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Palenque, Chiapas

Fast Facts:

6 km form Palenque Town in Chiapas
Time to Visit: All through the year, preferably between January end and beginning of Lent for viewing 'Pocho' dance.
Preferred timings: Daytime
Entrance Fee: Ruins — 75 pesos; National Park — 10 pesos; Guide — 650 pesos for 6 visitors
How to Reach: By bus or car from Villahermosa
Nearest International Airport: Villahermosa International Airport
Duration of Sightseeing: 1 day

Palenque overlooks the swampy plains stretching up to the Gulf of Mexico about 80 miles northwards. It is the ruins of a city dating back to 100 BC set in the foothills of Tumbala Mountains in Chiapas in Mexico Located between the sea in the north and misty green hills in the south Palenque in Mexico is a delight for tourists and researchers alike. The awesome landscape of this world heritage site has been an inspiration for artists and architects alike for ages. Palenque derives its name from 'bahlam kin', the local term for 'jaguar sun'. According to local belief the underworld to which Maya civilization belongs, is the realm of the jaguar.

The vast alluvial plain of Usumacinta in the north was the main reason for the prosperity of this ancient Mesoamerican civilization that thrived between 6th and 8th centuries ACE (after Christian era). Crops like maize and Indian corn that were grown in the fertile plains not only provided for the local tribe but were also traded. The prosperity of Palenque is visible from the archeological remains discovered here. The existence of a palace, temples, and pyramids are characterized by Mansard roofs and stucco carvings. Pre-Hispanic City and National Park of Palenque is estimated to contain an estimated member of 500 constructions of which only 34 are visible.
The remains of this ancient site is an amazement because of the indications of a fairly high degree of knowledge and learning among the Mayan community. The extensive use of written language both in ideographic and phonetic forms have been discovered from Palenque. Hieroglyph carvings on stone were common on building walls. Writings on soft barks of fig trees have been unearthed from this site. Maya writings comprised words, sentences and even stories. Stories were events were also represented using hieroglyphs. The common people understood the languages and scripts, but the nobility and the priests had complete knowledge of the languages.

Mayan lifestyle revolved around their religion according to which the world had two levels; the physical or the mortal, and the spiritual consisting of gods, supernatural creatures and dead ancestors. The gods, modeled after animals, were at the center of religious and sacrificial activities. The Maya literati had a thorough understanding of mathematics, astronomy and engineering as reflected in their scripts and buildings. The Palace would amaze you with its mansard roofs and stucco (a mixture of cement, sand, and lime) carvings of happenings, kings, and gods on the walls. A central courtyard surrounded by a four storey square tower was used both as an observatory and a watchtower. Water was supplied through a corbel-vaulted tunnel.

The Pyramid of Inscriptions was another marvel of Palenque. Visit the tomb of King Pacal and look into the mystifying sarcophagus. The mask fitted over the face is a unique creation in jade mosaic. You would be awed by the jade body covering made from hand woven jade strung together with gold wires.

For making your tour to Palenque memorable, take a boat ride down River Usamacinta through a tropical rain forest from Bonampak to Yaxchilan. Be on the look out for exotic birds and howler monkeys. After visiting Palenque proceed to Tenosique to witness their 'Pocho' dance beginning on January's last Sunday and culminating on the last Sunday before Lent. Three groups dressed as 'lame' or men, 'pochoveras' or women, and 'tigres'or jaguars participate in this colorful dance.

Related Links : To see the monumental ruins of Palenque, watch this video!

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