Tucked away in the lush Lacandon Jungle in the Chiapas region of Mexico, the ancient city of Palenque is steeped in centuries of history. Once a powerful city during the Maya civilisation, it's now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides marvelling at Mayan temples, travellers come here to swim under rushing waterfalls, spot colourful parrots and hike through the dense rainforest. Modern Palenque town isn't far away, delivering taco restaurants, Mojito bars and a taste of contemporary Mexican life.
Hostels in Palenque include cabanas surrounded by verdant greenery, where guests can wake up to the call of howler monkeys. There are also properties located in modern Palenque town, with easy access to bars and shops. Some Palenque hostels have on-site restaurants, while others organise tours to the ruins. You can also find a Palenque hostel with an outdoor swimming pool for a refreshing dip after a day of jungle trekking, and many hostels have free Wi-Fi too.
The ancient city of Palenque is chiefly home to Mayan ruins. Here, you get to admire temples, tombs and forest scenery. In contrast, modern Palenque town is more developed. Its La Cañada neighbourhood is the place to be for bars and eateries serving up local specialities like shrimp quesadillas. For waterfalls and jungle paths, head to Roberto Barrios, an authentic pueblita (indigenous town) about an hour away from Palenque.
One of the most popular places to visit is the Zona Arqueológica national park, which is home to the famed jungle ruins. Top attractions here include the Tomb of the Red Queen, the final resting place of an unknown noblewoman. The Temple of the Inscriptions contains hieroglyphics in Maya script, while the Bonampak archaeological site has murals dating back to 790 AD. Cool off at the Misol Há or Agua Azul waterfalls, which are perfect for swimming. You can also head to the Ecoparque Aluxes, a conservation centre that rescues and rehabilitates native wildlife, from ornate hawk eagles to red-eyed tree frogs.
Flights from Mexico City land at Palenque International Airport. From here, it's a 15-minute taxi ride to the centre of town. If you're coming in via bus, the ADO bus terminal is conveniently located right in the town centre and provides handy left luggage facilities. To get to and from the ruins, look out for the numerous colectivo (shared taxis) that run throughout the day.