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Palenque

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Concealed deep within the verdant jungle of eastern Chiapas state, Palenque is a fascinating Maya archaeological site with a distinctive style which sets it apart from all other Maya remains. Founded around the beginning of the Christian era, at the height of its power between 500 and 700AD, Palenque’s rule and influence was far-reaching. The site illustrates the artistic and architectural creativity of the Maya, with an elegance to the structures and intricately decorated sculptures and stuccos. One of the highlights of Palenque is the Temple of the Inscriptions, which houses the second longest known glyphic Maya text, recording around 180 years of history. The structural lightness of the complex helps it to sit in harmony with its situation in the jungle, which kept Palenque hidden from the outside world for hundreds of years. Only in the last 20 years have serious excavations been carried out, and these are said to cover only around 10% of the ground occupied by the original city, which spanned up to 25 square miles.

The booming grunt of the howler monkey and piercing cries of birds add to the magic and mysticism of Palenque, which is one of the best preserved and most atmospheric Maya sites, and one of the top destinations to visit in Mexico. The modern town of Palenque is 9km away, and although it does not have much touristic interest, it is a functional town with amenities and services.