Palenque is in Chiapas, Mexico famous for the ruins of a Mayan city dating from about 600 AD to 800 AD. Set amidst thick trees, Palenque still evokes some of the wonder that the early Spanish visitors must have felt when they first came across the ruins.
Palenque Mexico is actually a medium-sized archaeological site, much smaller than the huge sites like Tikal or else Copán, but it contains a few of the finest sculpture, architecture, roof comb as well as bas-relief carvings of the Mayan era.
A new airport just opened in Palenque with direct flights from Mexico City with Interjet (~$150 USD each way) and Tuxtla Gutiérrez with Ka'an Air (~$115 USD each way). As of May 2014 there was no shuttle bus from the airport. The only option are fixed priced taxis - to city centre only 3km away (M$200) and to the ruins area about 7km away (M$250). The closest public bus from the airport is over 2km away.
The next closest airport is in Villahermosa is about 2.5 hours away by road. Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the airport for San Cristobal de las Casas is five to six hours away by bus. Both airports are well serviced with flights from Mexico City and other points in Mexico.
The easiest way to get to Palenque is by bus. From the airport you can take a prepaid taxi to the bus station in town, which is 280 Pesos(August 2014)and it takes 30 minutes. There are two bus stations in town and both are just 2 minutes walk distance between them. There are many buses daily from San Cristobal de las Casas (five hours), Tuxtla Gutiérrez (six hours), Villahermosa (2.5 hours), Merida (8 hours), Campeche (5 hours), Cancun (13 hours). Daily (one or two buses) also ply from Mexico City (16 hours), Oaxaca (15 hours), Playa del Carmen (12 hours), and Tulum (12 hours).
Also if you would like to blend in with people and culture colectivos (Passenger Van) are the best way. Take a colectivo from Tuxtla Gutierrez bus station to San Cristobal de las Casas (2 hours/50 Pesos), then to Ocosingo (3 hours/65 Pesos) and finally from there to Palenque (3 hours/ 60 Pesos). You can stay overnight in any of these towns to continue your journey the next day. Taxis are really cheap around 20 Pesos to most of the hostels/Hotels. Colectivos start early in the morning mostly by 4am.
It is also possible to get to Palenque from Flores in Guatemala by bus (6h, leaving Flores daily at 5am, USD 35.00).
The ruins are about 6 km from the town of Palenque and colectivos run between the town and ruins every 10 to 15 minutes during the day. Cost is 20 pesos flat rate around the town. There are a number of visitors (both International and Mexican) who drive around, so hitchhiking is another option.
Other ruins in the general area are Yaxchilán and Bonampak. These can be arranged by day trip (650 pesos) or overnighter (1,250 pesos) with any agency in town.
Misol Ha and Agua Azul are famous waterfalls in the area. The town's many tour agencies organize 7 hour combination trips to both falls for 130-150 pesos, excluding entrance fees (30 and 38 pesos respectively). The falls are just an hour or so outside town, but the tours are arranged so that there is time to swim and eat (at Agua Azul).
Entrance for Aqua Azul 40 pesos.
For a visit to Roberto Barrios (entrance fee: 20$) you can take a colectivo from the local market in Palenque. The ride takes around 45 minutes for 50 Pesos. Alternatively, in El Panchan half-day tours are offered for 150$. They start at noon and offer enough time for a swim. Unless you want to stop in town for shopping you may consider it.
Spend a whole day exploring the site which spreads over 15 sq km. Only the central acropolis has been excavated. The Templo de Las Inscripciones, a burial monument, is the tallest building. El Palacio, the rulers' residence, was built in stages from 400 AD to 900 AD and underwent restoration in 1955. There's a 31 peso fee to enter the national park, and then another 70 peso for the ruin site.
There are two entrances to the ruins - the first one starts from the jungle part of the ruins and is often overlooked by people who head straight to the main entrance 1.5 km away. If you arrive there in the early morning (the ruin opens at 8am), you would likely be the only one to enjoy the serenity of the ruins before other visitors start coming in. Palenque gets hot and humid around noon, so start the trip early.
There is an entrance to the trail between ruin entrances - don't miss it for more 'jungle experience' featuring howler monkeys, waterfalls and hidden ruins.
Just 2 Km from the ruins there is a newly opened non-profit Aluxes Eco Park that rescues endangered animals and breeds endangered species from the area. Some of animals were kept as pets before or were trafficked, so they keep them there while animals are not ready for wild life. Worth a visit on the way to and from the Archeological Ruins. You can walk through it in 1-2 hours during a day for MXN100 or do a night tour or special activities for children.
A short hike to the nearby Mishol-Ha waterfall offers a variation on the ruin touring. This is a high waterfall into a natural pool with a path leading behind the falls to a cave. Bring a swimsuit and only swim during low flows.
Many tour operators will offer guided visits of the ruins, providing added background and knowledge regarding Palenque's history.
You can get some Maya-style artwork from outdoor vendors who set up unobtrusively at the ruins.
Sleeping accommodation can be found either in the city of Palenque, or just outside the limits on the road to the national park. That's the main question you have to ask yourself - whether to stay in town or in the jungle. The town saves you on food, the jungle on accommodation. The jungle is well worth it.
You can also sit at any of the places at the main square on a side which has a church. There are several simple places where you can sit down and grab a cheap and healthy dinner for 5 USD or less. Also there are plenty of street food stalls which serve a variety of Mexican snacks.
From Palenque to Merida directly is only ADO. It's around 570 pesos per person.
But there is a cheaper option: take a colectivo for 25 pesos to "cruzera del playa" wait there. It's only one bus (TRT bus) per day that goes to Merida (it arrives at the bus stop around 12.30p.m.) It cost 371 pesos and the journey takes 10 hours. But because it's local transport in this case it's propably more safe.