The most famous and arguably best Mayan ruins in Chiapas are at Palenque. Palenque is the name of both the modern town and the archaeological site. There are a ton of hotels and options for lodging in town and along the road into the ruins. Without question my favorite place to stay when visiting Palenque is the bohemian and traveler friendly El Panchan.
The Panchan is a left turn off of the road into the ruins, at the gate into the Palenque archaeological park. You can catch a cab from the bus station in the town of Palenque for about 50 pesos. Most of the time there will be other travelers heading for El Panchan. Ask anyone with a backpack if they would like to share the cost of the cab ride. From the entrance to the park at Palenque and turn for Panchan, the ruins are still a long walk. I recommend you take a shuttle in from the gate when heading into the Mayan ruins, they run often.
Originally the Panchan was a large piece of land close to the ruins of Palenque where the archaeologists set up camp and residency. I am told Linda Schele, the famous scholar of Mayan art and architecture, had a workshop there where she and her crew worked on the newest finds of the time.
Over the years the family that owned this piece of land sold off some tracts for homes and established a number of hotels, hostels and eateries. There is only 1 hotel of the half dozen or so in the area that isn’t owned by a member of the original family. That hotel happens to be my favorite, Margarita and Ed’s.
Margarita and Ed’s place is at the end of the road into Panchan and well marked. The rooms have AC, ceiling fans and are kept in very good order. Margarite is a wonderful hostess and full of all kinds of information about Palenque and the surrounding countryside. I have enjoyed a number of conversations with her, she is warm and friendly, but no nonsense. This is not a woman to be trifled with or disrespected, she runs a tight ship. In a place known for magic mushrooms and all night parties, that is a great relief. You can have all of the bohemian fun you want to and return to your clean quiet room in the jungle for a good nights sleep.
For eating in the Panchan it’s all about Don Mucho’s Place. There are some other options, but I always return to Don Mucho’s. They have great pizzas, the beers are cold and they have some form of live music every night. The Panchan is not very big so it’s an easy walk from everywhere.
Another business I try and get to when I’m in the Panchan is Bag End Books. This is a funky little bookstore run out of the home of an expat woman from the states. The store is at the end of a path in the jungle and a great place to hang out and meet some of the local cast of characters. Just look for the little bookstore signs nailed to some of the trees and follow the arrows. I’m sure the owner would love to take trade ins for a reduced price on your book purchase. The selection of traveler books at Bag End is quite good.
The bohemian jungle fun of the Panchan is not without its dangers. The green trees, little paths and streams can lull an inexperienced vacationer into a false sense of security. Just like anywhere else in the world, it is a bad idea to get intoxicated late at night and wander around by yourself. There have been reports of attacks and thefts in the Panchan late at night and they are almost always associated with people who have had too much fun. Have all the fun you want to, but don’t wander alone late at night.
Oh and if a little Mayan lady whispers “hongos” (Spanish for mushrooms) to you, she is not selling pizza toppings 🙂