After the wonders of Chichen Itza, we hopped on a bus to start the next part of our journey through Mexico. We decided to stop over in Campeche on the way to Chiapas State to break up the incredibly long bus ride. We knew nothing about Campeche, we had read it was a World Heritage Site but had no idea how amazing the city was.
The buildings were colorful, the streets were clean, there were even trash cans! Most of the tourists we saw were Mexicans, we had gotten a little off the main Gringo Trail and were blown away by the city!
After our night in Campeche it was back on the bus for a loooooong ride to Palenque. The buses in Mexico are top notch but the same can’t said for all of the roads. As we got into more rural areas in wasn’t unusual for villages along the way to build speed bumps in the highway, people selling all kinds of stuff took advantage of the slowing buses and would run up to the bus, hop on and sell their goods and then be off at the next speed bump. We stayed in the town near the Palenque ruins and woke to the sound of touts yelling “Ruinas, Ruinas, Ruinas” trying to fill minibuses for the short ride to the ruins. We arrived at the ruins fairly early, we weren’t as worried about crowds as Palenque in a little more out of the way of main tourist areas.
Vendors were just starting to set up their wares along the paths as we arrived. Palenque are the only Mayan ruins we saw where tourists were allowed to climb the stone steps of even the tallest pyramids. We took advantage of the views! Like Campeche, Palenque is also a World Heritage Site, it was an interesting contrast to compare the two.
Palenque was only partially uncovered and so many of the ruins are still under quite a bit of jungle. The forest was beautiful to walk through with lots of butterflies and small waterfalls.
After exploring the ruins we returned to the town of Palenque and arranged a tour to a few nearby waterfalls. One of the greatest things about Central America for us was that there were a lot of small tour companies that would load up a van full of tourists and drive you to the sights for cheap. This was especially valuable for us as we hadn’t done a ton of research on sights to see. The guides were sometimes great and sometimes not but it was easy to get around . For this particular trip we were in a minibus to visit Misol-Ha and Agua Azul. As we pulled up to our first stop the driver stopped and paid an entrance fee to a man in full Zapatista regalia. We were in Chiapas state and these waterfalls were managed by the local communities (as they should be).
After Misol-Ha we went to the cascades of Agua Azul which were unbelievable. There was a forested path loaded with vendors selling food and crafts that gave progressively more incredible views as it climbed along the river.
The mineral rich Rio Xanil cascades over a series of terraces in the river bed and pools are a deep turquoise. The water reminds me of glacial lakes and river we see in Alaska. After a morning looking at the waterfalls we boarded a first class bus for another long ride to San Cristobal de las Casas.