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 and the United States. 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.
Another airport in Villahermosa is bout two hours away by road. Tuxtla Gutierrez, 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. There are many buses daily from San Cristobal de las Casas (five hours), Tuxtla Gutierrez (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).
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 minibuses run between the town and ruins every 10 to 15 minutes during the day (20 pesos, december 2013). Combis - shared taxis - are also available. Just wait at the park gate at El Panchan. A colectivo will pick you up.
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 27 peso fee to enter the national park, and then another 54 peso for the ruin site (december 2013).
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 accomodation 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.
Don Muchos is a great restaurant at El Panchan. Great stone-oven pizzas and live music. The stone-oven pizzas cost 60 pesos and are very good.
Other ruins in the general area are Yaxchilán and Bonampak. These can be arranged by day trip (650 pesos, december 2013) or overnighter (1,250 pesos, december 2013) with any agency in town. Misol Ha and Agua Azul are famous waterfalls in the area. The towns many tour agencies organises 7 hour combination trips to both falls for 130-150 pesos, excluding entrance fees (30 and 38 pesos respectively). (December 2013) The falls are just an hour or so outside of the city, but the tours are arranged so that there is time to swim and eat (at Agua Azul).