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Located in the foothills of the Chiapas altiplano of modern Mexico, Palenque was an important Maya city which flourished between c. The name Palenque derives from the Spanish, meaning 'fortified place', but the original Maya name, we now know, was Lakamha. Situated where the highland and coastal plains join, the site prospered as an inland trade centre which allowed Palenque to control a large territory and form beneficial alliances with other powerful cities such as Tikal, Pomoná, and Tortuguero. Palenque is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The list of Palenque kings begins with K'uk' Bahlam I, who reigned from 431 to 435 CE, but the most famous monarch is Kinich Janaab Pacal I (meaning great sunflower shield), also known as Pakal the Great, who reigned from 615 CE until his death in 683 CE, aged 80. Pakal created a dynasty which, over four generations, saw the city reach its greatest period of prosperity. Pakal's sons, K'an Bahlam II (r. 684-702 CE and otherwise known as Chan Bahlum) and K'an Joy Chitam II (r. 702 - c. 720 CE), and grandson K'inich Ahkal Mo' Nahb III (r. 721 - c. 736 CE ) continued Pakal's work and transformed Palenque into one of the greatest of all Maya cities. However, sometime in the mid 8th century CE hostilities broke out with Toniná and Palenque, as other contemporary Classic Maya cities, was abandoned c. 800 CE.

The investigation inside the great pyramid of Palenque led to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in Mesoamerica.

Layout & Architecture

The city may be divided into three separate periods: Early, Middle, and Late Classic. Most of the larger buildings at Palenque date to the middle period, whilst the Late Classic saw the construction of terraced fortifications for defence against central Gulf Coast peoples. Built on three different levels, the city follows the contours of the local terrain, and many of the limestone temple structures are built on natural hills. Palenque, with over 1,000 different structures, was one of the most densely populated of all Maya cities. Eight small rivers running down from the surrounding mountains wind their way through the city. The most important such stream was called Otulum which was re-directed to bring water directly to the royal palace, and, in places, made to follow an underground aqueduct which supported platforms and walkways.

Architecture at Palenque was innovative. For the first time in Mesoamerica, corbeled roofs were constructed, often in parallel, which brought greater interior space and, via the central supporting wall, improved structural stability. On top of the sloping upper portion of many buildings, a latticed roof-comb was added. Palenque architecture is also distinct due to the use of thin walls and wide doorways. Buildings used the local soft limestone with lintels in wood, and bright colours of red, blue, green, yellow, and white were used to decorate them on the outside and murals inside. Palenque is also famous for its decorative stucco sculpture and low-relief carvings which present some of the most naturalistic portraits in Maya art. Also of note are the many palaces with wide courtyards, ornamental fountains, and artificial pools dotted around the city.

The Palenque Palace

Uniquely for Maya cities, at Palenque a royal residence and not a temple is the central focus of the city. The palace, likely first begun by Pakal and with major additions such as the tower c. 721 CE, is one of the most complex architectural structures at any Maya site. The building, set on a 10-metre high platform, is largely composed of rooms arranged around internal courtyards and galleries with vaulted ceilings, the whole measuring 91 x 73 metres. Perhaps the palace's most striking feature is the square four-storey tower, another feature unique in Mesoamerican sites. The 25-metre tower was climbed via a staircase winding around the interior walls. The building was used as a royal residence and court but also as accommodation for nobles, servants, and military personnel. Other features of note are a steam bath, two lavatories constructed over an underground stream, and various reliefs showing captives. The palace was also richly decorated with stucco painted in bright colours which depict scenes of Maya kings and nobility.

The Temple of the Inscriptions

Set into a hillside and completed c. 682 CE, the pyramid has nine different levels, corresponding, no doubt, to the nine levels of the Maya Underworld. Carrying out an archaeological survey at the top of the pyramid in 1952 CE, the Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz famously discovered that a single curiously holed slab in the flooring of one chamber could be removed, and beneath it he revealed a staircase which descended into the heart of the building. At the base of the twisting 65-step staircase, after clearing away the deliberately left rubble and now deep inside the pyramid, Ruz reached a single corbel-roofed chamber, outside of which were five or six human skeletons, almost certainly sacrificial victims. Clearly someone important had been buried here. Inside the richly decorated crypt were nine stucco attendants on the sloping walls and two more in jade standing by the room's most remarkable artefact. This was a sarcophagus topped with a magnificently carved 3.8 metre long slab depicting a Maya ruler falling into the jaws of the Maya underworld Xibalba. On finally opening the sarcophagus, Ruz discovered the jade and cinnabar-covered remains of that greatest of all Palenque rulers, King Pakal the Great. The king had been given a life-like jade mosaic death mask and a great deal of matching jewellery to accompany him into the next life. It was one of the greatest discoveries in Mesoamerican archaeology, and it finally proved that the great Maya pyramids had not simply been built as temples but also as tombs for great rulers, just as in ancient Egypt.

