Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico, sharing a border with Guatemala and known for its lush rainforests, beautiful waterfalls, and one of the largest indigenous populations in the republic. Chiapas is one of my favorite places in Mexico and on this earth. Its vibrant and wild beauty is breathtaking, and the ancient history and current indigenous Mayan populations that inhabit the state really make it a unique and authentic destination for travelers. The two major touristic towns in Chiapas are San Cristobal de las Casas, and Palenque. Palenque is both the name of the town as well as the name of the Mayan ruins that lie around 7 kilometers outside of the town in a protected national park. There are many attractions for travelers including the ruins, rainforest tours, wildlife sanctuaries, swimming at waterfalls, and traditional Mayan art markets. There are a number of options for lodging both inside the national park and in the town itself. Here are my favorite places to stay in Palenque.
I recommend staying inside the national park or in one of the eco-resorts between the town and the entrance of the national park. There are two camping and cabin sites that I highly recommend within walking distance of the ruins: El Panchan and Mayabell. El Panchan, which means “heaven” in Maya, is a large complex of different campsites and cabins with restaurants, bars, and even a laundromat all connected through outdoor paths surrounded by jungle with various creeks running through it. This is an ideal place especially for backpackers who are looking for a cheaper option. There is a restaurant inside Panchan called Don Muchos that serves delicious wood oven pizzas, pastas, and traditional Mexican food and has live music and a fire and drums show every night. Throughout Panchan, there are large artistic installations and murals that complement and accentuate the beauty of the surrounding rainforest so even if you do not stay here, it is certainly worth it to come for a nice dinner and walk through the grounds.
Maya Bell is a smaller campsite with cabins, a restaurant, and a large swimming pool. It is located directly next to the first entrance to the ruins, and is a lot more intimate, quieter and more family oriented than Panchan.
There are two resorts along the route between the town and the ruins that I recommend: Chan Kah and Hotel Boutique Quinta Chanabnal. Both are four to five-star resorts with a spa and all of the amenities and prices of fancy hotels in larger cities.
The town of Palenque is quite small but is developing very quickly and has recently acquired an airport and newly paved roads. There are supermarkets, an open market, internet cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, and a central plaza often with regional music and dancing on the weekends. Normally Palenque is a good place to stock up on food and picnic materials before hopping on a collective van headed towards the surrounding waterfalls, ruins or jungle tours. For those averse to staying in the jungle, there is a very nice hostel located in the town of Palenque called Yaxkin Hostel.
Let the savage, lush wilderness of the rainforest enchant you by day and lull you to sleep at night with sounds of rushing waterfalls, owl hoots and the steady rhythmic buzzing of nocturnal insects. Enjoy a stroll through the center of town for a quaint glimpse of small-town living before heading to an adventure in the jungle. Lodging can be as primitive as a tent or as luxurious as a five-star spa, but either way, you are surrounded by unbridled and glorious nature.
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