AAA Editor Notes
Palenque Ruins are about 8 km (5 mi.) s.w. of town via an access road that branches off Mex. 199 a short distance s. of the city cemetery (Panteón Municipal). Despite a remote location, this archeological site is a must-see. The excavated section—small in relation to the city's size during its heyday more than 1,000 years ago—spreads a mile or so from east to west. The ruins here are among the best preserved in Mesoamerica. Stone plaques at each structure offer descriptions in English.
Next to the Temple of the Inscriptions is Temple XIII, where a tomb was discovered in 1994. Just east of this temple is the Palace, a complex of stepped buildings and four courtyards connected by corridors and an extensive system of underground passageways. The exterior walls are adorned with the beautifully carved, unusually well-preserved panels and stucco reliefs for which Palenque is famous.
Cross the Río Otolum (little more than a stream) to reach the Temple of the Cross, at the southeastern edge of the ruins. It is one of several structures ringing a spacious plaza. Projecting upward from the temple are vertical roof combs, a decorative architectural feature favored by Mayan builders. Inside the building is a small shrine.
Nearby are Temple 14, which contains more stone tablets with carved inscriptions, and the Temple of the Sun, believed to contain the tomb of King Pacal's son, Chan-Bahlum, his successor to the throne. At the site's northern end is the Northern Group of buildings, including a ball court and the Temple of the Count, named for Frederick Waldeck, an early explorer. This structure, the best preserved of the group, is made up of five stepped tiers; its main facade faces east.
Don't miss the museum and visitor center, on the access road about a mile before the ruins entrance. The museum displays reproductions of hieroglyphic panels and artifacts uncovered during the excavations, including the carved tomb of Pacal. Background information is provided in English. Save the museum for the end of your visit, as the air-conditioned interior offers a refreshing respite from the heat.
Most area hotels have in-house tour representatives who can schedule an organized excursion, and there also are several sightseeing tour offices along the main street in the town of Palenque. If you go on your own, official tour guides (identified by their ID badges) can be hired at the ruins entrance; unofficial guides also can be hired for a lower rate. There are numerous vendor stalls at the entrance, and more vendors inside the park selling souvenirs.
Note: Visit as early as possible in the morning to beat both the heat and the bus tours. Bring insect repellent, sunscreen, a hat and water (water also is sold outside the ruins). Visitors are permitted to climb most of the structures.