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Other interesting features of the tomb include inscriptions on the walls which relate episodes from Pakal's reign (hence the temple's modern name), a narrow stone airway (psychoduct) which runs right through the pyramid to connect the tomb to the outside world, and exactly 13 corbel roof sections connecting the tomb to the upper chamber, corresponding to the Maya 13 levels of the heavens. So then, just as depicted on the sarcophagus slab, the entire pyramid was a metaphor for Pakal's descent through the nine levels of the underworld and subsequent ascent up the World Tree and the 13 levels of heaven to finally reach divine status. The tomb is also interesting architecturally as it has unique stone crossbeams, no doubt, because the architect felt the usual wood beams would not be strong enough to support the great mass of masonry above. Finally, the temple is also notable as the only known example of a Maya pyramid being built before the death of the occupant.

The Group of the Cross

This is a collection of three temples - the Temple of the Sun, the Cross, and Foliated Cross - built in the late 7th century CE and arranged on three sides of a plaza. Each temple is built on a raised platform accessed by a frontal flight of monumental steps, and each contains parallel galleries with a corbeled passage set at right-angles, so creating a large chamber. All three also have large roof-comb structures. Inscriptions within the shrines of each of the structures reveal that they were built in honour of three Palenque gods (known only as GI, GII, and GIII) by King K'an Bahlam, (Snake Jaguar) and dedicated in 692 CE. The king's accession is recorded in tablets in all three temples, and he is himself depicted aged six and again when made king, aged 49.

The three temples are rich in Maya imagery and symbolism. The inner shrine of the Temple of the Sun had a mask of the sun in his night aspect, the Jaguar God of the Underworld. The shrines in the Temple of the Cross and Foliated Cross contained a World Tree above which was a quetzal bird. The Maya called these buildings sweat baths or pibnal, places of ceremonial importance, especially before and after childbirth. Perhaps, then, they are symbolic of the gods' birth, and taken as a group they may represent the Maya Creation. The sculptures and reliefs as a whole emphasise the king's role as a guardian of fertility, maize, and rain, and they also present a clear ancestral link between the Pakal dynasty and the gods.

Palenque: Maya City of Temples

Palenque is an ancient Maya city located about 500 miles (800 km) southeast of Mexico City. It lies in northern Chiapas, near the bottom of a highland, overlooking a vast plain.

Its ancient name was Lakamha (“Big Water”) and its modern name comes from the nearby Spanish colonial settlement of Santo Domingo de Palenque. Although probably known to the local modern Maya, it was rediscovered by European explorers in the 18th century and even elicited the interest of King Charles III of Spain.

The story of Pakal

Palenque, here in the jungle of southern Mexico, was one of the greatest Mayan cities to have ever existed. And a large part of that was because of Pakal, the man found in this tomb.

He became the ruler of Palenque when he was 12 years old and stayed in charge until he died at the age of 80. (Although, it is worth noting here that there’s a bit of controversy about his age because some scientists say testing of his body indicated he may only have been about 40.)

However, the majority of archaeologists think he probably did rule until he was 80. During this time, he consolidated power with the nobility and the military, with him at the head.

He was able to create a powerful city-state that could hold off potential attacks and embark on ambitious construction projects. The next two rulers to come after him, direct descendants of Pakal, were able to continue this.

The reason we know so much about this is from the building where his tomb was discovered – the Temple of Inscriptions. As the name suggests, the walls at the top are covered in inscriptions that tell a detailed history of Palenque, especially about the rulers and their families.

Palenque - History

The Red Queen: A Mayan Mystery

Archaeological documentary about the Red Queen, found next to Lord Pacal’s tomb at Palenque. Aired on Discovery channel in 2005.

Collage of Palenque.

Palenque (Yucatec Maya: Bàak’ /ɓàːkʼ/) was a Maya city state in southern Mexico that flourished in the 7th century. The Palenque ruins date back to 226 BC to around 799 AD. After its decline, it was absorbed into the jungle, which is made up of cedar, mahogany, and sapodilla trees, but has been excavated and restored and is now a famous archaeological site attracting thousands of visitors. It is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas, located about 130 km (81 mi) south of Ciudad del Carmen about 150 m (164 yd) above sea level. It stays at a humid 26°C (79°F) with roughly 2160 mm (85 in) of rain a year.

Palenque is a medium-sized site, much smaller than such huge sites as Tikal, Chichen Itza, or Copán, but it contains some of the finest architecture, sculpture, roof comb and bas-relief carvings that the Mayas produced. Much of the history of Palenque has been reconstructed from reading the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the many monuments historians now have a long sequence of the ruling dynasty of Palenque in the 5th century and extensive knowledge of the city-state’s rivalry with other states such as Calakmul and Toniná. The most famous ruler of Palenque was Pacal the Great whose tomb has been found and excavated in the Temple of the Inscriptions.

By 2005, the discovered area covered up to 2.5 km² (1 sq mi), but it is estimated that less than 10% of the total area of the city is explored, leaving more than a thousand structures still covered by jungle.

Stone carving of Pacal the Great, one of the main figures responsible for the city’s art and architecture.

