Mexico has some unique attractions for people taking adventure holidays, including the rediscovered city of Palenque. The site is home to some spectacular buildings from the pre-Columbian era and is set among some imposing jungle territory.
In many ways it is the ideal location for intrepid holidaymakers, as you can trek through the jungle and see the local wildlife before reaching a magnificent historic site. It’s probably as close as you can get to being Indiana Jones for a few days!
Mexico is home to a host of archaeological sites dating back to the area’s great ancient civilisations, such as the Olmec and Maya. Few of them have as many structures that are as well preserved as Palenque and none have the same kind of mystique.
Thousands of archaeologists and people on Mexico trekking holidays venture to Palenque every year, attracted by the prospect of seeing some stunning architecture and the tales of the city’s rise and puzzling fall.
Palenque was one of the great cities of the Maya civilisation. There is evidence of a settlement on the site as early as 300 BC, but most of the great buildings were constructed between the seventh and ninth centuries – long before European explorers arrived.
The Mayan people were among the most advanced of the pre-Colombian inhabitants of the Americas and developed their own written language, as well as building techniques that enabled them to develop cities complete with palaces and temples among their agricultural land.
There is plenty of evidence of how advanced they were in Palenque, but the city is only really known about because of the work of European explorers and diplomats in the 19th century. It is not clear exactly why, but the city was virtually abandoned in the tenth century and gradually reclaimed by the jungle.
Since it was found, extensive work has been carried out to clear the site and uncover and restore the magnificent structures. More than 30 buildings can now be seen at Palenque, but archaeologists believe there could be more than 500 in what, by the standards of the time, was a vast city. You will notice lots of what appear to be tree-covered hills close to the site, but these are actually buildings that are still to be excavated.
Those that have already been uncovered provide an idea about how the city may have looked in its prime. They also include some spectacular structures, including The Palace – a maze of courtyards and buildings that is believed to have been used as Palenque’s administrative centre and provided housing for priests and aristocrats. It has a four-storey tower, the top level of which was used as an observatory by the Mayans, who had a good understanding of astronomy.
There is also an aqueduct and a host of burial temples in the form of pyramids, complete with intricate decoration and imposing sculptures. One of the most famous is the Temple of Inscriptions, which is thought to have been built as a tomb for Pakal the Great, who was once ruler of Palenque. It has some of the most elaborate decoration found on any Mayan monument, including a lengthy hieroglyphic text detailing a period of the city’s history.
If you are planning to take adventure holidays for singles or as part of a group in Mexico you will probably want to see some of the other great pre-Columbian archaeological sites in the country. The huge collection of Mayan ruins at the Chichen Itza is a sight not to be missed, while the historic sites at Monte Alban and Yaxchilan are well worth visiting.
Mexico also has some fascinating modern cities, such as Oaxaca and San Cristobal, where you can enjoy a taste of the local culture, as well as some beautiful beaches to relax on.
If you are booking an adventure holiday you probably want to do something a little more active than working on your tan – and you will not be short of things to try in the varied landscapes of Mexico. You will find jungles, mountains, rivers and rugged terrain to explore, providing the ideal backdrop for camping expeditions, hiking, boat trips, horse riding and cave snorkeling.