Photo Essay: The Jungle Ruins of Palenque

by Ekua on September 2, 2011 in captured on memory card,Mexico

The Palenque archeological site sets itself apart from other popular ruins in Mexico with its location — a dense and thriving jungle encircles the pyramids.

What you’ll find at the archaeological site was once known as Lakam Ha (Big Water), and it was the center of Maya city-state called B’aakal (Bone). It was created as early as 100 BC, and it fell around 800 AD.

The jungle had already taken it over by the time the Spanish arrived, and much of the former city state is still under the jungle’s control. So in addition to the wildness, there is a quiet mystery about the place.

I spent a morning walking around the site and climbing the pyramids to sit atop them and think, imagine, and wonder.

Flowering heliconia plants just beyond the entrance.

The Temple of Inscriptions — the most made over of the temples. Inside this temple is the tomb of Pakal, a man who ruled the city state for almost 70 years.

The Patio of the Captives inside the Palace.

Bas-reliefs in the Patio of the Captives. The courtyard is named this way because these images likely depict prisoners of war.

A cross shaped window in the Palace.

The Temple of the Foliated Cross on top of a pyramid still covered with dirt and grass. The steps up were precarious and it was worth it for the lovely setting.

The steps of the huge pyramid that the Temple of the Cross sits upon.

A side view of the Temple of the cross. It’s partially left as is, partially excavated, and partially restored.

A view of the ruins from the Temple of the Cross.

A view of the Temple of the Sun and the jungle beyond from the Temple of the Cross.

I spotted a large iguana crawling around the Temple of the Cross pyramid.

A mother and son take a break at the Temple of the Cross and enjoy the jungle view.

Bas-reliefs on the walls inside the Temple of the Cross.

The Palace.

The ball court.

An unnamed structure on the north side of the ruins.

Inside the Palenque Museum, you can gain more insight into the people who used to inhabit the location.

A sculpture of a Mayan warrior.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Naomi September 2, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Oh, I’m so envious – all I want is to go gallivanting around Mayan ruins in the jungle!!


Ekua September 5, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Palenque definitely piqued my curiosity. Next time, I hope to explore some of the ones that are deeper in the jungle!


Faith September 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Whenever I’m looking at a ruin and trying to imagine what it looked like back in the day, I’m always struck by the fact that around is are trees and flowers, and those looked the same. I don’t know why, but I find it so weird to think that all that time ago people were walking around and looking at flowers just like that. Makes time feel like less of a separation.


Ekua September 5, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Yeah, I think the natural world can add a interesting perspective when you’re looking at ruins. When I’m at ruins surrounded by forest or ones that have great views (as opposed to sites where everything around them has been developed), I think I wonder more what things would’ve looked like in the days they were inhabited. Last summer, I visited some ruins in Oaxaca that were on a mountain overlooking the valley and thought about how many people stood in the same spots hundreds of years ago and what it might have looked like.


Craig Zabransky September 5, 2011 at 10:20 pm

What amazes me, you seem to have the ruins virtually to yourself. I’ve visited a few sites in Mexico and Palenque is top of my list to see next… I’ll get there.

stay adventurous, Craig


Ekua September 5, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Yup… we got there relatively early (sometime between 8:30 and 9am) and there was hardly anyone there when we arrived. More people and a few large tour groups arrived a little while later, but it was never really packed and at some of the less popular spots like north side, you could have periods of time to have the ruins to yourself. I guess that even though it’s not too remote, Palenque is out of the way enough to keep the crowds down!


Sunee September 21, 2011 at 5:17 am

Well spotted on the iguana – it really blends in well with its surroundings, just looks like a funny-shaped rock if you look quickly 🙂


Ekua September 21, 2011 at 5:23 pm

It was pretty large iguana, but a lot of people didn’t notice it. I saw it because I had wandered around to a more empty corner at the top of that pyramid. I iguanas are such interesting looking animals… they look prehistoric, but their hands kinda look human-like.


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