America,  Mexico,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Road trip in Mexico #7: Ruins of Palenque, Misol-Ha and Agua Azul Waterfalls

If you want to visit Calakmul, you might as well push the trip to Palenque. We are no longer within 300km. Thus we found ourselves in the only bus of the day at 3:30 am, leaving Xpujil for Palenque.

Note: this article is part of the 17-day roadtrip series in Mexico. Go to previous articles: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

Day 11 (December 29th)

Xpujil – Palenque by bus

The small village of Xpujil is so badly served that all buses pass by at impossible hours. At 3:30 am, there is the whole village at the ADO terminal. The buses pass by and it is chaos. There is no announcement, nobody knows which bus is arriving, for which destination. After having harassed all the people crossed with an ADO logo, we finally spot our driver who says that the bus is coming. It is only at 4 o’clock that he finally manages to park in front of the terminal. Our bus isn’t an ADO bus but AVU I think, which stops everywhere. Normally it takes us ”only” 5h30 to make this trip, but with the thick fog and the late departure, it took us 6h30. Fortunately with 2 stops WC (plan coins of 5 and 1 pesos, certain automatic machines in front of the WC accept only the supplement).

Note: if you ever miss the only DIRECT bus of the day to Palenque, don’t cry. Take the first bus to Escarcega. From Escarcega, there will be many buses to Palenque , see the timetables here (at the end of this article)

The city of Palenque

Palenque is one of the 100++ pueblos magicos in Mexico. It is the equivalent of the “most beautiful villages” in France. From our roadtrip, it is the least impressive pueblo magico. The main street is very nice and lively, but the houses aren’t so beautiful, much less impressive than Valladolid, Tulum and Bacalar, other pueblos magicos visited during the roadtrip.

After the very long and tiring transport (+ the morning alarm clock), we only want to rest and especially do the laundry. We held 10 days with 2 sets of technical clothes (merino wool, odourless) and a small hand wash, but it is time to do a more serious wash… We find an automatic lavandaria (EcoClean). It’s quite rare, most of the time, the lavandarias take care of everything themselves (for really cheap, 15MXN/kg, less than 1€ !!) but it’s December 29th and because of the influx of tourists, the lavandarias are busy and we have to wash our laundry ourselves. Which strangely costs more mdr: 40MXN/machine + 40MXN/drying of 20 minutes + 10MXN for the laundry. But at least we will be all clean for the new year.

Our hotel is located in the Cañada district, one minute from the ADO terminal : Hotel Casa Hadassa La Cañada 30€ (link Booking). The garden looks like a mini forest. There is a cat type maine coon too cute, and a kitchen available for guests. I highly recommend it. We are also lucky and can take possession of our room as soon as we arrive at 10am and don’t have to wait 14 or 15h to take a repairing shower.

The tourist restaurants near our hotel are quite expensive, but I’m really too happy to be able to eat a steak with real old fashioned mustard (at Restaurante Maya Cañada).

We make the tour of the agencies. The tourists we met in Calakmul told us that the tour Palenque Ruins – Misol-Ha and Agua Azul Waterfalls cost only 385MXN – but that other agencies could charge 500MXN. Knowing the right price, it is very easy for us to find the cheapest agency, downtown, but they also have another antenna offering the same rates just next to the ADO terminal (when leaving the terminal, they are on the left), it is Tulum Transportadora Turistica, here is their website. They do not offer guided tours but shuttles in the Chiapas area and to Guatemala if needed.

