Palenque’s natural beauty

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If you’ve been reading along and paying attention you’ll know that Chiapas is so far my favourite region of Mexico, and that was even before I made it to Palenque in the eastern part of the state. Palenque is an ancient Mayan site, one of the most famous in Mexico and deservedly well-visited. It is also superbly located in an area bursting with stunning natural beauty.

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The road between Ocosingo and Paleque is one of the most stunning in Mexico, in my opinion!

Before arriving in Palenque I stopped off for a night in Ocosingo, which is half way between Palenque and San Cristobal, in an absolutely gorgeous part of the country. I had been warned that Ocosingo is the ugliest town in Chiapas, which was both true and unfortunate given the stunning location. It was however well worth the stop off, as it is the closet centre to the ruins of ToninĂ¡.

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The scenery is stunning. Stunning I say!

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The approach to the ruins at ToninĂ¡ teases with glimpses of the ruins across the fields

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Some cool carvings

In contrast to the hordes of tourists at Palenque, ToninĂ¡ is much quieter. I visited in the afternoon and I think I saw 5 other visitors. It was so peaceful in the late afternoon sunshine, and I could easily have spent much longer at the top of the pyramids just enjoying the view. The site closes at 5pm however, so I had to climb down before I was ready.

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Could have stayed up there for hours!

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Strike a pose haha

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Depiction of the ancient Mayan ritual of the ball game

The ruins at Palenque are, however, the main event. The site has been beautifully restored, and takes a good couple of hours to walk around. Only 5% of the site has been excavated, which gives some idea of the scale of the city at its height.

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The main centre of the city has been restored, but many more mounds of unexcavated ruins are spread throughout the surrounding jungle

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Tour groups. Lots of them.

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Some of the decoration adorning the site

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Jungle inhabitant!

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Decent view up there

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The main site is located between two beautiful rivers

As impressive as the site is, I can get over ruins, just as I can get over temples, churches and even cities in general. It appears however that I do not get over waterfalls.

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Misol-Ha

I took a tour to Misol-Ha, but if I went again I would go on my own to have more time. They only gave us 55 minutes there, and I was a bit late getting back to the van. I thought hey, this is Mexico, nothing happens on time, but turns out that tourists are much more punctual and everyone was waiting for me. Woops!

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Sorry for holding you up guys

The best part about Misol-Ha was an underground waterfall in a cave with the most beautiful clear water. You hire torches to walk through the water into the cave and I would have loved to swim in the dark but I didn’t have time.

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The entrance to the cave

Another waterfall close to Palenque is called Welib-Ja, and I only knew about it because some guy in Mazunte told me to go there. It is not part of the typical itinerary that most tourists follow while in the area, but I enjoyed it. It was easy to get to as well – about a half an hour minibus ride and then a 1km walk through beautiful farmland. Unfortunately I had a thong (the shoe version for those non-Australians out there) blow-out on the gravel road and had to hobble my way to the entrance.

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The walk down to the river is quite lovely

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I thought it was just a slippage but it actually broke

Thankfully Mexicans are both helpful and resourceful – when I got to the entrance I enlisted the help of the guys there to repair my poor Havaiana, and they did a great job. Four men and a piece of wire later and I was good to go – that was over a month ago and its still doing the job!

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Another beautiful waterfall, this one basically deserted

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As I went on my own I had as much time as I wanted to swim under the falls

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On the other side of the pool was this lovely cascade that you can climb all over

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Calves! Too cute

Misol-Ha and Welib-Ja were lovely, but it’s the series of cascades at Agua Azul that are the jewel in the crown of natural attractions in the area.

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The cascades are gorgeous, and there are many of them

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The river is a beautiful turquoise colour

There are about four different areas to swim in as you follow the river upstream. You can also pay to take a raft over to the other side of the river where apparently there are more falls and swimming spots, but I didn’t bother.

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Area for swimming

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The water is amazingly clear

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Not a bad spot for a dip

My visit to Agua Azul was on the same tour as the Misol-Ha visit, but this time we had three hours to explore the site, which was a good amount of time. You can visit the waterfalls independently but it is a little more complicated as the access road from the highway is quite long.

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Jungly!

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The photos cannot do it justice

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Pretty good spot to meditate

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In the late afternoon light

This is one part of the world that I would definitely revisit. What do you think? Can you get enough of waterfalls or are you like me?

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