Much of the Early Classic history of the city still awaits the archaeologist’s trowel. However, from the extent of the surveyed site and the reference to Early Classic rulers in the inscriptional record of the Late Classic, it is clear Palenque’s history is much longer than we currently know. The fact that early ajaw (king or lord) and mythological beings used a variety of emblem glyphs in their titles indeed suggests a complex early history. For instance, K’uk’ B’ahlam, the supposed founder of the Palenque dynasty, is called a Toktan Ajaw in the text of the Temple of the Foliated Cross.

The famous structures that we know today probably represent a rebuilding effort in response to the attacks by the city of Calakmul and its client states in 599 and 611. [2] One of the main figures responsible for rebuilding Palenque and for a renaissance in the city’s art and architecture is also one of the best-known Maya Ajaw, K’inich Janaab’ Pakal (Pacal the Great), who ruled from 615 to 683. He is best known through his funerary monument, dubbed the Temple of Inscriptions after the lengthy text preserved in the temple’s superstructure. At the time Alberto Ruz Lhuillier excavated Pakal’s tomb it was the richest and best preserved of any scientifically excavated burial then known from the ancient Americas. It held this position until the discovery of the rich Moche burials at Sipan, Peru and the recent discoveries at Copan and Calakmul.

/>A bas-relief in the Palenque museum that depicts Upakal K’inich, the son of K’inich Ahkal Mo’ Naab III.

Beside the attention that K’inich Janaab’ Pakal’s tomb brought to Palenque, the city is historically significant for its extensive hieroglyphic corpus composed during the reigns of Janaab’ Pakal his son K’inich Kan B’ahlam and his grandson K’inich Akal Mo’ Naab’, and for being the location where Heinrich Berlin and later Linda Schele and Peter Mathews outlined the first dynastic list for any Maya city. The work of Tatiana Proskouriakoff as well as that of Berlin, Schele, Mathews, and others initiated the intense historical investigations that characterized much of the scholarship on the ancient Maya from the 1960s to the present. The extensive iconography and textual corpus has also allowed for study of Classic period Maya mythology and ritual practice.

A list of possible and known Maya rulers of the city, with dates of their reigns:

    ? 967- ? BC (legendary? – Olmec?) ? 252- ? BC 431-435 AD
  • “Casper�-487 AD 487-501 AD 501-524 AD 529-565 AD 565-570 AD 572-583 AD 583-604 AD (female) 605-612 AD 612 AD 612-615 AD (female) 615-683 AD (“Pakal the Great”) 684-702 AD 702-722? AD 722-741? AD ? ? -764? AD ? ? 651 ? AD ? 764- ? AD ? 799- ? AD (uncertain)

Early Classic Period

The first ajaw, or king, of B’aakal that we know of was K’uk Balam (Quetzal Jaguar), who governed for four years starting in the year 431. After him, a king came to power, nicknamed Casper by archaeologists. The next two kings were probably Casper’s sons. Little was known about the first of these, B’utz Aj Sak Chiik, until 1994, when a tablet was found describing a ritual for the king. The first tablet mentioned his successor Ahkal Mo’ Naab I as a teenage prince, and therefore it is believed that there was a family relation between them. For unknown reasons, Akhal Mo’ Naab I had great prestige, so the kings who succeeded him were proud to be his descendants.

When Ahkal Mo’ Naab I died in 524, there was an interregnum of four years, before the following king was crowned en Toktán in 529. K’an Joy Chitam I governed for 36 years. His sons Ahkal Mo’ Naab II and K’an B’alam I were the first kings who used the title Kinich, which means “the great sun.” This word was used also by later kings. B’alam was succeeded in 583 by Yohl Ik’nal, who was supposedly his daughter. The inscriptions found in Palenque document a battle that occurred under her government in which troops from Calakmul invaded and sacked Palenque, a military feat without known precedents. These events took place in 599.

A second victory by Calakmul occurred some twelve years later, in 611, under the government of Aj Ne’ Yohl Mat, son of Yohl Iknal. In this occasion, the king of Calakmul entered Palenque in person, consolidating a significant military disaster, which was followed by an epoch of political disorder. Aj Ne’ Yohl Mat was to die in 612.

Late Classic Period

The two inner columns from the Temple of the Inscriptions

B’aakal began the Late Classic period in the throes of the disorder created by the defeats before Calakmul. The glyphic panels at the Temple of Inscriptions, which records the events at this time, relates that some fundamental annual religious ceremonies were not performed in 613, and at this point states: “Lost is the divine lady, lost is the king.” Mentions of the government at the time have not been found.

It is believed that after the death of Aj Ne’ Yohl Mat, Janaab Pakal, also called Pakal I, took power thanks to a political agreement. Janaab Pakal assumed the functions of the ajaw (king) but never was crowned. He was succeeded in 612 by his daughter, the queen Sak K’uk’, who governed for only three years until her son was old enough to rule. It is considered that the dynasty was reestablished from then on, so B’aakal retook the path of glory and splendor.

