San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque is one of those journeys that is slightly too long to be a comfortable ride, but not long enough that you would consider an overnight bus to save yourself money on accommodation.
At around 5 hours between the two towns and some beautiful sites to see along the way, there are a few different options to consider! Fortunately us here at Nomadic Bones have done the research and the trip, so here is both what you can see along the way and the best way to go about it.
Firstly, the sites. Between San Cristobal and Palenque are two amazing waterfalls that some would say are a must see (and we would totally agree with them). These include:
1. Agua Azul
Agua Azul is one of those places that defies belief, an amazing set of cascades and waterfalls that seem to continue on forever and if the conditions are right are some of the bluest in colour you might ever come across.
This place definitely lives up to the postcards, and can take up a long amount of time if you intend to both explore the site and go for a swim in the refreshingly cool pools. Generally if you are taking a tour from San Cristobal to Palenque then you will be given 1.5 hours here, just enough to go for a quick hike and find a private (or not so private) spot for a dip.
With a large area worth exploring you could also easily spend a lot longer here, with there also being many options available to stay overnight (cabanas and the like).
A second waterfall that flows down over a height of 35 metres, this area is a lot different from Agua Azul. Firstly, there is only one waterfall to be seen here, and the colours are less dramatic here than at the first stop.
The beauty of this waterfall is in its size, with a large open pool beckoning if you feel like going for a second swim. Additionally, you can also hike behind the waterfall and over to a cave system, paying 10MXN peso for a short guided tour into the darkness.
If on a tour you will have around 30-40 minutes here (plenty of time as it is a smaller area), and there are also a network of cabanas for you to stay overnight if you wish.
To get between San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque, you have a few different options. For full clarity, we at Nomadic Bones chose to take a tour as it provided us with ample opportunity to see the sites along the way which we felt were too good to pass up. With that being said, here are your options:
1. The Bus (ADO)
Of course one of the largest bus carriers in Mexico takes this route, though the only downside is that it goes direct between the two towns without stopping at the above sites.
If you are in a rush or would prefer to skip the waterfalls, this is a great and comfortable option. Tickets we saw were available for around 280MXN peso, with many departures throughout the day.
2. Rent a Car
Probably the most expensive option but definitely the most comfortable, renting a car would also allow you to see what you want and for as long as you want along the way.
3. A Tour (Mini-Van)
This option as stated takes you to the two waterfalls along the way to Palenque, and then as a final stop takes you to the ruins at Palenque.
This tour is actually run as a return trip from San Cristobal, where those who return arrive back in San Cristobal at around 10:30pm. We think this is crazy, and that going one-way is a long enough day as it is.
Generally the tour arrives at the Palenque ruins at approximately 3pm, giving you 2 hours in the site until it closes at 5pm. This is almost enough time at the site if you are rushing, but we chose to return the next day to explore the ruins more fully (this is of course up to you).
We sourced the price for this tour (transportation) whilst in San Cristobal and came across many different prices. Some offered it slightly cheaper as a one-way trip, though most agencies said it was the same price whether you returned to San Cristobal or not. We eventually booked with Otisa Travels & Tours (otherwise known as Jalapeno Tours) who we would highly recommend and were also the cheapest in town at 330MXN peso. Only 50 peso more than the bus – bargain!
How did you go about getting from San Cristobal to Palenque? Are there other options available that we didn’t come across? Let us know in the comments!