El Panchan Palenque’s Fun in the Jungle

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.

Follow the signs to Margarita and Ed’s Place.

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.

View from the balcony at Margarita and Ed’s.

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.

Tropical flowers of all kinds are in El Panchan.

Margarita taking care of business.


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.


Pizza and live music at Don Mucho’s

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.

Jungle path to Bag End Books in the Panchan. You can trade 2 for 1 books when you go.

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.

Ancient Maya restaurant ruins 🙂

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.

Food, lodging and books are not the only things available in El Panchan!



Oh and if a little Mayan lady whispers “hongos” (Spanish for mushrooms) to you, she is not selling pizza toppings 🙂




I have had a number of requests for more info on how to book a room at Margarita & Ed’s so I have scanned in the business card. The phone number is 916 34 8 42 05.

500 Year Old Spanish Mission Ruins in Chiapas at Exconvento Copanahuastla

The Mexican state of Chiapas has some of the oldest Spanish missions of New Spain. The remains of the mission convent at Copanahuastla is one of these. Located in a seasonally swampy lowlands not too far from the Pacific coast these ruins made a fun day trip.

Dominican priests first came to the Maya Tzeltal community of Copanahuastla, also spelled Copnaguastla, in 1545 to begin the work of  evangelizing the large local Maya community. They established one of the most influential convents in Chiapas at the time. For the first 12 years the convent was housed in simple wood and adobe buildings. In 1557 they began construction of a proper mission church and convent out of brick, stone and plaster.

Spanish mission ruins in Chiapas Mexico

The sign at the entrance of Exconvento Copanahuastla says to not molest the animals. Apparently the grounds are used for grazing cattle at times.

Just seven years after it was constructed, the church building was struck by lightening and the roof burned. The building was reconstructed and in use until 1629. Though the first Dominican missionaries had commented on the mild climate at the mission, disease was a problem and after a wave of sickness struck the area the mission was abandoned.

Mission in Mexico

The building looks as much like a castle or fortress as it does a church.

The mission convent church interior. The local townspeople have placed a cross where the alter once stood.

The main surviving church building is impressive and resembles a medieval fortress. This is the 5th oldest Spanish Mission church in Chiapas. It is unique in that it hasn’t been remodeled over the years like the others so it is a rare example of original 16th century Spanish mission convent church design.

The Exconvento Copanahuastla is in the little town of Candelaria. The turn off is not far down the highway from the popular waterfalls outside of Comitan called Cascades El Chiflon. There are no real services in the town other than small tiendas and not much to see other than the old church ruins. The people we encountered there were all quite friendly and we had the Convent all to ourselves.

A tree grows around the remains of the old priests quarters.

At one time there were more outbuildings around the church. The area is scattered with quite a few interestingly carved stones that must have been architectural details used in the church and the now long gone buildings around the site.

Interesting carved stones were scattered around the site.

The stairs up to the old bell tower are in the center of this photo.

Bats on the ceiling of the bell tower of Copanahuastla.


At the back corner of the building is the steps up the old bell tower. It appeared that at one time this was blocked off by a discarded steel door nearby. Seeing no signs of warning or to keep out we climbed up the 500 year old abandoned stairwell. There were slits in the walls of the tight circular staircase and we could see quite a few bats on the ceilings. At the top of the old tower the stairs open up to the top of the walls of the old mission church. This was not a safe or wise place to be, but we enjoyed the breeze and the incredible view from the top.

View from the top of the convent walls at Copanahuastla. If we had adult supervision, we may not have done this.

View down into thwe old sanctuary at Exconvento Copanahuastla.

We found this place worth a day trip all by itself. From Comitan it’s only little more than an hour away. Combined with a trip to the waterfalls at El Chiflon this makes a great all day adventure.

View Spanish Mission at Copanahuastla in a larger map

Ancient Mayans Had Contact with Aliens According to Reuters Report

In the archaeological books, magazines and news stories written by informed scientists that I have read, they never make mention of aliens having anything to do with the Mayan civilization. In many of the Mayan ruins around Chiapas and the Yucatan, I have seen signs declaring that aliens or space men had nothing to do with the Mayans. According to a Reuters article today, that is all about to change!

A sign at the Mayan ruins of Becan in Campeche.

The documentary movie “Revelations of the Mayans 2012 and Beyond” is about to blow the lid off of everything. The minister of tourism for Campeche, Luis Augusto Garcia Rosado said evidence has emerged “of contact between the Mayans and extraterrestrials, supported by translations of certain codices, which the government has kept secure in underground vaults for some time.”

According to David Drew in his book “The Lost Chronicles of the Maya Kings,” he writes about the Maya interest in star gazing: “The Maya seem to have been more fascinated by them than any other civilization in human history.” This is no proof of alien contact and I suspect Mr. Drew is no fan of the idea. There has always been a number of people who believe aliens had contact and exchanged knowledge with ancient humans, but mainstream academics and leaders in the field of Mayan history have never embraced that idea.

According to Mexican government sources, evidence pointing to alien contact has been hidden away from the public eyes. Not only has it been hidden, but respected scholars will be helping to unveil these these secrets. I am very curious to see who these scholars and archaeologists will be. I am also very keen to see this new evidence. Many people see a spaceship when they look at the lid to Pacals sarcophagus in Palenque. I see the tree of life, the maize god and other terrestrial symbols of the Mayan culture.

One of the temples at Calakmul on the edge of the Yucatan peninsula and the border with Guatemala.

The article mentions that the movie team will be given access to previously unexplored areas of Calakmul. I am sure what they mean is areas not previously open to the public. Calakmul is one of my very favorite Mayan archeological sites, I visited it just last year. The movie will also feature El Mirador in Guatemala. La Danta, the largest temple at El Mirador, can bee seen from Calakmul.

La Danta at El Mirador as seen through a long lens from the top of the Grand Temple at El Mirador.

The early hype over this movie and the fact that tourism ministers are promoting it does not add a tremendous amount of credibility to the film. It is not beyond my imagining that the whole thing is designed to help a badly damaged tourist industry in both Mexico and Guatemala. Yet…what hidden artifacts will be revealed, what ancient texts or technology do they have?

Photo of a UFO over Lake Atitlan I took in 2009.

Mexico has been the location of hundreds if not thousands of videos and photos of UFOs over the years. In 2007 the Mexican government released a video shot by fighter pilots over Campeche of a squadron of UFOs following one of their fighter jets. I’m no fan of Fox news, but in this clip they show the Mexican governments UFO footage.

Did the Maya and people from another galaxy have contact? Did the Mayan priests receive ancient wisdom from space travelers? No one can deny that they were intensely interested in both time and space. Do I believe that 3000 years ago there were spaceships flying around with beings who interacted with races here on earth? I really don’t know, but I do know that the history of human civilization extends far beyond the short 7000 years often accredited to it. One only has to look at Göbekli Tepe to see that we still have a lot to learn.