Palenque, Mexico: Travel/Tourist Information Guide

Deservedly one of the top destinations in Mexico, the Mayan city state ruins of Palenque have been around since circa 226 BC. More than just an impressive archeological site, Palenque holds one of the last vestiges of evergreen rain forest in the region. The area’s plant diversity that surrounds the shining pyramids and temples are home to a great variety of birds and animals, from talking parrots to howler monkeys.

The ruins are located a few miles to the east of the modern town of Palenque in the Mexican state of Chiapas. The site itself is much smaller then Chichen Itza or Copan, but offers some of the best architecture, carvings and sculptures the Maya’s produced.

Visitors can take a combi or a taxi up to the ruins. Combis run about every 10 minutes to the ruins.

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To the right of the site entrance stands the Temple of the Skull. The name was given because of the relief sculpture of a skull at the foot one of its pillars. A line of temples follows, culminating in one of the most celebrated burial monument in the Americas and the tallest structure in Palenque, the Templo de las Inscripciones (Temple of Inscriptions). Relief carvings of nobles and Maya inscriptions, recounting the construction of Palenque decorate the temple. The structure also holds the tomb of Pakal, which is now closed off to visitors to avoid further damage to its murals.

Diagonally opposed to the Temple of Inscriptions lays El Palacio. The large maze-like structure, divided into four primary courtyards used to be the residence of Palenque’s rulers. The north eastern courtyard holds a collection of very large sculptures, while the southern part of the structure has an extensive network of subterranean bathrooms.

South east of the Temple of Inscriptions is a plaza surrounded by three pyramid shaped buildings, known as the Group of Crosses. The Temple of the Sun, found here, has the most well-preserved roofcomb at Palenque. In the jungle south of this group is Acropolis Sur (Southern Acropolis). Some of the amazing recent discoveries have been made here, like the 8th century limestone platform with carvings and hieroglyphs detailing Palenque’s origins.

Site guides are available at the entrance and Maya guide associations offer informative tours for up to seven people. Palenque’s site museum contains findings and offers interpretation in English and Spanish.