The Palenque Ruins are incredible.
These ruins, in our opinion, give the larger and more expensive Chichen Itza a run for its money. And what is great about Palenque is that you have the opportunity to learn about this history of the civilization that once called this park home. Impressive structures are one thing to appreciate on their own, but historical context helps to deepen the appreciation.
You’ll most likely be approached by several guides when you arrive at the park, if you are let off in the parking lot where the buses park. The prices we were quoted were P$200 for a tour in Spanish, and P$250 or P$300 in English, per person. Some guides charge more or less, sometimes depending on the size of the group. If you are interested, it’s not a bad idea to try to get together with others for a tour, as the price will often be lower. The tour then covers both sides of the Park, a quick walk through the un-excavated jungle area, and a more detailed walk through the Archaeological Site.
However, if you are interested in learning more about the history and culture of Palenque, but not interested in using a guide, here is our recommendation:
On the way to the Palenque Ruins, ask to be dropped off at the Museum, and start your tour here. Inside is a crash course on the Mayan Civilization in Palenque and the Ruins themselves. You can read a lot of the same general information that guides will share with you (though of course this doesn’t allow you to ask questions.) The ticket you buy for the museum will also be your entrance to the ruins. After leaving the museum you can catch a bus to the park entrance, or walk to the top of the hill. But our recommendation is to take the path less traveled, the back entrance to the ruins. Leaving the museum simply walk across the road that leads to the park to find the entrance. This entrance offers a well-maintained trail that passes by some beautiful waterfalls and smaller ruins. Following this path, you’ll enter the Archaeological Park near the back of the ruins, away from the parked buses and food vendors and groups of guides trying to offer their services. There is a ticket booth at the entrance to this path, and someone will be there to collect the ticket that you obtained at the museum.
NOTE: Even if you take the colectivo to the main entrance of the ruins, you can still exit the ruins via this waterfall-laden walking path, and end your tour at the museum. This is the more common route, as colectivos will drop you off at the main entrance to the Ruins if you don’t specify another destination. But for getting some background information before you visit the site, starting at the museum is recommended.
You will have to tell the driver ahead of time that you want off at the museum, and he may try to discourage you from taking this route. You may be told that you can’t get to the ruins from the museum, but you can.
Spend your time in the museum, then walk up the hill to the Ruins, and you’ll exit the ruins at the parking lot where the buses park. Through this parking lot, you can find your way to the non-excavated part of the ruins. Don’t miss out on this! In the undiscovered part of the ruins, there isn’t much to see other than piles of crumbling stones; the foundations of less majestic buildings and homes. However, it is one of our favorite spots in the park.
For more information on how to get to the ruins, head back to Doing: Palenque.
NOTE: The information above is based on staying in town and taking a bus to the ruins. If you are staying at El Panchan, it would be possible to walk to the museum on the path that follows the road, and avoid the bus altogether. You can also try hitching a ride to the museum, though be aware that the buses are often strict in their 20 peso fee, regardless of how far you are going.