At first I wanted to:

  • visit the ruins of Palenque on the 1st day and possibly the Roberto Barrios waterfalls (180MXN transport only or 315MXN including entrance fees)
  • go to the Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls on the 2nd day (180MXN transportation only or 275MXN including entrance fees)

Note: the agency does not take any commission on entrance tickets. Opting for fares with entrance tickets included is the same as paying only for the transportation and then paying the entrance tickets by yourself. By paying the entrance tickets in advance, you save time because the driver pays the entrance fee, instead of forcing everyone to find exactly 36 pesos. All in all, for the Ruins + Waterfalls tour, if you want to pay for the tickets yourself, you have to take the wallet out 6 times, because there is a fee to enter the reserve (or pay for the route taken) + access ticket

When I see the rates, I realize

  1. that by choosing a day only with the Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls, I won’t spend more time at the waterfalls – because they don’t leave until noon.
  2. that visiting the Ruins + Misol-Ha and Agua Azul (the 1st offer on the picture) or Misol-Ha and Agua Azul, without the ruins – cost the same: 180MXN (transport only). So why bother to pay extra transport costs for the Ruins of Palenque and visit it another day?
  3. The Roberto Barrios waterfalls are only worth it if the water is super blue (in the dry season: around April/May), so why pay extra and spend more time in transportation for a very average water – in which I don’t go swimming (it’s a bit cool)?

Thus, the Ruins + Misol-Ha and Agua Azul option seems to me the most suitable. We pay 385MXN (including entrance fees) per person and the van picks us up the next day at 8am. We make a tour to look for other tourists (it will take 20 minutes), then we leave to visit the ruins of Palenque.

Day 12 (December 30th)

The driver stops in front of the Museum just to let us know that the meeting place after the visit is here. But he drops us off 2km further at the main parking lot and we have 3h30 on the spot. It’s good, like that we can cross the ruins without having to turn back. Be careful, the explanation is only in Spanish so if you don’t understand, ask the tourists to translate for you. Access fee (already included in the price): 36MXN + 75MXN. They spotted my sport camera and lightened me by an extra 45MXN (only the cameras & go pro have to pay extra, I don’t know why).

Ruins of Palenque


Note: the photos do not have the same colors because some are taken with a sport camera and others with a Huawei smartphone. Sorry

After the visit of the ruins of Calakmul, I thought that no ruin could reach the ankle of this one, until I crossed the entrance of the archaeological site of Palenque. The “Angkor” effect is even more present here, there are even lawns on the ruins, it’s super nice.

In yellow, you can see the sites that can be visited. And in white, the sites identified but buried in the jungle. Roughly only 5% are accessible nowadays ! At the entrance you can hire an official guide speaking English, French or Italian. The price is 85 USD for a group of 1 to 8 people. 110 USD for 9 to 14 people and 130 USD for 15 to 25 people. It is expensive but apparently negotiable since a guide approaches us spontaneously by proposing lower rates.

In spite of the buses of tourists, the site is finally big enough so that one does not walk on it. I watch the tourists enter under this roof made of leaves and follow them.

It is in fact a tomb, with a triangular-shaped roof reminiscent of the architecture at Angkor and at the 1st pyramids in Egypt, at Saqqarah. It is believed to be the tomb of the Red Queen, in reference to the color of her sarcophagus – probably the mother of K’inich Janaab’ Pakal I since she is buried next to the temple dedicated to her. This is truly extraordinary because we were unable to gain access to the interior of structures at the other archaeological sites.

Next door is the Temple of Inscriptions, the star of this place, designed by K’inich Janaab’ Pakal I as his own memorial and completed by his son K’inich Kan Bahlam II. You cannot climb on it, it is very well preserved and most importantly, inside they found a beautiful sarcophagus, which can be seen in the museum next door. Not having a guide with us, we listen here and there to the explanations of other guides. And contrary to the ruins where the guides tell more or less the same thing, here the explanations are much richer because the site itself is more special than the others.

For the palace next door, an administrative or ceremonial building complex is absolutely magnificent, with corridors in all directions, and very well preserved sculptures.

Add to this the view of the mountains in the distance, the trees, the water source that surrounds the palace… this place is really exceptional, I love it!

Well, the site is very big but to know where to go, just look where the souvenir shops are… and follow the path 😀

We visit other structures on which we can mount. There are several landings to rest, it isn’t very sporting.
The view is however less beautiful than in Calakmul or Ek Balam.