The Palace Observation Tower

The grandson of Janaab Pakal is the most famous of the Mayan kings, K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, also known as Pakal the Great. He began rule at the age of 12 years old after his mother Sak Kuk resigned as queen after three years, thus passing power on to him. Pakal the Great reigned in Palenque from 615 to 683, and his mother remained an important force for the first 25 years of his rule. She may have ruled jointly with him. Known as the favorite of the gods, he carried Palenque to new levels of splendor, in spite of having come to power when the city was at a low point. Pakal married the princess of Oktán, Lady Tzakbu Ajaw (also known as Ahpo-Hel) in 624 and had at least three children.

The Palace as seen from the courtyard.

During his government, most of the palaces and temples of Palenque were constructed the city flourished as never before, eclipsing Tikal. The central complex, known as The Palace, was enlarged and remodeled on various occasions, notably in the years 654, 661, and 668. In this structure, is a text describing how in that epoch Palenque was newly allied with Tikal, and also with Yaxchilan, and that they were able to capture the six enemy kings of the alliance. Not much more had been translated from the text.

In the Palace

After the death of Pakal in 683, his older son K’inich Kan B’alam assumed the kingship of B’aakal, who in turn was succeeded in 702 by his brother K’inich K’an Joy Chitam II. The first continued the architectural and sculptural works that were begun by his father, as well as finishing the construction of the famous tomb of Pakal. Pakal’s sarcophagus, built for a very tall man, held the richest collection of jade seen in a Mayan tomb. A jade mosaic mask was placed over his face, and a suit made of jade adorned his body, with each piece hand-carved and held together by gold wire.

Furthermore, K’inich Kan B’alam I began ambitious projects, like the Group of the Crosses. Thanks to numerous works begun during his government, now we have portraits of this king, found in various sculptures. His brother succeeded him continuing with the same enthusiasm of construction and art, reconstructing and enlarging the north side of the Palace. Thanks to the reign of these three kings, B’aakal had a century of growing and splendor.

Mask of the Red Queen from the tomb found in Temple XIII.

In 711, Palenque was sacked by the realm of Toniná, and the old king K’inich K’an Joy Chitam II was taken prisoner. It is not known what the final destination of the king was, and it is presumed that he was executed in Toniná. For 10 years there was no king. Finally, K’inich Ahkal Mo’ Nab’ III was crowned in 722. Although the new king belonged to the royalty, there is no reason to be sure that he was the direct inheritor direct of K’inich K’an Joy Chitam II. It is believed, therefore, that this coronation was a break in the dynastic line, and probably K’inich Ahkal Nab’ arrived to power after years of maneuvering and forging political alliances. This king, his son, and grandson governed until the end of the 8th century. Little is known about this period, except that, among other events, the war with Toniná continued, where there are hieroglyphics that record a new defeat of Palenque.


During the 8th century, B’aakal came under increasing stress, in concert with most other Classic Mayan city-states, and there was no new elite construction in the ceremonial center sometime after 800. An agricultural population continued to live here for a few generations, then the site was abandoned and was slowly grown over by the forest. The district was very sparsely populated when the Spanish first arrived in the 1520’s. Occasionally city-state lords were women. Lady Sak Kuk ruled at Palenque for at least three years starting in 612 CE, before she passed her title to her son. However, these female rulers were accorded male attributes. Thus, these women became more masculine as they assumed roles that were typically male roles.

From fruit seller to national symbol

Today, the Palenqueras sell less and less fruit and instead make their money from posing for curious tourists, photographers and journalists. And it’s easy to see why: their beautiful smiles, stunning traditional dresses and colourful hand-made jewellery set against Cartagena’s crumbling mustard walls make for a stunning photo. However, very few people know that they’re not really from Cartagena at all, and there is much more behind these smiling women than meets the eye.

Being direct descendants of the world’s first free African slaves, the Palenqueras represent an incredible feat of human resistance, the respected figure of courageous, hard-working mothers, and a still living and thriving Afro-Caribbean heritage. What better symbol to represent Colombia?


Arrazola Caicedo, Roberto. Palenque: Primer pueblo libre de America. Bogot á , Colombia: Todo Impresores, 1986.

Borrego Pl á , Maria del Carmen. Palenques de negros en Cartagena de Indias a fines del siglo XVII. Seville, Spain: Publicaciones de la Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos de Sevilla, 1973.

De Friedemann, Nina S. Ma Ngombe: Guerreros y ganaderos en Palenque. Bogot á , Colombia: Carlos Valencia Editores, 1987.

De Friedemann, Nina S. La saga del negro: Presencia africana en Colombia. Bogot á , Colombia: Instituto de Gen é tica Humana, Facultad de Medicina Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 1993.

Escalante, Aquiles. El Palenque de San Basilio: Una Comunidad de descendientes de negros cimarrones. 2d edition. Barranquilla, Colombia: Editorial Mejoras, 1979.

Navarrete, Maria Cristina. "Cimarrones y palenques en las provincias al norte del Nuevo Reino de Granada siglo XVII." Fronteras de la Historia 6 (2001): 87 – 107.

