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Palenque: Mayan Archaeological Site

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El Palacio, Palenque
© Suzanne Barbezat

Palenque Ruins:

Palenque archaeological site is among the most important and impressive ancient Mayan sites. Located in the lush green jungle of Chiapas, this site is characterized by its elegant and well-crafted architecture and beautiful sculptural art. When it was at its peak during the late classic period (roughly 600 to 900 A.D.), its influence extended over a large part of the Maya area, what is today the states of Chiapas and Tabasco.

Palenque is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Highlights:

Some not-to-be-missed features of Palenque:
  • The Palace: a complex of interconnected buildings and courtyards housing sculptures and bas-relief carvings as well as the site's distinctive four-story tower.
  • Temple of the Inscriptions: so named for the stucco panels with engravings in Maya script recounting the site's dynastic history. In 1948 a hidden passage in the temple's floor was found which leads down to a burial chamber of one of Palenque's most important rulers, Hanab Pakal.

Palenque Location:

Located in the southern state of Chiapas, Palenque is situated about 180 miles northeast of the state capital Tuxtla Gutierrez, 136 miles north of San Cristobal de las Casas and 90 miles southwest of Villahermosa, capital city of the state of Tabasco.

Palenque Town:

The town of Palenque (officially Santo Domingo de Palenque) is located about 4 miles east of the archaeological zone. This is a good place to spend the night, before or after your visit of the ruins. The town doesn't have many attractions in its own right, but offers a varied choice of hotels and restaurants. Find hotels in Palenque.

Hours:

The Palenque archaeological site is open to the public daily from 8 am to 4:30 pm. The Palenque site museum is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm and is closed on Mondays.

Admission:

Admission is 51 pesos for adults, free for children under 13. If you would like to use a video camera or tripod inside the site there is an extra charge. The admission fee includes entrance to the site museum.

Guides:

There are local tour guides available on site to give you a tour of the ruins. Hire officially licensed tour guides - they wear an identification issued by the Mexican Secretary of Tourism.

Visitor Tips:

Palenque is a large site and you can easily spend a day visiting it. I recommend spending at least one night in Palenque town so that you can appreciate the site fully.

The weather tends to be hot and humid year-round in Palenque, so it's advisable to wear light clothing made of natural fibers, and take water and a hat. From June through September it rains frequently so it is a good idea to come equipped with a raincoat.

Read more tips for visiting archaeological sites in Mexico.

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