Eerie Legends

Mexico, Yucatán

This trip is very special and, time providing, not to be missed if you are in Palenque. You can make it two tight days or three days at leisure.

What makes it eerie? The remoteness, the spirit of the ancient Maya, the ghosts of bloodletting rituals, the silence of the Lacandón jungle, the fearless, yet friendly Lacandón jungle people, the mighty strength of the Usumacinta river, the thrill of getting there. It is as exciting as it gets but safe and it is certainly worth it!

The boat ride along the Usumacinta river to Yaxchilán takes 30 minutes.

The boat ride along the Usumacinta river to Yaxchilán takes 30 minutes.


I recommend doing it in the following way:

  1. Go from Palenque to Yaxchilán first. Take a boat to the ruins.

  2. After the ruins go to Bonampak and at Crucero Bonampak turn right to the camps of Lacanjá Chansayab village. By then it will be late afternoon.

  3. Stay the night in the camp Campamento Río Lacanjá. Listen to the monkeys and birds.

  4. Following morning take a walk in the jungle (with the camp guide).

  5. Visit the ruins of Bonampak and head back to Palenque.

  6. If you want to raft, not just walk in the jungle, you may have to stay one more night at the jungle (making it a total of two nights). In this case, take the rafting tour from the camp (only in the mornings).

For travel directions and accommodation see my posts about each site.

 Yaxchilán (RUINS)

It is a three-hour drive from Palenque along highway 307 (surrounded by dense jungle) to Frontera Corozal town on the Usumacinta river, Guatemalan border. To visit the ruins, you will be travelling like the Maya, by boat from the town's dock. You then enter the ruin site through the Labyrinth, a building that represents the Mayan Underworld (Xibalbá). There is no other way in. You will immediately feel and question how the Maya confronted death. When you step out into the light and the rest of the city, you will feel very much alive. The rest of the site and its lintels tell the stories of the rulers' communication with the supernatural world through bloodletting rituals. Stay the night at the beautiful riverside cabañas of the Hotel Nueva Alianza for more of the jungle feel.

Use your mobile as a torch at the Underworld Labyrinth.

Use your mobile as a torch at the Underworld Labyrinth.


Bonampak (Ruins)

Mysteries come in many forms. This site, only just over an hour's drive from Frontera Corozal back towards Palenque, tells a similar story of a ruler's court, but very differently. You will be mesmerised by the power of art’s ability to tell multiple stories. Over 30 natural pigments were used in the stunning murals that depict the celebration of the ruler's newborn heir, followed by the gruesome battle with the neighbouring city, torture and death of the captives and the celebratory bloodletting rituals.


Lacanjá Chansayab (Hammocks/Jungles)

This jungle is one of the few remaining intact jungle areas in Central America. Lacanjá is a part of the Lacandón jungle (Hammocks/Jungles). The walk will also reward you with waterfalls, Cascadas de Moctuniha (also referred to as Cascadas de Golondrinas), where you can swim. You will have it to yourself. Just you and the tropical forest. This walk takes one hour each way (you will need to take a guide from your camp) and you will need to add time for swimming in the waterfalls. If you want to add more walking, you can walk another half hour (one way) to the small ruins of the lost Maya city of Lacanjá. Stay the night at the camp called Campamento Río Lacanjá. Talk to the Lacandón people (with white tunics and long hair) at the camp and the ruins. The lifestyle of these jungle dwellers is fascinating. Bring tequila with you as you won't get any here (although they will smuggle in a beer for you). You will want it after the hike.

Lacanjá ruins (Ruins)

It is just one temple, really. What makes it special is the jungle hike (or rafting); you can't access it any other way. A truly lost Maya city with an intriguing history of wars.