Navarrete, Maria Cristina. Cimarrones y palenques en el siglo XVII. Cali, Colombia: Universidad del Valle, 2003.

Schwegler, Armin. "Chi ma Kongo": Lengua y rito ancestrales en El Palenque de San Basilio (Colombia). 2 vols. Frankfurt and Madrid: Ibero-Americana, 1996.

Zuluaga R., Francisco U. "Cimarronismo en el suroccidente del antiguo Virreinato de Santafe de Bogota." In De Ficciones y realidades: Perspectivas sobre literature e historia colombianas: Memorias del Quinto Congreso de Colombianistas. Compiled by Alvaro Pineda Botero and Raymond L. Williams. Bogot á , Colombia: Tercer Mundo Editores, with Universidad de Cartagena, 1989.

Palenque 2

The ancient city of Palenque is both grand and mysterious. Some of the most fascinating ancient ruins of Mexico can be found here. Palenque Chiapas showcases one of the most famous sites in the Mayan civilization. Stone temples look out over the jungle from atop a ridge that hangs above surrounding mountains and travelers who spend time in Palenque will not forget the experience.

Transportation to Palenque can be tricky, but for any history enthusiasts, these ancient ruins of Mexico are well worth viewing. If you plan to rent a car, the drive from San Cristobal, the nearest city, to Palenque will take about five hours. Watch for potholes and other road obstructions as you drive, as some of the highways will not be paved. Also, be sure to keep your passport and other travel documents with you, as there are military roadblocks set up along the highway frequently and your car may be searched.

Travel to these ancient ruins of Mexico by bus will also take about five hours from San Cristobal. Palenque Mexico has two bus stations, both offering first class service to and from nearby cities. Bus service is also the best way to travel from downtown Palenque Mexico to the Palenque ruin site. White VW buses make trips from the city to the Palenque ruin site about once every ten minutes between 6am and 6pm. Cost is around $1 per person and buses may be flagged down at any point along their route.

Mexico Map

Tourists making a trip to the Palenque ruin site will want to bring rain gear. Even on the warmest days, the jungle environment is wet and can even become chilly. During the rainy season, Palenque Mexico is incredibly humid and a good rain jacket will provide protection from the soaking precipitation.

Once you arrive at the Palenque ruins, you"ll see why historians and archeologists have studied these ancient ruins of Mexico for decades. The Palenque Maya civilizations were complicated and the temples that remain to this day are just one example. The architecture of the temples is inventive with a particular building style that allowed light and air into the temples. The interiors feature stone sculptures and representations of rulers and gods of the Palenque Maya people.

Perhaps the most famous of these rulers was Pacal of Palenque, also known as Pacal the Great. The name Pacal means "shield" in the Palenque Maya language and Pacal of Palenque commissioned much of the building projects that resulted in the intricate temples we see today. After his death, Pacal of Palenque was worshiped as a god and laid to rest in an elaborate pyramid tomb.

Whether you choose to stay in Palenque for a week or simply as part of a broader Mexico vacation be sure to check out these ancient ruins of Mexico. As one of the only untouched villages of its kind, the ruins of Palenque are inimitable.


Many know all of Colombia, but I bet you not a magical place preserved in time called Palenque, this beautiful little town was the first to be liberated in America. Founded by maroons who freed themselves from their ties in colonial times in Colombia, its main characteristics are the language, its culture, its gastronomy and its great history.

Its history dates back to 1603 in the waters of the Rio Grande de la Magdalena, where a castaway named Domingo Benkos Biohó was able to lead an escape with a group of family and friends, the word palenque translates as that place populated by maroons or African slaves escaped during the colonial period. To date, Palenque has remained rigid due to all its characteristics, exerting a strong influence throughout the Colombian Caribbean region as an Afro-Colombian community.

In 1603 the capitulation of peace between the Maroons and the Spanish was signed. Then in 1713 the crown of Spain transmitted the royal decree officially declaring that palenque as free from slavery. Then in 2005, UNESCO declared a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. Always highlighting its gastronomy, language, culture, music, social organization and medicine.

¿What can I find in Palenque?
Many tourists visit Palenque, but why? Simple, this beautiful land stopped in time enjoys its people who are very affectionate and with a great history behind. In Cartagena and all regions you can find women dressed in skirts and a scarf wrapped around their heads full of energy, joy and many colors. Offering you their products that they sell with love for the people. These women are palanqueras of heart that their sweets are super delicious, with a great catalog of varieties in flavors.

¿Is palanquera food good?
This article concludes that the food is delicious, based on the 2014 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Beijing, China. Since this beautiful palanquera gastronomy won a palanquera cookbook called ‘Kumina ri Palenge pa to paraje’, a cookbook written in San Basilio de Palenque, with many recipes from his palanquero town which had a single purpose to share their recipes with all over the world, obtaining the Oscar for gastronomy. We invite you to try those great recipes, as if to suck your fingers.

