$100.00 pesos (that’s $50.00 pesos each) got us from Ocosingo to the township of Palenque, so were pretty happy to have saved ourselves a bit of money by avoiding the ADO first class bus service.
A short walk through a construction site (this former street, now ravine on which our hostel was to be found), followed by a bizarre entrance in the form of a neon lit tunnel (apparently this backpacker dive was once a disco), and we were in Hostel Yaxkin, our home for a few nights.
Friendly faces were in abundance, although this wasn’t the staff, but rather a small congregation of fellow travellers we’d shared a dig with back in San Cristobal.
Three Australians, an English girl and one Frenchman, all of whom were moving on that very night in a variety of directions.
A lunch of pretty tasty Al Pastor tacos when downtown, complemented by a banana smoothie (Sarah) and the best orange juice since our Espiritu Santo snorkelling adventures!
Attempts to use the hostels Wi-Fi essentially met with failure, so it was off to bed, ready for an early assault on the Palenque ruins (our goal was to be the first through the gate and hopefully beat the tour groups).
An Irishman named Dermot joined us for the morning colectivo ride, so it was a little frustrating when first the ticket booth failed to open at the signed 8am time, then even more frustrating when despite being their first customers for the day, they failed to have any change!
With Dermot’s help, we sorted out our payment, and raced into the site as the first tour bus of the morning pulled into the parking lot.
We had a bit of hustle about as we started to explore, mindful that only a short distance behind us, the first horde of the morning was already sorting its tickets and making ready to enter the ruins.
The setting itself was beautiful, the ruins set amidst some lush, thick jungle, although absent was the mist the some early morning visitors witness, as well as the hollering of the Howler Monkeys which was also lacking.
Perhaps it was the above, combined with the tarpaulins layered over one of the sites most celebrated structures (let’s be honest, it never looks as good with stuff like that in the photos), but we didn’t really fall for Palenque like we have other ruins
At first wondering if perhaps it could also be a case of ruin fatigue (having seen so many already), we’d paid our entrance fee, and who knew if we’d ever be back this way, so there was no chance we were ever going to just walk away.
After all, alongside Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan, Palenque forms part of Mexico’s big three ruin sites, so there must be something here to redeem it.
Eventually we began to warm to it, the first notion we got was when we were able to enjoy the wonderful views from atop the Templo de la Cruz.
Once we began to explore away from the areas immediately surrounding the palacio, we were also essentially free of any crowds, which began to build quicker here, than at any other site we’d already visited (including Teotihuacan, the country’s most visited archaeological site).
The last portion of the site that is available to visit, feels a lot more exciting and exotic, as it still lies in the midst of the surrounding jungle, complete with water courses running between it.
It also offers an alternative exit, closer to the site museum which we’d planned to visit in any case.
We decided, before committing to this last area, to go back and look a bit more thoroughly, despite the crowds now present, at some of the structures we’d only skimmed over on arrival, in our haste to avoid the tour groups.
There was one small bonus to the people now crawling all over the ruins.
It also meant that not every picture we had of us from Palenque need be ‘selfies’ with plenty of willing hands able to assist by taking a proper picture!
Back under the forest canopy, where it was much darker, cooler and peaceful, was probably our favourite part of the whole site.
As well as ruins covered in all manner of moss, roots and vines (which immediately looked more authentic than the much restored main sections of the site), there was the aforementioned creek, which had formed over the years, a series of beautiful cascades.
The views of the last collection of waterfalls was made even better by a very well placed bridge, allowing views and obviously photographs from a frontal position right in the heart of the running waters.
The final redemption of Palenque, came in the form of its museum, probably the best we’ve visited since the museum attached to the Mexico City’s Templo Mayor.
Some amazing artefacts have been discovered here, but the most stunning piece of all is almost hidden, tucked into the very back of the museum itself.
This stone sarcophagus is a monster, the carving exquisite, and to be able to view it with our own eyes felt something of a privilege.
We rode away from Palenque much more satisfied than our first impressions, but in truth, it was probably the first of any ruins we have thus far visited that has failed to deliver on expectations.
It is also very possible, or perhaps probable, that said expectations, for whatever reason, were just too high to begin with…
* We found colectivos running to the Palenque Zona Archaelogica from outside the towns fairly new ADO terminal. The cost was $20.00 pesos per person each way.
* Entry into the Palenque ruins was $59.00 pesos per person.