Date of stay: Oct 2011
Where you stayed: El Panchan, Margarita & Ed's
Travelled with: Wife
Tour or pre planned: Pre-planned
Palenque is such a unique experience when compared to many of the other places you visit on a trip to Mexico. It is set deep in the jungle and offers some of the most raw and spectacular Mayan ruins in all of Mexico. Sleeping in the jungle itself provides an atmosphere that is something not to be missed, especially when you often hear the symphony of birds and insects at night which constantly remind you that you are far far away from home.
You have the choice of staying in Palenque town, which is about a 20min drive to the ruins and is home to all the shops and restaurants etc. (although the choice here is not that great). OR, you can stay much deeper in the jungle in one of the many places situated along the road to the ruins (I highly recommend it as there isn’t much to do in Palenque town itself).
The best pick of these in my opinion is by far, El Panchan.
El Panchan is a sprawling rustic jungle bungalow backpacker paradise situated literally in the middle of nowhere (although only 10 mins from the ruins). There are many different areas to stay in El Panchan, but I can highly recommend ‘Margarita & Ed’s’. They offer pretty decent bungalows that cater to all, and they are very friendly and helpful to boot.
Set amongst the El Panchan area are several restaurants serving up fantastic food and great live music at night. The ‘resort’ (if you could call it that) attracts many travellers, musicians and also archaeologists so there is quite a diverse bunch of people for you to meet.
The great thing is, rooms can start anywhere from around 100 pesos, so it’s a bargain for what you experience. One word of advice though; bring a torch along as you’ll find it useful at night.
The major drawcard to Palenque is of course the ruins, and they do not disappoint. You can jump on a transport-only tour for about 130pesos which includes transport to Palenque, and the Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls (both worth seeing also).
These ruins are impressive not only for their history and size but for the setting they’re in. It all just feels so natural and exactly the way all ruins should be; without all the tacky shops, bright lights and restaurants that many of the world’s top archaeological sites attract.
What you see is only 5% of the entirety of Palenque, as incredibly there is not enough funding to excavate the other 95% of ruins still covered under the jungle. Who knows what other treasures this place holds?
Listen for the loud growls of the howler monkeys coming out of the bush, and make sure you bring a light waterproof jacket or umbrella, as it can often rain for sustained periods, and you will get wet.
Just a couple of forewarnings; the roads into Palenque can be a little rough as I counted 3 areas where landslides had almost completely wiped out sections of road, leaving a thin section of tarmac for the cars and buses to navigate around the rubble.
And bring the strongest bug spray you can buy (at least 50% Deet), as there are a LOT of mosquitoes about and they WILL eat you alive.
Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question about Palenque below.
Points to highlight:
Palenque is an unforgettable experience as there are not many places like this where you can sleep in the jungle near world class ruins in such a dramatic setting. The ruins were amazing but staying at El Panchan was also a top highlight. You’ll love the surroundings and the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, and you’ll meet many other travellers along the way.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Would you recommend your accommodation: Yes
Overall rating: 4.5/5