Head over Heels - Welcome to Palenque
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FACTS ABOUT PALENQUE:

- Palenque is in Chiapas.

- One of the most beautiful archaeological sites in all Mexico is nearby.

- Palenque is a good basis to explore Misol-Há, Agua Azul and Agua Clara.

- It gets boiling hot in Palenque. I recommend to get a room with air conditioning.

- Approximately 136.825 people live here.

- The area code is: 983, 912.


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The main reason why people come To Palenque is the famous archaeological site nearby. Palenque has more to offer. It is a rather pretty and colourful town, the people are friendly, what else could you ask for.

On top it appears to be a lot cheaper than the Yucatan peninsula. Especially when you travel on budget you will appreciate a break from prices in Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche. (The three states form the Yucatan peninsula.)

The city is far away from the sea and it gets boiling hot. That shouldn't stop you from visiting. It is an excellent place to buy some souvenirs. Personally I would look for a place with air conditioning. Even at night the town did not cool down a lot.

 


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Parque Central is the town centre. The square s not particularly pretty or anything but in the evening people gather here, sometimes there is some live music. It is a good spot to sit down on the stairs and chat for a bit.

Night life at the main square (c) K. BuschJust next to it is twin towered church and the Casa de la Cultura. On the rather small square is plenty of shade. The town is build on top of a hill and Parque Central is right on top of it. Down south you can see the mountains; especially in the late afternoon when the sun starts setting a rather nice place to be.


Places to stay

There are countless places to stay in town and for ever budget. Rather fancy but with a great view is the Chan Kah Centro, Av. Juárez / Independencia, right next to Parque Central. I'd generally try to stay close to the bus terminals, but nothing here is really far away. It won't take you long to see everything there is to see.


Things to do


Day trip Agua Azul

The series of jungle water falls and rapids is one of the majorattractions around Palenque. When you book a day trip (a good idea) they will stop on the way in Misol-Há and Agua Clara. Misol Ha (c) K. BuschThe drive there (61 km from Palenque) is breathtaking. The hills and mountains are covered with jungle. A narrow road leads up the mountains and you get a great view over the wide and green valleys. A day trip cost 120 Pesos + 35 Pesos entrance.

Misol-Há is a spectacular waterfall situated in a small valley. A narrow path leads along the cliff until you literally stand behind the waterfall it self. It's quite cool. These things are hard tu guess but it is pretty high. From what I was told it's not such a good idea to swim there although I can't see why. Correct is that swimming is better in Agua Azul.


Agua Clara is some sort of nature reserve. Not much to see apart from a muddy river and a rope bridge that spans across it. Especially the bridge is cool though. It's one of these things you'd normally see in movies, where there hero runs over it while the villain is cutting the ropes. Nine out of ten the bridge collapses just before he reaches the other side and he has to cling to it.

Some of the planks indeed are damaged and the whole thing looks anything but trustworthy. I found it safe enough though and you'll get a great view. Just to warn you: The bridge is moving a lot when you walk on it and with me being not particularly good with heights anyways that certainly didn't help. Since it is a fantastic spot to take pictures there is no backing off. It's not that high after all and I am a good swimmer.

There is good chance that a bunch of kids will harass you and try to sell you bananas and other stuff. Just smile and say no or even better buy something. It is a very poor area.

Agua Azul (c) K. BuschAgua Azul itself is awesome but nether the less a nasty tourist trap. There is an huge number of restaurants, souvenir shops and needless to say loads of tourists. It's difficult but best try to ignore it. Agua Azul is spectacular with a massive waterfall right at the beginning. Follow up the path to see more rapids and some smaller falls. It gets quieter the further you go.

Enjoy the views, the sheer beauty of this place. A god idea is to find a quiet spot and listen to the falls. The noise is very calming and the river that flows through a jungle is a scenery that you won't find very often.

There are a few cabins you can rent. Agua Azul is an amazing spot once all the tourists left.  There is a little village next to it and apparently you can hire a guide that leads you to the most beautiful spots. If you want to stay check with the local tourist office in Palenque how the situation is in regards to safety. You don't want to do this on your own.

Be careful when swimming in Agua Azul. The currents are extremely dangerous so stick to the roped area!



The Mayan site of Palenque - It is considered one of the most beautiful Mayan sites in all Mexico. Surrounded by thick jungle it dates back to the Classic period. The whole site was built on artificial terraces and as it seems served strategic purposes.

Mask in the Museum in Palenque (c) K. BuschThe site indeed is beautiful but packed. I went there 8.30 AM, the weather was bad and still there were hundreds of tourists. I talked to an Austrian couple the other day and they told me it is actually better to go there in the afternoon.

Palenque is situated on a hill and you'll get some great views. I'd recommend the museum as well. It is at the first entrance about 1 kilometre down the hill from the site. Best take a collectivo (5 Pesos). They have some very interesting artifacts and loads of info about the site.

Although I went there early in the morning I was covered in sweat within minutes. It's hot and extremely humid. Bring plenty of water and don't forget mosquito repellent.

When you get there they first will charge you 20 Pesos to enter the National Park. The archaeological site then costs another 50 Pesos. Money well spent!



Safety!

Chiapas is a rather poor area. Many of its inhabitants are descendants of the Maya. They had some trouble with the government in the past. In 1994 this led to the Zapatista uprising, which  made headlines around the world. Things have calmed down since but still the military is present everywhere. Be careful when moving around and leave valuables in the hotel when going to the archaeological site for example.

 

 

Written by: Kristian Busch


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