Ruined for free

So why had we stopped half way in between San Cristobal and Palenque, rather than continue on to what many regard one of Mexico’s premier ruin sites (it is Palenque to which I refer)?

Well not far from Ocosingo, that party town where we celebrated Mexico’s independence, lie the ruins of Tonina.

For some reason, this place gets overlooked by most, which is interesting, as it was powerful enough in its day to topple even mighty Palenque! First task for our morning however, was to get there!

Our guidebook suggested that we should look for Ocosingo’s Tianguis Campesino and we’d easily see a terminal for the colectivos immediately behind it. We found the desired street, but alas, the location we sought was conveniently missing! A little luck however found us, and down a side street near a fruit and vegetable market we spied the colectivos we sought, and pretty soon we were on our way out of town.

Tonina happened to literally be the end of the road, so there was little chance of us missing it, and luck remained with us as well when we queued to purchase our entry tickets. With independence celebrated only yesterday, today was another Mexican holiday, and we were happy recipients of the news that as such, entry to the ruins for today was free!

Tonina emerges above the canopy

Tonina emerges above the canopy

This place looked, from afar at least, pretty impressive. We scampered along an entrance road that in reality looked little more than a driveway, crossed a lawn before our path became a narrow gravel affair.

We crossed a narrow wooden bridge (which assisted us across a narrow, winding creek), before emerging at the start of the grass covered ruins site. The grass was lush and actually rather wet, not the most luxurious feel on our flip flop covered feet, but we had purpose. We were here to explore!

Our exploration begins

Our exploration begins

Up close, this place remained rather impressive looking, even down to the obligatory pre-Hispanic ball court and sacrificial altar, although rather than appear like a city, it did look a lot like one large temple structure, tiered up the hillside.

Feeling rather small and very young...

Feeling rather small and very young…

A lot more compact than some places we’ve visited already, with the many levels it contained (which thus meant there was a good workout ahead with many, many stairs), it was still a big enough site for us to try and explore in a short time.

We weren’t intent on rushing, however our plan was to grab a ride to Palenque as soon as possible, so we were mindful of not losing too much of our morning amongst the ruins.

incredible, intricate carvings

Incredible, intricate carvings

Within the Tonina site, protected from the elements by strategically positioned thatched roofs, were a treasure trove of carvings and frescos, some in incredibly good condition!

Quite surprisingly, there was also much of the site that allowed climbing, meaning almost the whole of the site was available to explore. Some areas remained off limits for safety reasons, but at times it really felt like we were the first intrepid explorers.

A view worth the climb

A view worth the climb

Feeling intrepid as we explore inside and out

Feeling intrepid as we explore inside and out

Mindful of the time, we weren’t tardy, but nor did we rush about, allowing ourselves the chance to make sure we’d truly seen everything. After all, it’s unlikely we’ll ever be back here!

We did accidentally find us in the middle of a dig at some point, but we were quick enough to make ourselves scarce before it became a scene…

Back at the main carpark, the first colectivo to arrive was unfortunately not headed back to Ocosingo, but it was probably no more than a 20 minute wait before one did arrive that could ferry us back to the town.


Notes: * Our guidebook had advised us to look behind Ocosingo’s Tianguis Campesino to find the colectivos running to the Tonina ruins which we couldn’t locate (the depot, not the location). We got lucky and spotted them and the depot down a small side street not too far away however.

* The colectivo out to Tonina cost $12.00 pesos per person, each way, with no real set schedule (they leave the depot when full, and arrive at the ruins on no real schedule, perhaps every half hour or so)

* Our entrance to the ruins was free, but usually you can expect to pay $48.00 pesos per person.

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10 Responses to Ruined for free

  1. You are having such an amazing journey thru MX, Chris. Thx so much for taking us along on the journey with you!

    • Chris says:

      Part of the joy in putting this down in writing is so anybody can enjoy it with us! Glad you’ve been having as much fun as we have (I think of you when anything chocolate related appears). 😉

  2. LaVagabonde says:

    Those carvings are so mysterious and mystical. You were brave walking around there in flip flops! Vicious snakes (like fer de lance) like to hang out in wet grass.

  3. Milan Bardun says:

    I’m bit surprised they let people to climb the walls and I’m pretty sure, it is not going to take too long, since this monument has to be preserved for future generations. But it must be an awesome experience to feel like Indiana Johnes haha

    • Chris says:

      Preservation is so important, however I think to these particular ruins detriment, Mexico is flushed with ruins, so many much more famous sites get far more visitors and funding for their preservation…

  4. Milan Bardun says:

    I’m bit surprised they let people to climb the walls and I’m pretty sure, it is not going to last very long, since this monument has to be preserved for future generations. But it must be an awesome experience to feel like Indiana Johnes haha

  5. Beth says:

    We just got back from Mexico a month ago, and my favorite part was exploring all the ruins! You really do feel like Indiana Jones 😉

  6. traciehowe says:

    What a cool place! Weird that it is often overlooked. I bet it’s fun to explore like that, free from too many rules!

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