle on your own, there are Maya villages where you can go for a jungle hike to waterfalls with a local Lacandon guide and rent a cabin to stay the night.

6. Spend an afternoon at Aluxes Ecoparque

Aluxes Ecoparque Scarlet Macaws

This is a great place to see the animals that live in the surrounding Lacandon jungle in their natural habitat. The animals at Aluxes Ecoparque are all rescued and well cared for. It’s a non-profit organization and your entrance fee goes towards conservation and rescuing more exotic animals from mistreatment.

It’s located walking distance from the Palenque Archeological Zone.

7. Stroll around Parque Central

Take some time to walk around town. Take a walk from the Maya head (in front of the bus station) along the main boulevard and down to the Parque Central. There you’ll find plenty of vendors and activity.

You can take a look inside the Church of Santo Domingo and sit in the park while enjoying some street food.

If you want to get a better feel for daily life in Palenque, head over to the local municipal market, Mercado Guadalupe. The markets in Mexico always have the most delicious food!

Where to Stay in Palenque

Palenque is a popular tourist destination in Mexico and has plenty of accommodations including hotels, hostels, and vacation rentals. There are good places to stay in town, especially around La Cañada, but also some great lodging options in the jungle along the road where you can walk or take a quick taxi or colectivo to the ruins.

Most of the budget jungle cabins are in a tourist area called El Panchan. But there are very few restaurants and stores here, so it’s a great option for those looking for a jungle escape who don’t mind taking a colectivo or taxi to town.

Palenque Hotels

Hotel Boutique Quinta Chanabnal: luxurious Mayan-style hotel in the jungle with stunning landscaping, pools, and waterfalls

Hotel Maya Bell: mid-range hotel with a pool that’s only a 20-minute walk along the jungle road to the archeological ruins

Kin Balam Cabañas: budget-friendly private and shared bungalows with a pool along the jungle road with easy access to colectivos

Palenque Vacation Rentals

VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) rentals are a good choice for finding a place to stay in Palenque. Vacation rentals offer a better value compared to most hotels and you get to experience life like a local. Booking.com also offers vacation rentals in Palenque.

Where to Eat in Palenque, Chiapas

If you want to get a taste of the local Chiapaneco specialities, head to the food stalls in the main plaza, also known as the Parque Central.

Another good local’s favorite is Tropitacos. They sell tacos, delicious licuados (fruit smoothies) and aguas frescas (fresh fruit water drinks). It’s located right on the main street in town, Boulevard Juarez.

Final Thoughts on Palenque, Mexico

All in all, we were happily surprised by Palenque town! The town itself may not be as charming as Comitan or San Cristobal de las Casas, but there are lots of authentic restaurants and many things to do in and around town.

We recommend staying at least a few days and exploring the magical ruins, waterfalls, and Lacandon jungle in this part of Chiapas, Mexico.

Looking for more things to do in Chiapas? Check out all Chiapas articles and these:

Have you visited the town of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico? Share your travel tips in the comments below.

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The Ultimate Guide to Palenque, Mexico. What to do, where to stay, what to eat, and the best day trips to take!

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