Ruins of Palenque

Mexico is home to hundreds of archeological zones, both large and small.  There are more than 40 of them open to the public and they reflect the varied cultures of the peoples who lived here before the arrival of the conquistadors.  Although often lumped together as pre-Hispanic civilizations, there were and still are dozens of separate and distinct indigenous groups here.  The Mexicas (usually called Aztecs) and Mayas are the best known, but the Toltecs, Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Otomí, and many others contributed to what has become modern Mexico and left behind impressive vestiges of their societies.

While we were vacationing in Chiapas State, we visited the archeological site at Palenque.  It’s located about six hours by road from the colonial town of San Cristóbal de Las Casas where we staying initially, but it’s a remarkable place and well worth the trip.  Palenque is one of the most beautiful Mayan sites (along with Tikal in Guatemala) found so far and has only been partially excavated.  As you can see from the attached photos, the structures at Palenque — some of which are reconstructed — tell of a city that required years of effort to build and must have been a sacred location in the Mayan world.

Palenque, located in a tropical forest, is a popular destination for Mexican and foreign tourists.  The time we were there coincided with a long holiday weekend, so the place was full of families and schoolchildren eager to see it.  We went early one morning and were able to enjoy the site with only a few other visitors, which added to its allure.  We climbed up many (but not all!) of the temples and were rewarded with panoramic views of the various plazas.

We have been fortunate to have already visited several breathtaking archeological sites and our visit to Palenque only whetted our appetite to see more of them!


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