¿What language or languages ​​do palanqueros speak?
To answer this great question we have to go back to history, where Europeans took hostages from different regions. With the sole purpose of avoiding riots or escape plans since being from different regions they could not communicate, a great colonization strategy. The hostages spoke Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and the Bantu and Pingui African languages, and their palanquera language came out. This language is one of the 69 native languages ​​currently in Colombia.

¿Where is Palenque located?
Palenque is located more than 50 km from the city of Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, with a population of approximately 3,5000 people. Cradle of many important Colombian characters such as Antonio Cervantes, the brothers Ricardo and Prudencio Cardona, all are world boxing champions. And prominent musicians such as Rafael Cassiani and Evaristo Márquez.
Freddypaztours cordially invites you to visit these beautiful Colombian lands and stop with her in the past to enjoy and contemplate every second of her native beauty.
Quote here your personalized excursion with the best tourism agency in Colombia.


Palenque is a city and municipality located in the north of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The city was named almost 200 years before the famous nearby Mayan ruins were discovered in the 18th century. The area has a significant indigenous population, mostly of the Ch’ol people, a Mayan descendent. The city is the only urban area in a municipality of over 600 communities and it is surrounded by rainforest. However, deforestation has had dramatic effects on the local environment, with howler monkeys occasionally seen in the city itself as they look for food. While most of the municipality’s population is highly marginalized economically, working in agriculture, the Palenque archeological site is one of the most important tourist attractions for both the area and the state of Chiapas. It is the poorest major city in the state of Chiapas.

The town and municipality

Palenque refers both to the modern city and the municipality for which it is the local governing authority.

As of 2010, the municipality had a total population of 110,918.

As of 2010, the city of Palenque had a population of 42,947, up from 37,301 as of 2005.[2] Other than the city of Palenque, the municipality had 950 localities, the largest of which (with 2010 populations in parentheses) were: Río Chancalá (2,156), Doctor Samuel León Brindis (1,320), Agua Blanca Serranía (1,263), Arimatea (1,251), and Profresor Roberto Barrios (1,173), classified as rural.

As of 2005, the city had a population of The city of Palenque is the only urban area of the municipality which covers a territory of 1,122.80km2. The city was founded in 1567 by Pedro Lorenzo. In 1573, the community was presented with three bells as a symbol of its foundation. Of the three only one survives, which is found in the main church of the city. Although it is a city, it is surrounded by jungle vegetation only sixty meters above sea level, which contains many of Chiapas’ emblematic species such as the howler monkey. These monkeys have been seen within the city of Palenque itself, since the lack of range forces them to look for food near human settlements some become lost or disoriented and are even run over by cars. One creature so injured was taken to the Eco Parque Aluxes for medical treatment.

The municipality borders the municipalities of Catazajá, La Libertad, Ocosingo, Chilán and Salto de Agua. It also borders the state of Tabasco and the country of Guatemala to the east. Aside from the municipal seat, other important communities include Río Chancala, Bajadas Grandes. Agua Blanca Serranía, Dr. Samuel León Brindis, Nueva Esperanza Primera Sección, Lázaro Cárdenas, Emilio Rabasa and El Naranjo. The city as an altitude of sixty meters above sea level.

As of 2005, the municipality has 20,222 inhabited residences, with about 80% the property of the residents. Average number of residents per unit is 4.84, under the regional average of 5.32 and on par with the state average. About 37% of these residences have dirt floors, 55% with cement floors and under 7% with wood, mosaic or other flooring. Over 52% of units have wood walls, with about 42% made of block. About 56% of units have asbestos or metallic roofs, with just under 19% having a concrete slab for a roof. 86.37% of residences have electricity, 75.81% have running water, and 56.77 have sewerage systems. These are above region average and on par with the state average.

The municipality has 28 post offices and a telegraph office. There are also telephone centers for those who do not have home service. The municipality contains 569.99 km of roadway, with mostly rural roads (137.46 km) and state highways (149.20 km). The municipality has 14.8% of the Selva region’s highways. The municipality is reached by Highway 199 from San Cristóbal and Highway 186 from Escárcega.

From 1990 to 2000, the population grew from 63,209 to 85,464. The rate of population growth is 3.12%, higher than that of the region and state at 2.32 and 2.05 respectively. It is predicted to double within 25 years. About 35% live in urban areas with the rest dispersed in 679 rural communities, or over 99% of all of the municipality’s communities. Its population density is 76 per km2, well above the regional average of 29/km2 and state average of 52/km2. However, the birth rate is 3.53 per woman of reproductive age versus 4.26 for the region and about average for the state.

As of 2000, the rate of illiteracy was 23.77%, down from 31.43% in 1990. The state average is 22.91%. For those over the age of fifteen, 27.66% have not finished primary school. 15.73% have only finished primary school, and 31.5% have studied beyond this level.

