In the Jungle of Chiapas, nestled on a thickly wooded ridge, are the ancient ruins of Palenque (pah-LEN-keh); situated near a town of the same name. The town itself has no real attraction to speak of, but the nearby ancient Mayan city of Palenque is Mexico's most breath-taking archaeological park: in our opinion, the best you'll find anywhere in Mexico, and a must-see Mexico Experience.
During the Mayan period, it was believed to be one of the most important cities of its day. The name Palenque was given to it by the Spanish; its original name, like so much of Mayan history, is shrouded in mystery.
The architecture here is nothing short of dazzling - see our Palenque photo gallery below to get a taste of the mood here.
The setting is no less impressive than the architecture: they complement each other perfectly. Surrounded by lush tropical forest and jungle, this site has a serene, mystical atmosphere. From the moment you enter, you feel engulfed by a sense of history, timelessness and awe.
There is an important thing to keep in mind when you're wandering around these ruins: everything you see was built without the benefit of metal tools, the horse or the wheel. This place was created with nothing but the tenacity of human labor.
The surrounding forest is home to a huge variety of wildlife, such as the colorful toucan and monkeys - including howling monkeys.
Palenque contained tombs of ancient leaders and rulers, and still today, excavations are ongoing to uncover more of the mysteries and enigmas surrounding the ancient civilizations of the Maya. Some of the site is still roped off to visitors as work to uncover the hidden treasures, reclaimed by nature over centuries of disuse, continues. A relatively small number of the estimated 500+ buildings have been excavated.
Palenque is situated between some of Mexico's principal tourist areas: Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas and Cancun. It's about an hour and half by road from the city of Villahermosa, which is also the nearest airport. It is too far for a day trip from either Oaxaca, San Cristobal or Cancun, as your day will be taken up with traveling there and back.