Temple ruins




December 2013 • Canon 60D camera

UNESCO World Heritage site
Pre-Hispanic City and National Park of Palenque

Palenque is a city in the Mexican province of Chiapas. The archaeological site in the National Park of Palenque, was an ancient Mayan city that flourished in the 7th century.

It is smaller than Tikal or Chichen Itza, but has some of the best preserved architecture and carved artworks. It's estimated that only 10% of the site has been explored, with many structures still hidden in the surrounding jungle.

Temple of the Inscriptions

The Tomb of Pakal

The stepped pyramid Temple of the Inscriptions is a tomb for the King of Palenque, Kʼinich Janaab Pakal. He was buried in a massive sarcophagus which was uncovered in 1952, after four years of clearing rubble from the entrance.

An interesting mystery was discovered when examining the bones of King Pakal, revealing him to be 40 years younger than the 80 years he was supposed to have been when died. Was it really him? Or was it someone else...


Temple of the Masks, The Great Plaza

King Pakal lived in the palace which was built in a unusual way for Mayan constructions. Built over several generations during a four century period, there are courtyards, corridors and underground tunnels, and bathing rooms with saunas. The most notable feature is the tower, known as the observation tower. It is believed to be an astronomical observatory for viewing the stars.

Did you know...

In 1968, Swiss author Erich von Däniken published his bestselling work Chariots of the Gods?, which included an illustration of the carved sarcophagus lid of Pakal’s tomb. He believed the classical Mayan work of art depicted an “ancient astronaut”, or an alien who visited earth. The carved artwork looks much like a person sitting down and piloting a ship of some kind...

Temple of the Skull

Temple of the cross

Complex B

Queen's bath

Final thoughts

As with Chichen Itza, I recommend you get a guided tour. There is so much history and culture behind everything you will appreciate the visit more. The ruins were spectacular and you can walk up most of the buildings. Don't forget to visit the museum where you can see the famous sarcophagus lid of Pakal’s tomb.

Explore more of Mexico


Mayan Pyramid

Visiting one of the largest Mayan sites in Mexico


Canyon boat ride

Cruising through the deep Sumidero Canyon in southern Mexico

View all articles for Mexico

Related Articles


Mayan capital

Exploring the ancient Mayan city of Tikal deep in the jungle


Citadel in the clouds

Exploring the once hidden Inca city Machu Picchu

CAMBODIA / BAYON ប្រាសាទបាយ័ន

Faces of Bodhisattva

Exploring the mystical temple of many faces at sunset

Back to full list of destinations