We headed back into Mexico from Tikal, with our first stop another set of ruins in Mexico; Palenque. To get here, we decided to chance our arm at navigating local transport options, as Jonny had done his research and realised it could be done for half the price of the tourist shuttle, and approximately the same amount of travel time. In short, we;
Took a tuk-tuk from Flores to Santa Elena terminal, found a direct bus to El Ceibo (the border town), walked the border and completed emigration and immigration, bused to the Mexican town of Tenosique, and got a colectivo to Palenque. It was a smooth and pleasant experience, and despite the fact it took us about 9 hours, the people-watching, changing of transport and scenery made things go surprisingly quickly!
Once we arrived in Palenque, we looked for a colectivo headed towards the ruins. This was because we were staying in the small jungle settlement of El Panchan, a renowned backpacker spot. Unfortunately, it seemed they had stopped for the day. However, we found an Austrian couple headed that way, so we were able to share a cab for the same price as taking the colectivo per person. We set up camp at Kin Balam Cabanas, an affordable spot with basic private cabanas, and a pool. Yes, we finally had our first pool of the trip on a backpacker budget!
El Panchan is a great spot, however you quickly realise that unless you stock up on some groceries in the township of Palenque, you are forced to eat at the local restaurant, Don Muchos. While not expensive and the food is pretty good, it does add up eating there for two meals a day, so keep this in mind.
After a long day of travel, we decided not to hit the ruins the next day, as we woke up a little late, and didn’t want to battle any crowds. We relaxed by the pool, and caught up on a bit of WiFi and sleep. However, we hit Palenque first thing the next day.
Palenque has a certain aura about it. While TIkal was grand in it’s magnitude and size, Palenque really had the feel that a civilisation had existed there. This was mainly due to the layout and number of different buildings there were.
It was pretty easy to imagine what daily life may have been like while wandering around the various ruins. And, of course, Jonny could climb a good number of them!
Luckily for us, it started raining (we had rain covers and jackets), which quickly thinned out the crowds starting to gather, and really gave the ruins a mystical feel as cloud closed in. When you are at Palenque, do not neglect the downhill walk through the surrounding jungle. While the ruins down here are fairly basic, the small streams, cascades and natural pools were amazing, and we had them all to ourselves.
After we exited, we hiked back up the road about 500m to a small jungle trek. Guides offer tours, but it is easily done yourself, and we couldn’t really see the need for a guide here. You come across a few more waterfalls, and if you walk far enough, you come to what could have been a Mayan bath (or possibly a tourist pool created by the locals, but the water was crystal clear!). Anyway, if you have the time, this is a nice walk to add to your Palenque itinerary.
Palenque was awesome, and it was great seeing two of the most popular ruins back-to-back, mainly for comparison. However, we were more than ready to head back into warmer climates in the Yucatan and beyond.