Loco Adventure – Bacalar to Calakmul to Palenque

We were inspired a few weeks ago to hop in the car and hit the road. It was time to revisit a local area that we had not ventured to in a long, long, time. We chose Palenque and San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas for a few reasons. I was itching for some new textiles for the house, some great mountain air, and trip down memory lane. The last time we headed south was in 2006. I hate to think that was 8 years ago, but we all know that time flies when you are having fun!.

Getting to Palenque via Bacalar and Calakmul

We took advantage of our DIY tour, stopping more often than usual in areas that we love. Our first stop was Bacalar to see the San Felipe Fort. The views from the Fort are as mesmerizing as we remember and the museum was as informative as our first visit. It was great to jog our memory once again on the historical importance this area.

View from Bacalar fort, Laguna Bacalar, Quintana Roo

Back on the road we made sure we picked up some freshly cut pineapple at the topes. Local women sell both whole and cut honey pineapples that are the sweetest fruit in the world! I love my pineapple with chili so one bag was ‘con chili’ and one bag was ‘sin chili’. I think each bag of pineapple lasted about 5 minutes….it was soooo good. At ten pesos a bag it might have been a good idea to purchase a bit more!

Our second and final stop for the day was just outside the Calakmul ruins. This is a favorite ruin site of ours so an overnight stop was something we were looking forward to. Just a note on the drive. The drive was 8 hours to Calakmul from Akumal including our break in Bacalar. The area and drive is exactly as we remembered, except for the Italian Coffee Coffee located at the Pemex just outside Xpuhil.

Calakmul  is a bit tricky, as it is located within the biosphere. The drive to the ruins is 90 minutes, so an overnight is necessary. To get a head start into the reserve we stayed at Puerto Calakmul, a sustainable hotel at the entrance to the biosphere. We loved this place when we stayed a few years back and still love this place. Staff are super friendly, the cabanas are comfortable, and we love that it is an eco-hotel. The Calakmul Ruins will be explained in another blog post as the adventure is worth an entire article.

Calakmul to Palenque – On the Road Again

Our drive to Palenque was what we remembered. Long, flat and without issues. The 5 hour drive was easy, except for the military outpost that seems to have obscured the Palenque Ruins turn off. If you make this trip in the upcoming months, note that the military stop is where you need to turn to reach the Palenque Ruins.


Palenque Ruins

The ruins in Palenque were as glorious as our last trip. The parking area, which is the most popular entrance to the ruins, has taken on the touristy feel of Chichen Itza. Vendors, guides, unofficial parking attendants, and little taquerias have increased three fold since our last visit. Note that this entrance is NOT the entrance located at the museum at the bottom of the hill. We have entered the ruins from the museum entrance before and were faced with a long steep climb to the ruins. We were informed by friends that when you park at the top entrance, it is highly recommended to pay one of the unofficial parking attendants to ‘watch’ your car. We paid the 40 peso unofficial fee when approached and were happy to see that the car was in one piece once we returned from our walkabout the ruins.

What we love about the Palenque Ruins

This is what we love about Palenque:

  • Mountains – they are the backdrop for this ruins site and it is glorious.
  • Waterfalls – If you get away from the main plaza and venture down the mountain, you will see some of the most exist waterfalls. Unlike ruin sites in Quintana Roo and the Yucatan where cenotes provided fresh water, the water source for this ancient civilization was mountain run off and the Usumacinta River.
  • Pre-Classic Architecture – The ornate architecture of Palenque is a nice change to the Yucatan and Quintana Roo sites. Palenque is considered a medium sized ruin site, but is rich in details and southern Mayan history.
  • Entrance to the museum at the bottom of the hill is free when you show your ruin ticket! The museum is worth a look, and the museum store how great textiles and pottery. There is a little snack bar area as well.

Our Loco Adventure continues onto the State of Chiapas where we reacquainted ourselves with San Cristobal de Las Casas. Check out our favorite adventures in this mountain city that offers a different insight into local Mayan communities. If Palenque is your goal, we hope these little tips help. The trip was easy, without delay and a great Loco Adventure into a different part of the country. Our suggestion is to make this a 4 day DIY adventure so you can really take in the sights. On your way back to Quintana Roo make sure to visit the ruins of Kohunlich, Dzibanche, and Balamkú. While in Palenque stay an extra day and tour the Yaxchilán and Bonampak ruins that are only accessed with a tour.

Give Puerto Calakmul Hotel a try and experience a great evening in the Bisosphere.

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