Palenque was a classic Maya city-state located in Chiapas, Mexico, and has gained notoriety among Maya archaeologists for its extravagant architecture and refined art and writings. The temples perched upon a hill adjacent to the main plaza of Palenque give you a view from the top of the world all the way to the Gulf Coast. The Palace and Temple of the Inscriptions are two of the most remarkable structures ever conceived of by the classic Maya. The Temple of the Inscriptions is the only pyramidal structural built by the Maya specifically as a burial chamber for a ruler, similar to the Egyptian pyramids. The Palace was constructed as a succession of platforms built one on top of the other by each new ruler and has a distinct underworld and overworld. The underworld contains a series of passages and rooms for conducting ceremonies, and the overworld is where the rulers lived and performed other important rituals. The overworld theme is expressed further by the addition of a unique tower dedicated to the wind god and may have served as a lookout as well.
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Of all the Maya ruins, none exude the royal, palatial feel like Palenque. Perched in the hills with broad sweeping views down into the gulf plain below, one can sense the power the rulers must have felt at this location. The architecture and spatial arrangement of buildings are in harmony with the natural terrain. The structures have detailed stucco depictions of the elite and their gods. All of these factors combined with the howler monkeys and rainforest overgrowth make for a truely magical experience; especially if you get there right when they open before the tour buses and midday heat arrive.
I really had no expectations going into my trip to Mexico, but once there I fell in love with it. The food and atmosphere in Mexico City were fantastic, the ruins of Teotihuacán and Chichén Itzá were spectacular, the cities of Oaxaca and San Cristóbal de las Casas were charming, and the beaches of Tulum and Cozumel were beautiful and relaxing. But I have to say that the jungle ruins of Palenque were my favorite. I know that drug related violence has become a major problem there lately, but I hope people still consider Mexico as a vacation option.