We knew that the Younger Fives were hot to visit their first Mayan ruins, but we didn’t actually think they would get a fever. In fact that is just what happened. By the time that we boarded the bus to Palenque from San Cristóbal de las Casas all three kids were running fevers. Of course stepping off the bus into 90 degree temperatures with super high humidity didn’t help. Coming from the much cooler highland climate of San Cristóbal de las Casas, our bodies were given quite the shock as we emerged into the jungle. Luckily the allure of scrambling over the Palenque ruins was enough to induce the kids into taking some fever reduction medicine and hopping on a Collectivo (small passenger vans that run throughout town) to go explore the remains of the ancient Mayan city.
Considering they were all pretty sick, the kids did an amazing job of site seeing. In fact most of the tourists that we saw walking around Palenque looked pretty miserable (hot, sweaty, and sometimes bored) so the kids in their condition didn’t stand out. We had already planned on breaking up our visit into multiple days so we weren’t worried about rushing through the site, which worked out wonderfully. Instead each day we let the kids choose what they wanted to explore and in between we lounged, picnicked, and even napped under the huge trees that dot the landscape. One day just outside of the Temple of the Cross we found ourselves in the company of a group of howler monkeys hanging above our heads. So, for the next hour we sat in the shade of the jungle trees and watched the monkeys swing and eat.
After spending the last month reading books and watching documentaries about Palenque, it was really a trip to actually be standing at the base of these amazing structures. Five Ball was especially surprised to find out how small the ball court actually was. We found the following documentary to be particularly useful in getting a sense of what Palenque looked like in its heyday, and it really helped us appreciate even more all the structures we saw.
The Fives 5 tips for visiting Palenque with kids:
– Visit early in the morning before the mid-day heat becomes too oppressive.
– Dress in very cool and comfortable clothing (tank tops, thin shorts, and sandals).
– Drink lots of water (vendors sell cold water near all of the entrances).
– Plan to move slowly and take lots of breaks under shade trees or along the jungle paths
– Break your visit to this massive archaeological site into two days. We visited the south section the first day and the north section of the site the next day.