Everybody knows about Chichen Itza. It's not as expensive as Tikal in Guatemala, but it's still too crowded with tourists. There is a good alternative. Palenque ruins are located around 120 km northeast of San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas. They have three advantages from Chichen Itza. They are uncrowded, cheaper and you can actually climb on most of the ruins!
This article inspects what budget options we have to visit the ruins from San Cristobal. You can read how to get on budget to San Cristobal from Mexico City in a separate artice.
Normally I don't recommend organized tours, but this time I will mention it as a consideration, although I didn't take it. If you walk around Real de Guadalupe street in San Cristobal, you will find many tourist agencies. They offer combined tours to Palenque ruins, Agua Azul cascades and Misol Ha waterfall. The cheapest offer we found was for 400 pesos (21 US$). The price is without a guide, which in my opinion is not needed. The tour bus departs from San Cristobal daily around 6 am and returns in late evening. You spend around hour and a half at Agua Azul and Misol Ha. Then you have 2 hours left for Palenque.
Ruins complex is huge and we wanted to spend more time there, instead of visiting waterfalls. We decided to find another option which will give us more time at archeologic site.
The solution was a regular night bus to Palenque. We bought tickets at the OCC office on Real de Guadalupe. They actually sell tickets for three companies (ADO, OCC and Cristobal Colon.) All companies have a connection to Palenque. Here is the schedule:
ADO: Busses departs daily at 14:30. Cost: 350 pesos.
OCC: Daily at 6:00, 10:00, 12:00, 13:00, 13:30, 14:45, 16:00, 19:00, 22:30. Cost: 294 pesos.
Cristobal Colon: 1:14(am), 15:00. Cost 134 pesos.
Obviously, Cristobal Colon is the cheapest. There is one more catch. Besides the prices mentioned above, they charge a service fee. A ticket for both ways at the end cost you 300 pesos.
We took the night bus. Bus departs from San Cristobal main bus station. It's location is shown on the map below left (green building - entrance from the side of the red arrow.) To there is an easy, 15 minute walk from main square in San Cristobal's historic centre.
There is a shorter road to Palenque, just northeast of San Cristobal, but is supposed to be dangerous. There has been many blocades and bus robberies reported in previous years. Now the busses take much longer way passing Tuxtla Gutierez and Villahermosa in Tabasco state. The journey took all night and we arrived to Palenque bus station around 10 in the morning (photo below right.)
Bus station is just next to a roundabout with a big Mayan statue in the middle. There you can hire a minibus to the archeological site. They will park around roundabout. One way journey costs 20 pesos per person.
You can decide to take a walk, but it's not very close (around 8 km - blue dotted line on map below left.) In this case just turn right after exiting bus station and head straight. Soon you'll get to the Y shaped intersection where the main road turns left, but you just continue straight. I don't think a 8 km walk is worth saving 20 pesos but if you start walking and after 1 km or so stop the passing minibus, you'll get a ride for 10 pesos. At least that was our case :)
You can decide to hop of the minibus a couple of hundred meters before the entrance to the park. There is a sharp curve and a sign for a forest walk to Sendero Motiepa waterfall. Probably some cars will be parked there too.
The walking path is clearly marked and you will reach waterfall very quickly. From there you can just continue on the path and breeth in some fresh jungle air. You'll reach a crossroads where you should turn sharply left.
If you follow the path you will get out of the forest back on the road just before main parking lot (photo below left.) You will already see a ticket office on the right side of the road and a park entrance on the other side of the parking lot (photo below right.)
Entrance fee for the archeologic site is 65 pesos. On some websites I read that people got charged aditional 31 pesos for entering national park. No one asked us about something like this.
The journey back is the same as there. The only difference is the time when the busses depart back to San Cristobal. Cristobal Colon (the cheapest) departs at 15:00 and there should be one more in the early morning. If you take one in the afternoon, expect to arrive to San Cristobal around 23:00.
1. Buy bus ticket at the OCC office on Real de Guadalupe street.
2. Cheapest busses depart daily at 1:14(am) and 15:00, ticket cost: 300 pesos both ways, and takes around 9 hours one way.
3. Take mini bus waiting around roundabout in front of main bus station in Palenque. 8 km and 20 pesos to archeologic site.
4. Go all the way to the parking lot.
4.1. Jump off the minibus at the entrance to Sendero Motiepa waterfall pathway. It's clearly marked in a sharp curve to the left.
4.2. Enjoy the waterfall, continue on the path, turn sharp left at the crossroads and you'll exit the forest near parking lot.
5. Ticket office in on the right side of the road, cost 65 pesos.
6. The way back is same as there. Bus departs Palenque to San Cristobal at 15:00.
7. Expect arrival to San Cistobal around 23:00.
Last update on: 3/6/2017