After you have visited Bonampak you have to take a boat at Frontera Corozal and sail on the Usumacinta River which is the natural border between México and Guatemala. After 40minutes downstream you'll be in Yaxchilán, another ancient maya city in the middle of the jungle.
For more information see the Bonampak tip.
When you walk down the path along Rio Otolum from the sites near the entrance, you pass along some signs to Grupo B and Grupo C. Follow the path to these places and discover the ruins that are still hidden inside the jungle.
There are almost no tourists there and the only sounds you can hear are the birds, grasshoppers, howlermonkeys and the other animals of the jungle. And maybe an archeologists singing a song while excavating the sites.
It's a great adventure to explore these ruins and you can imagine how it must have been when people saw them for the first time.
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Good hikers will wander the entire trail complex in search of the falls, which are extraordinary in beauty, and the numerous outer buildings and foundations which continue to be uncovered by archeologists. The lush tropical rainforest vegetation is worth the hike down the trail toward the exit and tourist center.
It's only about a quarter of the site that has been excavated and partially restored. The rest is still hidden inside the jungle. The height of this site was between 615 and 702 AD. The most important ruler, Pakal, reigned from 615 to 683. His son, Chan Balam II ruled from 684 to 702. After this the city started declining and the last known recorded date is from 799.
The spanish established a town nearby in the 1560's and called it Palenque. Some mayan descendents discovered the ruins in the late 18th century and told the spanish. Soon after a captain came from Madrid to investigate, and reported that it looked like the romans or the greeks had built a city there. Excavations and mapping of the area is still taking place today.
River Misol-Ha drops 35 meters into a wide pool surrounded by tropical vegetation. Don't forget to walk beyond the waterfall.
To get there you can take a combi or a 2nd. class bus to San Cristobal de las Casas or Ocosingo and they'll drop you at the junction. From there is a 1.5 km walk to the waterfall. Many travel agencies at Palenque offers Misol-Ha (30 minutes) combined with Palenque ruins(4 hours), Agua Clara and Agua Azul (3 hours).
More photos at: http://community.webshots.com/album/109331253cgrjEK
El Palacio is a huge complex of buildings built on a mound and leading to central plaza area. The tall tower is unique in the Mayan world in terms of architecture. Most Palenque buildings are built of unmortared stones simply fit together very well, but in this structure, the stones are shaped and stacked in a manner more typical of other Mayan cities. Inside the Palacio rooms, some color still remains.
To the right after paying the entrance fees, are a linear series of temples with steep steps. My nephew raced up them, but I tread carefully as the steps are many, short, and high. At the top, the temples can be entered and the method of roof construction very apparent in the vaulted ceilings. The Mayans didn't use the Roman arch.
Close to the ball court and the Templo del Conde you can see many small buildings. They are called The north group. All of the buildings in this area are shaded by trees and the jungle. There are not so many tourists here as in the area right after the entrance. It's a nice place to sit down and rest a bit, before you continue.
Right next to the palace runs the river Rio Otolum. The mayans lined the river with stones and used it as an aqueduct.
The path crosses the river, and on the other side you can find many more pyramids, like Templo del Sol, Templo de la Cruz and the Templo de la Cruz Foliada. Behind these are even more buildings in the South Acropolis, but this area is still closed off to the tourists.
This temple, The temple of the Cross, is the biggest in the group situated on the other side of Rio Otolum. It is half obscured by the dence vegetation behind. Like the others it is a tall, narrow pyramid with a stone roof-comb.
Along with many other buildings it was built by Chan-Balam II, the son of former king Pakal, as he was trying to overgo the buildings and acchievements of his father.
The cross was very important to the mayans. It is believed to symbolize the meeting of the heavens and the underworld with the living land.
This temple is situated next to The temple of the Cross and The temple of the Sun. It's a quite small building, and it's completely surrounded by the dense vegetation. It's much smaller then the other buildings around, and there is a small path leading up the hill to it.
One of the most important buildings is situated right inside the entrance. It has eight steps and is almost 30 metres high. The sanctuary on top has many stone panels that are carved with hieroglyphs from the mayor era of the city. Unfortunately you can't climb the pyramid.
Inside is the tomb of Pakal which was discovered in 1952. You can't go inside here either, but in the Antropology museum in Mexico City is a replica that you can check out if you are there. Some of the things found inside the tomb, like the jade death mask and the skeleton, is also in the museum.
This was the first such pyramid burial to be found in the Americas, and is still the most important and impressive.
The lid on Pakal's tomb had intricate carvings of Pakal. There is much discussion about this carving, and very many people have seen a picture of it once.
The archeologists says that it's a picture showing Pakal falling down to the underworld at the moment of his death. The underworld is symbolized by a monster's jaws. Above him rises Wakah Kan, the world tree and the centre of the universe. Itzam-Ye, the Celestial Bird, is also rising above the dead king. The bird is perched on top and is representing the heavens.
Apart from the archeologists theory, there are many other and more imaginative interpretations of lid in Pakal's tomb. Some say Pakal had knowledge of the jewish old testament and that the carving is a proof of this, and they give plenty of explanations for this. Others say he was the last of his tribe and he was trying to make a carving to show others how to live a better life.
The most famous is perhaps the one of Eric von Dänicken. If you turn the lid over on it's side it doesn't look like he is falling, but it looks like he is sitting on something. von Dänicken suggested it was some kind of aircraft or spaceship that he was flying. Many see this carving as a proof that civilizations across the world had contact through the air.
We might never know the true meaning of the picture, but I trust the archeologists untill someone can give me proof of something else... :)
This temple was discovered in 1994 and it lies between Templo de los inscripciones and Templo de la Calavera. It also contains a tomb and is the only one open to the public. It is believed to be from the same period as that of Pakal. In this one they found the skeleton of a woman, and things like jade and obsidian grave goods along with food and drink.