When in Mexico, you gotta see some ancient ruins built thousands of years ago…by aliens?
Turns out you don’t have to go to Egypt to see a sarcophagus and hear about how ancient buildings were built by aliens — you can just visit Mexico. But don’t skip out on the amazing beaches, the turquoise swimming holes, and days of eating tortas and sipping aqua fresca, either.
Umm if that sounds like a lot to do in just a week-long visit, think about living in Mexico! Come fill out an application and be one of the volunteers who gets to live abroad in this country, teach English to a classroom of cuties and gets vacation time to explore ancient ruins!
The Mexican ruins are one of the reasons to visit this country in the first place, right? And just seeing the all the ruins here will keep you very, very busy. You’ve probably heard about the World Wonder of Chichen Itza but what about Palenque?
- Really? Aliens?
- So Who’s Buried There?
- Why Visit These Ruins?
- How To Get There
- How Much Does It Cost?
- Anything Else I Should Know?
OK, so they *probably* aren’t built by aliens, but here’s the story. A few hundred years ago, Europeans stumbled on these ruins and were amazed - they were so intricate and detailed, they just had to be built by the Romans or the Greeks, right? (Silly Europeans). When the King of Spain heard about them, he demanded samples so the buildings were pillaged and parts were sent to Spain.
So Who's Buried There?
Turns out the real treasure was there all along and was just waiting to be discovered - not even 100 years ago, Mexican archeologists hit the jackpot; a huge sarcophagus was found in The Temple Of Inscriptions and King Pacal’s body was still inside.
This discovery was huge — and there’s lots of controversy around it. The sarcophagus is really ornate and the images on the surface have been interpreted in a lot of different ways. Lots of people believe the inscriptions show the king sitting on a setting sun (there’s lots of afterlife imagery there too) but some believe that this tomb is another sign of the Mayan Doomsday; the image is clearly the king sitting behind his spaceship, turning dials and controls.
So obviously, it wasn’t the Greeks or Romans who built Palenque, it was aliens.
Why Visit These Ruins?
Besides the chance to see what the aliens built? Kidding. But seriously, these ruins are ah-mazing. Hidden in the dense and green Mexican jungle, it’s like a completely different world. If you go in the morning, you may even see these huge stone pyramids still shrouded in mist (plus, it’ll be a lot cooler, temperature wise).
How Can I Get There?
Palenque is about 7km from the city of Palenque — so you'll want to get yourself to Palenque. You can fly into this tiny airport from Mexico City for about $150, then take a taxi into Palenque.
You can also take a vacation to Chiapas and plan a day trip to see the ruins. Fly into Villahermosa or Tuxtla Gutiérrez (or you can take a bus there) and hang out in Chiapas. Then, take a 2.5ish bus ride to the city of Palenque.
Once you get to the Palenque you’ll be able to catch a taxi (30 pesos per person) or a collectivo to the ruins (plan on paying 5-10 pesos for this). And that's it! Easy peasy.
How Much Does It Cost?
Tickets to the nature reserve are about 20 pesos and the entrance to the actual ruins runs around 51 pesos, so plan on about $4 USD (yes, please! ). Then you're free to just run around and explore.
You can also hire a guide (about $50 dollars per group) if you want to go that route (you'll learn a lot about the history that you wouldn't know otherwise, which is recommended).
Anything Else I Should Know?
Just a few tips: I’d go early — the park opens at 8:00 AM and be sure to pack lots of water and sunscreen. Vendors on the outside sell food and drinks, but you can’t buy anything inside.
I’d recommend staying for 4-6 hours so you can really explore all there is to see; it’s huge!
Oh, and there’s lots of other things to do nearby, like taking boat ride through a gorgeous canyon and swimming in the Agua Azul. Check out what else there is to do in Chiapas right here.
Need more Mexico in your life? Skim through our blog and check out that little green button (and start dreaming about volunteering with ILP!)