We jumped on a pretty comfortable ADO overnight bus from Merida to Palenque that took about 10 hours. We were warned that there were often thieves on this bus and to make sure we kept our valuables in the main luggage hold or on our person. Fortunately we did not have any problems, but a friend who travelled the day before was not so lucky. So definitely be careful if you travel this route.
Palenque is a small town on the edge of the jungle famous for its ancient Mayan Ruins and also… mushrooms. Once we arrived we headed straight out to El Panchan which is a tiny village just outside of Palenque in the jungle. Well, village is a pretty generous term, it’s more a few of accommodation options and two cheap restaurants. We stayed at Jungle Palace and it was incredibly cheap, like less than US$5 per person per night. The food at the restaurants is also pretty cheap so this is a great place to just relax and do nothing, maybe try some special mushrooms and spy the occasional Capybara (basically a giant hamster) roaming the grounds. This part of the jungle is also full of howler monkeys and I must say that I was pretty intimidated when I first heard a troop of them nearby. They honestly sound like what I imagine a T-Rex would sound like! Very bizarre. We really enjoyed our time in the jungle and would highly recommend heading out to Jungle Palace if you are ever in the area.
The thing to do in Palenque is to of course visit the ancient Mayan Ruins. While you can organise to do this yourself, we found it much easier, and honestly slightly cheaper, to do it through one of the many tour companies around the area, especially because we wanted to check out some waterfalls as well. The morning of our tour was spent at the ruins and they were pretty spectacular. Hundreds of ruined buildings are spread over a pretty large area but only a small section has been excavated. It’s pretty awesome that they let you climb to the top of the structures and really explore them properly.
The afternoon was then spent seeing a few different waterfalls around the jungle. The most beautiful and remarkable were the Agua Azul waterfalls. Wow. Many waterfalls flow into various crystal blue pools. The only downside is that because it is such a beautiful place to visit, there are hundreds of stalls swamping the sides selling souvenirs and food. However, it was still a pretty magical place to visit, and a much needed swim!
Our time in Palenque was a real highlight in Mexico, and not just because of the mushrooms we tasted, it is just a super chilled and relaxing place to take a break and soak up the jungle vibes.
Here is a breakdown of our costs for 3 days:
Budget = US$214 (NZ$300)
Accommodation – US$24
Activities – US$63.50
Food/Drink – US$97
Travel (incl. Taxis) – US$66.50
Total spent – US$251 (NZ$358)
So we were US$37 (NZ$53) over budget. We probably could have stocked up on food before coming out to El Panchan, but we were pretty happy with how much we spent here.