We then follow the sign “cascadas” and go into the jungle. It is very dense, some ruins are completely covered

We finally arrive at the level of the waterfalls and can admire it from above, in front and below. There is a small suspension bridge absolutely magnificent. It is here that a snake crossed the road of JB. Fortunately I did not see it otherwise I would have been too afraid.

We stay a good moment here to observe the blue color of the water… before following the path towards the museum.

Sculptures are mostly made of stucco, so they get very damaged with time. Many of them have been removed and kept in the museum – at the main entrance of the ruins. The museum is included in the price and worth a visit, don’t miss it!

They had a writing system – reserved for the elite – based on hieroglyphics too. It’s extremely pretty

In fact, the 365-day calendar also has special characters, and souvenir sellers will be happy to sell you the hieroglyphics representing your date of birth, to be stuck on the fridge.

The most impressive part of this museum is this sarcophagus found at the Temple of Inscriptions. We have seen sarcophagi in Egypt and this one has nothing to envy them. Through the writing on the sarcophagus, they were able to learn more about the dates of birth and death of the deceased and the careful analysis of the figures on the wall and the sarcophagus about the rituals of accompanying the deceased to the afterlife.

Misol-Ha Waterfall

We take back the van (it is another van which comes to seek us) and after having counted the number of tourists, the driver brings us to the waterfall of Misol-Ha in one hour. We have only 30 minutes on the spot, not enough time to bathe, we have hardly time to take the small path leading behind the waterfall. The water whips, it’s very fun but the path is a bit slippery, be careful! It reminds us too much of an equivalent waterfall in Iceland which is more powerful (and more icy).

We take advantage of the corn and pizza stands (20MXN to 30MXN). Here they eat corn cooked with water – with cheese, and lots of stuff, it’s called elote or corn cobs but you can ask for “plain”, without anything.

Entrance fee (included in the tour fee): 10MXN + 20MXN

The advantage, when we arrive at the end of the rainy season, is that the Misol-Ha waterfall is full of water… but the disadvantage is that the Agua Azul waterfall will not be azul (blue) as its name indicates it

Agua Azul Waterfall

Entrance fee: 15MXN + 50MXN

Well, as we knew, at this time of the year (December), the water isn’t blue like the dream pictures sold in souvenir stores, but it is still clean and transparent. The azul color is due to the limestone rocks crossed by this water. But with the rain in recent months, the water contains less limestone and is only green. This waterfall reminds me a lot of Kuang So close to Luang Prabang, because we also have several levels of waterfalls and the water in Laos is very blue too. Unfortunately, we arrive at Agua Azul in the afternoon, we are against the light and the wow effect is less, especially as the water is “only” green.

The locker rooms cost 5MXN, there is no locker. One can bathe a little bit everywhere. The more one goes up, the more it is quiet. There are small restaurants everywhere, selling empanadas which are the envy of JB but which are disappointing, corn and pre-cut fruits. So go up until you see a huge area, quiet as a lake.

Only JB bathed in a natural pool, despite the icy water. The current is quite strong, there are ropes to hang on and not end up at the bottom of the waterfall.

We enter the dark night in Palenque. In the end, except Misol-Ha, we had enough time to visit the sites which interest us. The day was very charged and we do not have much forces any more to wake up. Anyway, it starts to rain ropes. Instead of waiting midnight and celebrating the new year (2020), we fall asleep already at 22h ahahah

Day 13 (January 1st)

If the agencies are still active on New Year’s Day, the city of Palenque is empty on the 1st of New Year’s Day. We can still go shopping at the supermarket and cook. We hesitated a lot to visit the ruins of Yaxchilan in one day, but the tiredness culminated since 13 days of roadtrip pushes us to rest today, instead of running everywhere. Tomorrow, a long bus trip is still waiting for us….

