As a phoenix from the flame, the stone creatures of Palenque appear out of nothing from the dense and suffocating Mexican jungle. It doesn’t only make for stunning photos, but also for an experience you will not easily forget, including some hidden treasures along the way.
(there is also a photo album about Palenque)
To do or not to do. The other option was to travel to Palenque with a long-distance bus, stay there for one or two nights, and visit the Mayan ruins from there. But of course I went for THAT OTHER option, the more difficult one. And in return I even got an unexpected little bonus…
Hidden in the jungle
Agua Azul literally means ‘blue water’. It is a stunning collection of small natural waterfalls. The sound of water just draws you in. And once you start to follow its borders, the most breathtaking sunlight will break in visible rays through the trees.
My fourteen tourist colleagues and me were immediately horded towards a small kiosk where a guide offered his services. Group pressure did its work. My luck was that the guy could only speak Spanish, so I had the perfect excuse to explore this site on my own.
Yes, you miss the background info on this Unesco World Heritage site. But you regain independence, the feeling you can discover at your own pace and at your own terms.
The highlights cannot be missed. Almost immediately after the entrance the Temple Of The Inscriptions rises row by row, stone by stone. It is one of the few constructions yoju cannot climb.
More to explore
The guides usually stop here, but there is more to explore when you really dive into the jungle on the higher or the lower side. I opted the latter, walking a trail through the trees and passing some smaller religious relics.
This felt completely differently from the sites where the hordes gathered. This was exploring again, getting lost a bit as well. Ignore the ‘a bit’ part by the way: I ended up on the main road, and thus discovered my exit was actually a free secondary entrance to the ruins.
Walking the road up again to the main entrance – as slowly as possible of course so not to overheat – it was hard to make sense of it all. Just like in Teotihuacan it was just so overwhelming to see an entire, developed civilization. And also one that had completely disappeared, for no apparent reason, which could and should be seen as a warning sign for the current generation of humankind.
Back to San Cristobal
Plenty of impressions to digest. But not during the way back, in convoy, accompanied by police for three hours until we reached the Ocosingo restaurant again for a small bite around 8pm. And off again, for two more hours and dozens of speed bumps again, until we reached chilly San Cristobal de las Casas and it almost seemed surreal we had been in Mayan ruins in the jungle today.
Good to know:
- From San Cristobal de las Casas, several travel agencies offer one-day tours
- You can also book these, but then stay in Palenque village
- Another good option is to take a long-distance bus to Palenque. These are more luxurious, but take much more time