The city and municipality area have a large Ch’ol indigenous population. As of 2005, there were 37,032 people who spoke an indigenous language, out of a total population of 85,464. Just over forty percent (40.60%) of the population is indigenous compared to just under 25% for the state and just under 65% for the region. The predominant ethnicity is Ch’ol. Just over twenty percent of indigenous residents do not speak Spanish. The municipality sponsors an annual Festival Mundo Maya (Mayan World Festival) in April focusing on the culture, folklore, crafts, food and clothing of the indigenous people descended from the Mayas. The event attracts participants from Tabasco, Yucatán, Campeche and parts of Puebla.

About 53% profess the Catholic faith, with 25.67 Protestant, 5.44 Evangelical and 14.83% professing no religion. The municipality’s Protestant and Evangelical percentages are higher than that of the state in general. The most important religious celebrations are feast of Saint Dominic and Francis of Assisi. Each year, the city of Palenque sponsors a passion play, selecting one young man from the area to play Jesus. The play mirrors the 14 Stations of the Cross, ending with the crucifixion. The event begins at the parish church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán.


The name Palenque comes from Spanish and means “wood stake fence”. It is a literal translation of the Ch’ol word “otulún” which means fenced or fortified place.

The modern town was founded by Friar Pedro Lorenzo near the ruins of the same name in 1567. It was founded to congregate the Ch’ol indigenous families that were dispersed in this part of the Lacadon rainforest.

In 1768, the state of Chiapas was divided into “alcaldía mayores” with Palenque belonging to that of Ciudad Real (San Cristóbal de las Casas).

In 1813, the settlement was officially declared a town.

In 1821, a road between Bachajon and Palenque was constructed, and the town’s first school was established in 1828.

In 1847, the area became part of the department of Tila, but two year later, it was made into its own department.
The annual fair of Santo Domingo (Saint Dominic) was officially authorized in 1877.

In 1883, the state was reorganized into twelve departments with Palenque as head of one of them. A railroad connecting the town with the Gulf of Mexico was constructed at this time, with the Pakalna station, which still exists.

The municipality system was created in the state in 1915, with Palenque head of its own municipality.

The first airfield was established in 1931 and mail and telegraph arrived in 1941.

In 1972, it was declared a city by the governor of the state of Chiapas.

The Casa de Cultura was founded in 1980 with the main road paved in 1990.
The Cecytec technical college was founded in 1994.
The modern airport was created in 1997.

The ancient Mayan site of Palenque was unknown to the Spanish when they founded the town, but since its discovery in 1740 by Father Antonio Solís, it has been important to the city and municipality both culturally and economically.

The ruins were officially visited in 1773 by Ramon Ordóñez de Aguilar representing the province of Guatemala, to which Chiapas belonged.

The ruins were visited by English explorer Thomas McKay in 1822.

The tomb of Pakal was discovered by Alberto Ruz Lhuillier in 1951.

The Palenque site museum was established in 1958.

Today, the site is one of the most important tourism attractions in Chiapas.


Most the municipality lies on the plains that lead north to the Gulf of Mexico with small portions located in the mountains called the Montañas del Oriente and the Montañas del Norte. It is part of the Selva region of the state, and borders the Lacandon Jungle.

Its climate is hot and humid with rains all year round. It has mostly tropical rainforest vegetation however, much of this has been over exploited with many forest areas devastated. Among its rivers are the Usumacinta, with tributaries Chamacax, Chancalá, Chocoljaito along with Bascán, Michol, San Simón and Trapiche.
There is one lake called Lago Metzaboc.

The municipality is home to the Palenque National Park and the Metzabok Conservation Zone.

Palenque National Park was established in 1981, and covers the areas were the Montañas del Norte meet the coastal plain, an area of 1771.95 hectares. It was established to conserve perennial rainforest which is in danger of disappearing as well as a number of endangered species.

The park surrounds the archeological site of Palenque, and both the site and the park are listed together as a World Heritage Site. It was established in 1981. The national park is home to a number of emblematic Chiapan species including the howler monkey, which is endangered due to deforestation.

Metzabok was established in 1996 in the Montañas de Oriente extending from Palenque into neighboring Ocosingo. It has an area of 3337.8 hectares of highly diverse and fragile ecosystems of both perennial and deciduous rainforest as well as some mesophile forest.

Economy and tourism

The municipality is considered to be highly marginalized economically. Of those economically active, 51.86 are employed in farming and livestock. 49.26% of those in this sector do not receive wages, with only half a percent receiving more than five payments per year. 10.36% are employed in construction and industry, of which just under six percent do not receive payment. 35.62% are employed in commerce and services including tourism. This is above the regional average and about equal to the state average. About 6.5% of these workers do not receive any wages.

The main tourist attraction is the archeological site of Palenque, located seven km from the city. This site is one of the most important for the state, as it is known internationally. The site is part of the Maya Route, which also includes sites such as Yaxchilan and Bonampak all in the Lacandon Jungle. Tourism infrastructure includes 67 hotels with just under 2,000 rooms, almost all location in the city of Palenque. Palenque is one of the sites in Mexico which receives large numbers of visitors for the spring equinox, along with Teotihuacan, and Chichén Itzá. Each year, the municipality, along with other government agencies, put in place extra security measures during Holy Week, as this is a major vacation period in Mexico, bringing large numbers of visitors to the area. Extra safeguards are also put into place to protect the ruins at the Palenque site as well.