To be continued… Our last article of the road trip here

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • Bus Xpujil – Palenque : 357MXN
  • Automatic Lavandaria: 130MXN for 4,5kg
  • Excursion Ruins Palenque, Agua Azul & Misol-Ha: 385 MXN including transportation and entrance fees (including 180MXN for transportation).
  • Hotel in Palenque: Hotel Casa Hadassa La Cañada 30€ (link Booking )


  • Before visiting the ruins of Palenque, download the map offline because there aren’t many indications on the spot. You might turn in a circle following the signs
  • The ADO Terminal has lockers where you can leave your belongings
  • You can combine your visits from Palenque with your trip to Guatemala or San Cristobal. Here are the rates as of December 2019

Where is the transport agency located?

We left with the agency Tulum Transportadora Turistica, here is their website. They don’t offer guided tours, but transportation in the Chiapas area and to Guatemala if needed. You can find them when you leave the ADO terminal on the left. You can also contact them on Whatsapp if you need to: +5219161201877

Note: I don’t get any commission, I don’ t know them, it’s just a good plan that I share with you

How to go to the ruins of Palenque in colectivo

There are colectivos leaving regularly for the ruins of Palenque (20MXN one way) from here (Google Maps coordinates). For the return to Palenque, they leave from the main entrance (near the temple of inscriptions) and also stop at the secondary entrance just in front of the museum.

Cascades Agua Azul & Misol-Ha: how to get there

With a transport agency

Like ours, it is the safest and fastest solution (180MXN transport with or without the visit of the ruins + entrance tickets). However, the visiting hours (afternoon) will make you be against the light and even with the blue water, the pictures will be less pretty than if you went there in the morning.

By rental car

We hesitated to take a colectivo so far or rent a car for a day – but on this road (Palenque to the waterfalls) there are several passages where a woman pulls a cloth rope to block the road. If a “victim” stops, she will be surrounded by about ten children and it will be necessary to buy sweets or give a little something to each of the children. The locals are used to this and when they see this rope, they slow down just a little bit and seeing that the drivers do not stop, the woman in question will drop the rope. It’s December 30th and on the way, we saw two “roadblocks” like this. Normally, there are more. So I preferred not to drive with a rental car. The area of Chiapas is still controlled by the mafia. This woman and the children are people from the village, miserable but insistent. They are probably not mafia but tourists really prefer to give (about 10MXN per child) because they are too afraid of having a scratched rental car.

In colectivo

As for the colectivos, they don’t stop at the junction of the roads leading to the waterfalls and you have to finish either by cab or on foot. It’s not that economical vs. transportation agencies.

And we have to go in that direction: Palenque – Agua Azul – Misol-Ha – Palenque because if you get dropped off first in Misol-Ha, it will be very difficult to stop a colectivo in the direction of Agua Azul (in general they are already full when leaving Palenque). Whereas if you get dropped off first in Agua Azul, the direction Agua Azul – Misol-Ha and Misol-Ha – Palenque is easier: many colectivos going in this direction still have free space. Leave early in the morning to get the right light and to be able to return to Palenque when it is still daylight.

But if you absolutely want to come to Agua Azul & Misol-Ha in colectivo (especially to take beautiful pictures and escape the crowd), here are the indications :

  • once you reach the junction with the road leading to the Agua Azul waterfalls, get off and take a colectivo cab (25MXN/person) or walk 4km. You will have to pay 2 entrance fees (15MXN + 50MXN)
  • for the return trip, take a colectivo cab in the other direction to the junction (25MXN)
  • cross the road and hail a colectivo and get off at Misol-Ha (30MXN). You will have 2 entrance fees to pay (10MXN + 20MXN)
  • walk to the waterfalls of Misol-Ha (1,3km)
  • come back on the main road and hoist a colectivo to get back to Palenque (30MXN)

Total: 160MXN for transport/person + entries.
The transport option through the agency costs only 20MXN more per person and includes the visit of the ruins of Palenque. It’s up to you.

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