Located on the western edge of the Mayan empire within the state of Chiapas, the ancient and UNESCO protected site of Palenque is one of the most outstanding, and well preserved archaeological sites in the region.

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Ollie and Alexandra are here to help give you the inside track.

Key Stats

Best Time To Visit

Oct - Sep

Flight from London London

10:50 hrs

Time Difference

GMT -6 hrs

Archaeologists estimate Palenque's initial construction at about 220BC, with the city rising to be a great power in the region by 500AD. The site spans 1780 hectares, and 1,400 buildings have been recorded though only 10% of these have been fully explored. Today, Palenque's ruins sit within a jungle of cedar and mahogany trees, and showcase some of the finest Mayan sculpted reliefs in Mexico.

Palenque enjoyed the peak of its power from 500 - 700AD, at which point its influence extended throughout the Usumacinta River basin. The site demonstrates some intelligent urban planning from the Mayans, with residential areas, monumental edifices and an administrative centre. The creativity of Palanque's Mayan creators is further demonstrated through the intricate bas-reliefs that adorn the pyramids, telling tales of Mayan mythology. After the fall of the city, Palenque was overtaken by vegetation, which protected the site from both looting, and weathering.

If travelling to Palenque from San Cristobal, we'd suggest a visit to the ancient city of ToninĂ¡, which is much less visited than Palenque. Ironically, it was ToninĂ¡ that caused the demise of Palenque, with the capture of ruler K'an Joy Chitam II, but this Mayan powerhouse is nowhere near as infamous as Palenque today. ToninĂ¡ has over 100 carved monuments, mostly dating from the 6th century.

Palenque is best explored in the early morning, to avoid both the crowds of visitors - which top 600,000 per year - and the humidity of tropical Chiapas. A private evening tour is also an option. Using Palenque as a base, it is also possible to visit the ruins of Yaxchilan and Bonampak in one day.

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Where to stay

Uvence Arte + Hotel

Uvence Arte + Hotel

Located in the oldest part of town, Uvence Arte + Hotel is a converted hacienda that offers guests an authentic yet luxurious experience.

Quinta Chanabnal

Quinta Chanabnal

Quinta Chanabal is a modern Mayan palace, and is just a ten minute drive from the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque.

Pool at Casa Oaxaca, luxury hotel in Mexico

Casa Oaxaca

Housed in an 18th Century colonial house, Casa Oaxaca has been painstakingly restored and modernised to create a designer boutique hotel.

Hotel Bo

Hotel Bo

In complete contrast to most San Cristobal hotels, Hotel Bo is a design forward boutique hotel, located a short stroll from the heart of town.

Quinta Real

Quinta Real

Built in 1576, Quinta Real Oaxaca was formerly a convent, before being taken over and turned into municipal offices at the height of political turmoil in 1862. Restoration began in 1972, under the watchful eye of The National Institute of Anthropology and History, with the beautiful frescoes restored by experts, and artistic treasures repaired.

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Ollie and Alexandra are our Oaxaca & Chiapas experts and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

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