Explore the best of Central Mexico's indigenous cultures and rainforest on this whirlwind five-day trip. You'll land in Palenque, then make your way to Villahermosa by way of Naha. Your expert driver will deliver you to all of your planned stops: visits to ancient Mayan ruins, oasis-like waterfalls, and traditional handicraft lessons.

Highlights

  • Explore the Palenque archaeological site
  • Cool off at the Roberto Barrios waterfalls
  • Visit the ancient Mayan cities of Yaxchilan & Bonampak
  • Learn to make traditional handicrafts, like bow & arrow

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Villahermosa, Transfer to Palenque Palenque
Day 2 Palenque Archeological Site, Visit the Roberto Barrios Waterfalls Palenque
Day 3 Ancient Mayan Cities of Yaxchilan & Bonampak, Transfer to Nahá Nahá
Day 4 Nature Exploration at Nahá Reserve, Create & Shoot: Lacandon Bow & Arrow Workshop in Nahá, Clay Workshop in Nahá, Transfer to Palenque Palenque
Day 5 Palenque to Villahermosa, Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Villahermosa, Transfer to Palenque

Palenque's archaelogical site
Palenque's archaelogical site

Welcome to Mexico! Your driver will pick you up at the airport to take you to Palenque. Spend today resting and exploring the area on your own. 

 
The Temples of Palenque are a sight to behold, with over 2,000 years of history to explore. Spend some time today exploring the temples, or head into the jungle to spot wildlife — look for macaws and howler monkeys on a trail that passes yet-unexplored ruins in pristine rainforest.

You can also see jaguars, parrots, and tapirs up close at the Aluxes Ecopark. This non-profit organization rescues injured wildlife and maintains a breeding and release program for endangered species.

Day 2: Palenque Archeological Site, Visit the Roberto Barrios Waterfalls

The abandoned city of Palenque
The abandoned city of Palenque
On this visit, you will explore the lesser-known archaeological area of Palenque, where you can see how quickly the jungle can re-absorb an entire city. Once a center of civilization until the 7th century, the now-abandoned city was taken over by the forest, until people re-discovered it and began excavations. Since then, the site has been recognized for its historic value and given a UNESCO designation.

These days, the ruins are one of Mexico's most interesting Mayan ruins, with plenty of artifacts that shed insight into the myths, rituals, beliefs, and lives of the people who built the city. As part of its importance, both regionally and nationally, archaeologists have determined that Palenque was one of the main sites that influenced other settlements of the Usumacinta Basin

After, head an hour outside the town of Palenque for a relaxing adventure to the Roberto Barrios Waterfalls. The falls are famed for their beautiful turquoise waters, which cast a refreshing spray into the air around the falls (perfect for cooling off!)

Look around you when you reach the falls — you might be able to spot fish in the clear water, monkeys in the trees around you, or even toucans, parrots, or motmots (clock birds) in the tree canopy above you. You'll spend several hours enjoying the scenery, going for a refreshing swim, and relaxing by the water before heading back to town. 

Day 3: Ancient Mayan Cities of Yaxchilan & Bonampak, Transfer to Nahá

Ancient city ruins
Ancient city ruins
You'll start this experience early in the morning to maximize your time at the site. You'll stop en route for breakfast and to stretch your legs. 

The first stop will be Frontera Corozal, a Chol indigenous town 3 hours drive from Palenque. Here, you'll take a motorboat through the Usumacinta River (the longest in Centra America) to the first Mayan city: Yaxchilan, a place of green stones. This is an amazing archaeological site in the middle of the jungle. Nearly 2000 years ago Yaxchilan was just a small village, however, it eventually grew to become one of the most significant settlements on the Usumacinta's side of the river. You'll visit the most iconic buildings of this archeological site and learn about the people that once lived there. Afterward, return by boat to Frontera Corozal where you'll enjoy a delicious traditional meal.  

After lunch, continue to the second archaeological site of the day: Bonampak, located in the Lacandon jungle. Here you will be able to see 1,100-year-old original paintings, steles (stone slabs), and lintels that describe the lifestyle and government of the ancient city.

After, your driver will take you to the town of Nahá, in the midst of the Lacandon jungle. You'll travel around four hours down dirt roads and through amazing rainforest landscapes.

Day 4: Nature Exploration at Nahá Reserve, Create & Shoot: Lacandon Bow & Arrow Workshop in Nahá, Clay Workshop in Nahá, Transfer to Palenque

Contemplate the tranquility of nature
Contemplate the tranquility of nature
A Lacandon guide will accompany you for two and a half hours on this tour, where he will share his knowledge about the different species of local flora and fauna. Contemplate and enjoy the tranquility of Lake Nahá, where you'll board a boat to navigate to the lake.

Disembark for a short jungle trek near the water where, with a little luck, you'll be able to spot a variety of local wildlife, including turtles and crocodiles. 

Until 50 years ago, the Lacandon Maya were a nomadic tribe living in the deep jungle of Chiapas. In this workshop, you will learn about their history and culture, and how they used handmade arrows and bows to hunt and feed their families.

During this hour-long experience, you will learn how to turn a dry cane into a fully functional arrow that is light and has a great balance to fly in the air. You will feather the top, add the tip made with different stones and finally tie it together to create your very own arrow. Once you have finished building it, you will have the opportunity to test it and demonstrate your archery skills.

After, you will participate in a clay workshop, a material that's been in use since pre-Hispanic times to make utensils and model figures of gods. The workshop is guided by one of the Lacandon artists, who will guide you to use your skills and imagination to create a unique clay piece, let your hands remember long-forgotten memories, and rediscover your creative and spiritual side.

After, your driver will take you from the town of Nahá, in the midst of the Lacandon jungle, to the town of Palenque. You'll travel around four hours down dirt roads and through amazing rainforest landscapes.

Day 5: Palenque to Villahermosa, Departure

A relaxing oasis

Safe travels! Your driver will take you from Palenque to Villahermosa's airport.

 

More Mexico Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Mexico? Check out these other 5-day Mexico itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.

Looking for a longer duration? Check out this 6-day version or this 7-day version of this itinerary. 

Or, describe your ideal trip and we will connect you with a local specialist to make it happen.