A slim cascade tumbling 35 meters from the cliff edge into the turquoise waters below, the Misol-Ha waterfall makes an arresting sight, set against a backdrop of lush jungle in the Chol tribe area of Chiapas.Often visited en-route to the Mayan ruins of Palenque, Misol-Ha and the nearby Agua Azul falls are two of the region’s most popular natural landmarks.
While the scenery is undeniably photogenic, the main highlight of a visit to Misol-Ha is the chance to swim beneath the falls and the deep, cool waters offer welcome relief from the muggy heat of the rainforest. A walkway also passes behind the falls, revealing a series of hidden caves that can be explored with the services of a local guide.
The Misol-Ha waterfall is located off Highway 199, 25 kilometers south of Palenque, and is open daily during daylight hours. Admission is 20 pesos per person.
A multi-tiered waterfall of fast-flowing waters tumbling down a series of natural limestone steps, the Agua Azul (Blue Water) waterfall stands in striking contrast to the lone cascade of the nearby Misol Ha Waterfall and is often combined with a tour of Palenque. Named for its startling turquoise-blue waters created by minerals in the limestone bed, the waterfalls make a popular photo spot, but be aware that if you visit during the rainy season (June through October) the excess flow and silt can result in a rather less-appealing murky-brown shade.
At the foot of the falls, a series of pools and bathing holes make an ideal spot for swimming and during the weekends the area is filled with both locals and tourists, picnicking by the waterside, buying food and handicrafts from the cluster of market stalls set up nearby and cooling off in the shallow waters.
The Agua Azul waterfall is located off the Highway 199, 35 kilometers south of Palenque and is open daily during daylight hours. Admission is 25 pesos.
With its remote location, hidden away in the Lacandon Jungle, it's not surprising that Bonampak was only discovered by explorers in 1946. Encompassing a mere 2.4 square kilometers, the ancient Mayan settlement pales in comparison to the sprawling ruins of nearby Yaxchilán, but despite its diminutive status, Bonampak still stands out.
The undeniable highlight of Bonampak is its remarkably preserved murals, which rank among the most important of all Mayan artworks, dating back to 800 AD. The series of colorful frescos inside the Templo de las Pinturas are the most famous, featuring detailed depictions of court rituals, ceremonies and human sacrifice previously unseen by archeologists.
Bonampak Archaeological Park is located in the Chiapas rainforest, about 30 kilometers south of Yaxchilan, and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the park is 45 pesos, while a further 25 peso fee is payable to enter the Ejido. Due to its remote location, Bonampak is best visited as part of a guided tour.
Address: Bonampak Archeological Park, Chiapas, Mexico
Hours: Daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: Admission to the park is 45 pesos, additional 25 pesos to enter the Ejido
The Pomona Ruins are a lesser-known archaeological site in the far eastern part of Tabasco. Set into the fertile plain along the Usumacinta River, the ancient settlement was at its peak from around 600 to 900 AD. And while the entire site occupies roughly a square mile, only a handful of structures have been uncovered. Standing atop the stacked-stone pyramids, visitors can look out at the surrounding jungle covered hills to imagine what must lie beneath them. Temple IV is the most spectacular built for the sun god Kin. An on-site museum contains artifacts recovered from the site, including stelae and sculpted panels from the temple.
The Pomona Ruins are remote, so driving is the best way to reach them. They sit about 155 miles away from Villahermosa, and about 36 miles form the more popular ruins at Palenque. Entry is free and visitors will likely have the site mostly to themselves.
Located on the Usumacinta River and surrounded by the dense Lacandon Jungle, the archeological area of Yaxchilán is reachable only by boat, a 40-minute cruise from the border town of Frontera Corozal. Getting there is all part of the experience and the journey is as spectacular as the destination, with howler monkeys swinging overhead, colorful birds swooping low over the waters and crocodiles crawling along the river banks, before scaling a grand riverside stairway to the site entrance.
An important Mayan city between 681 and 800 AD, Yaxchilán is an impressive site, with more than 120 structures dotted around the sprawling plot. The ruins are grouped into three main areas—the Great Plaza, the Grand Acropolis and the Small Acropolis—and are renowned for their unique architectural design, featuring monolithic limestone columns, elaborate stucco facades, decorative lintels and ornamental roof combs.
Yaxchilán Archeological Park is located about 30 kilometers north of Bonampak on the Mexican-Guatemalan border and is reachable by boat from Frontera Corozal. The site is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the park is 49 pesos, and due to its remote location, Yaxchilán is best visited as part of a guided tour.