The ancient city was a major one of the Mayan civilization, which developed during the Classic period. The main attractions of the site include the Temple of the Inscriptions and the Palace. The site is noted for the size of its buildings as well as number and large number of glyph inscriptions. It is also the site of the tomb of King Pakal, discovered in the 1950s, one of the most important Mayan discoveries of the 20th century. The largest and most complex structure is the Palace with its four story tower. Other important structures include Temple of the Cross, Temple of the Foliated Cross and the Temple of the Sun. The site has its own museum in the National Park area in a modern building, with an addition made in 1995. There are two main halls with one temporary one. It focuses on the ancient city’s importance in Mayan world and the history of its excavation, including work done as recent as the mid 1990s.

Lesser known are a number of ecotourism sites. One of the most recent ecotourism parks to be created include the “Ecoparque los Aluxes” just outside the city of Palenque. It is a conservation center with facilities to rescue wildlife. It also has natural enclosures containing species such as jaguars, ocelots, bobcats, red and green macaws, spider monkeys, parrots, turtles and various bird species. The facility has relations with other similar ecotourism parks such as Xcaret Park. One of the institution’s goals is to release fifty macaws per year into the surrounding Palenque National Park. The Palenque National Park surrounds the archeological site of the same name and includes dense tropical rainforest and streams with blue waters. Together, they have been classified as a World Heritage Site. Near the park are two major waterfalls called Agua Azul and Misol Há. The park contains hiking paths to see the various areas of vegetations along with streams and small waterfalls. The rainforest contains numerous birds and howler monkeys.

Palenque History Engraved in Stone

Well hidden within the jungles of Chiapas, the great Mayan city of Palenque may almost seem like a dream to you. That may be because there’s nothing as surreal as its beautiful buildings emerging from the mist. You have to touch those moss-covered walls with the dew dripping from them to prove that they’re real. You’ve got to shut your eyes and listen to the birds, to the howler monkeys, to the faint sound of a waterfall, to smell the dampness the greenness…

But in reality, what you’ll see in Palenque isn’t even 10% of what it once was.There are still so very many traces under the ground and the trees. The paradox is that it was here, in 1952, where one of the most important finds with respect to the Mayan world occurred: the tomb of Pacal, in the Temple of the Inscriptions, that remained concealed for twelve centuries.

The beautiful inscriptions on the sarcophagus have inspired so many interpretations, although the one accepted by investigators is that it represents Pacal’s descent to the underworld as well as an allegory about death and resurrection.

Pacal had two sons who inherited his taste and interest in architecture, so Palenque lived almost a century of continuous remodeling and beautification that made it the rival of the imposing city of Tikal, in Guatemala. Beautiful bas-reliefs found in the walls of Palenque recreate its own history as well as that of its lords or “ahau”, as they say in Mayan.

The tour in Palenque starts at the Central Plaza that dominates the Temple of the Inscriptions. To its right is the Palace, where a great number of stucco embossments, mural paintings and monuments to fallen warriors from conquered cities can be observed.

Further along, you’ll find the compound of the Cross, made up of the Temple of the Sun, the Temples of the Cross and of theFoliated Cross a Ball Game (a ritual related to the movement of the heavenly bodies and to the designations of the gods) and a series of buildings known as the Northern Group.

During your tour of Palenque you’ll also have the opportunity to explore theChiapanec jungle, whose evergreen trees reach a height of 50 meters. And since access to the tomb of Pacal is prohibited, in the Site Museum you’ll be able to enjoy an impressive glass model replica displaying all of the sarcophagus’ embossments and the walls surrounding it.

Palenque has been a World Heritage site since 1987.

Location: Parque Nacional and the archeological monument zone of Palenque, located 290 km from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas and 220 km from San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas.

How to get there: Tours available from Palenque (the town), Tuxtla Gutiérrez, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Villahermosa (Tabasco) and Mexico City * ADO buses from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Villahermosa, Mérida and Mexico City. * Light aircraft from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Ocosingo and Comitán, Chiapas.

Visiting time required: 1 day.

Visiting hours: 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. * “Dr. Alberto Ruz L’Huiller” site museum: from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Entry fee: $51.00 MXN (pesos)

Guided tours: There are tour guides within Palenque certified by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) or by the Secretary of Tourism.

Where to eat: Restaurante Maya, Av. Hidalgo, Palenque, Mexico * Ciudad Real Palenque, Carr. Pakal-Na, 1.5, Palenque, Mexico * Restaurante La Selva, Carr. Palenque Ruinas Km. 0.5 Palenque * Restaurante Carretera a las Ruinas 4.5, Palenque, Mexico * Restaurante Los Pinos Francisco Mina between 4th and Periferico Sur, Palenque.

Suggestions for shopping: The Palenque Site Museum Shop and also vendors within the archeological zone.

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