The town of Santo Domingo de Palenque, usually just called Palenque, is eight kilometers (5 miles) from the Palenque archeological zone. The town itself is rather grubby and nondescript, but it bulges at its seams with tourists here to visit the ruins.
Avenida Juárez is the main drag, where you’ll find the bus terminal, tour agencies, and other services, plus a number of no-frills hotels. Many travelers find the leafy neighborhood of La Cañada and the hotels along the road to the ruins to be more pleasant spots to spend the night, though they cost a bit more.
There’s a small, little-used plaza at one end of Avenida Juárez, and a large sculpture of a Maya warrior’s head (and the turnoff to the ruins) at the other.
Getting to Palenque
The tiny Palenque International Airport (PQM) is located about five kilometers (3 miles) north of town; there was no regular passenger service there at the time of research.
The ADO bus terminal (Av. Juárez s/n, tel. 916/345-1344) is about 100 meters (328 feet) from the turnoff to the Palenque ruins. Tickets can be purchased at the terminal or at Ticket Bus (central plaza, tel. 961/345-5302, toll-free Mex. tel. 800/702-8000, www.ticketbus.com.mx, 8 a.m.–10 p.m. daily).
Autotransporte Chamoan (Av. Miguel Hidalgo btwn. Calles 1a Pte. and Allende) provides combi service to destinations in the Río Usumacinta Valley, including to the Lacandón community of Lacanjá Chansayab (US$7, 3 hrs); Crucero Bonampak (US$7, 3 hrs), where you can catch another combi to Bonampak ruins; and finally to Frontera Corozal (US$7, 3.5 hrs), where you can catch boats to Yaxchilán ruins. Combis leave the Palenque terminal every hour on the hour from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and leave Frontera Corozal at 4, 4:30, 5, 5:30, 6, 7, and 8 a.m., and then hourly from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To get to Las Guacamayas ecocenter in Reforma Agraria, Lineas Montebello (Av. Manuel Velasco Suárez near Coppel department store, tel. 916/345-1260, US$9, 5–6 hrs) offers service to the village turnoff every 60–90 minutes 3:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. daily. From there, it’s about one kilometer (0.6 mi) to the ecocenter. Be aware that some departures only go as far as Benemérito de las Américas (US$7.50, 4 hrs) where you can catch a connecting combi.
There are still no car rental agencies in Palenque. The nearest one is in Villahermosa, which is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) away; it is a safe and pleasant ride. You also can rent in San Cristóbal de las Casas, about five hours away. If you do rent a car, plan on driving during daylight hours only; security has improved immensely in this area, but the occasional robbery does occur, almost always after dark.
Also, get in the habit of filling your gas whenever you can, as gas stations are few and far between. In a pinch, look for roadside gasoline stands, which typically sell gas in semi-transparent jugs of 5, 10, or 20 liters.
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition