Palenque, Mexico (Chiapas, Mexico) during the summer is hotter than two rats making love in a wool sock. It is advisable to stay far, far away during April and May as they are the hottest months. Being budget travelers, we stayed in a 3 person private room (since we were still traveling with Jaime from Breakaway Backpacker) that was only cooled by a ceiling fan and two windows in the same wall. Unfortunately, this design didn’t allow much of the hot air to escape the room. Instead, it just stewed when we cranked the fan up to the highest setting- which also made us fear for our lives due to vigorous shaking of the spinning, bladed appliance.
Additionally, Palenque doesn’t cool off much even after the sun goes down. At 10pm it felt like 112 degrees fahrenheit (44 celcius) with the humidity factored in to the heat index. Even stripped down to our skivvies and freshly out of a freezing cold shower, we would be dripping in sweat within minutes. This made it very difficult to get any worthwhile sleep.
Although, the heat did lead us to find some amazing places to cool off. The obvious places were Agua Azul and Misol Ha. However, while trying to find other places nearby, we were pointed to a nearby river where the locals go to escape the heat. The river was wonderfully cold and teeming with plecostomus (algae suckers). There were also some smaller fish that loved to nibble on Erica. She never failed to let us know when they got personal by splashing, flailing, and shrieking.
Even with the sun making chicharrones out of our skin, we were determined to see the Palenque ruins. Staying in town, this meant we were only a short colectivo ride away. One thing to note is that on the way to the ruins the colectivos will likely stop at the Parque Nacional where they will try to sell you wristbands to allow you access to it. While I’m sure it is a lovely place to visit, you do not need to buy these wristbands to go to the ruins (and they aren’t pretty enough to justify the $25 peso cost).
When we got to the ruins we quickly found out that guides were very expensive. You may be able to talk them down or get a decent rate, but some of them were starting the bids at $900 pesos. Having a guide can be quite a learning experience, but should you opt out (like us) you can navigate the ruins quite easily on your own as the paths flow nicely.
In Palenque, we discovered that we LOVE jungle ruins. The shade, flora, and fauna only added to amazing views and atmosphere of traversing the ancient ruined city. Very few of the buildings are blocked off so we were able to explore some of the buildings Indiana Jones-style, crawling through dark hallways.
Also included in your $51 peso entrance cost is access to the museum. Wandering around inside will definitely add to the day’s experience and not just because it was so much cooler inside.
While we may have been slowly melting, we highly suggest spending a few days in this area. This may not be the most extreme weather we will be experiencing on our trip, but it definitely made an impression. What weather conditions have you put yourself through to see the sights you want to see?