Photo: Michael Swiggart, Green
Palenque was one of the most powerful of the late-classic cities in the Maya World. Today, the site and nearby town are popular with national and international visitors.
Located in the southern state of Chiapas, the park is quite spectacular when you realize that in addition to what you can see, more than 300 structures remain buried.
The most impressive building is the Pyramid of Inscriptions, contains the tomb of Lord Pacal, buried in 683 AD.The majority of Mesoamerican pyramids do not include secret passageways or tombs but this is the veritable exception to the rule.
Palenque was abandoned around 900 AD.
Palenque’s modern fame arose after its exploration and description by author John Lloyd Stephens and illustrator Frederick Catherwood in the 1841 best-seller Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan.
The reputation was further enhanced due to the 1968 publication of Chariots of the Gods, which contended that aliens constructed the city and that the tomb within the Pyramid of Inscriptions showed not a Maya King, but an ancient astronaut. Such interpretations have been criticized not only as stupid but blatantly racist.
From the archaeological site you can see the low-lying coastal plains which stretch north to the Gulf of Mexico. These tropical evergreen forests are home to more than 350 bird species. Sit on top of many of the buildings for a great view.
Transportation — The town closest to the site is also named Palenque, though locals frequently use the old name — Santo Domingo. Palenque has a bus station as well as an airport. Nearby travel hubs include San Cristóbal (190 kilometers) and Villahermosa (143 kilometers/88 miles).
Access — Palenque is administered by the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH).
Lodging — There are accommodations and dining options for every budget. Consult your guidebook! Eco travelers have long praised Panchan, a small hotel on the outskirts of town run by Moises Morales. The New Yorks Times describes Panchan as ‘an ethereal forest of cabanas and restaurants favored by world travelers.’
Nearby — To the south lies the Lacandon Forest and the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve and the border crossing to Flores, Guatemala. There are tours to nearby Yaxchilan (145 kilometers), Bonampak (145 kilometers) and Agua Azul (65 kilometers).
Suggestions from Benito Venegas: Visitar el sitio, las casacads cercanas de Roberto Barrios y las Golondrinas