Visit the Archaeological Sites of Chiapas, Mexico

October 01, 2014
Michael Ryan
Ruins at Palenque

Ruins at Palenque

The Mayan civilization occupied the area from southeast Mexico down to Central America.  The sites based in the Yucatan Peninsula are extremely popular due to its proximity to the more popular beach areas of Riviera Maya and Cancun.  Although the sites based in Chiapas are slightly more difficult to reach, they are definitely worth the effort.


Although this is not the original name of the site, it means ‘Painted Walls’ when translated from the Mayan language.  During 1964, archaeologists discovered several mural paintings in this area and this changed the general ideas that most had about the civilization.  Before these findings, it was believed that the Mayans were a peaceful and contemplative culture.  However, the murals, which date back to around 790 AD, depict battle sequences, prisoner sacrifices and celebrations of victories.

Bonampak is situated around 20 miles south of Yaxchilan.  A visit to the site can be included as part of an overall visit to the larger area and requires about one day if you include the larger Palenque site.


This site was a flourishing area during the Late Preclassic era.  It is said to be the bridge between the Mayan and the Olmec civilizations.  The location of the site is on the Izapa River.  It offers visitors a range of inscribed stelae and sculptural art.  It is believed that the 260-day ritual calendar which is said to have been common throughout Mesoamerica started at this site.

The site can be reached by travel on federal highway 200 from Tapachula.




Palenque is one of the major archaeological sites within Mexico.  A direct translation of its name is stockade or palisade.  This was a busy area during the later part known as the Classic period, from 600 to 900 AD.  Its influence covered a large section of the Mayan area.

The site is situated quite close to the town of Palenque.  The small town is a five-hour drive from San Cristobal de las Casas, which is a great overnight spot to stay before visiting the smaller town.  There are tour companies that offer a day visit to Palenque from San Cristobal.  However, this trip does not offer much time at the site of the ruins as the travelling time is so long.

Tenam Puente

This is the least studied of the archaeological sites in Chiapas.  Its dates of occupation correspond to the Classic and early Postclassic eras which was around 300 to 1200 AD.  The site is strategically placed on the route between Guatemala and the Chiapas highlands, giving it access to all the major commercial networks.  It extends over an area in excess of 30 hectares, with about 60 structures on it.

The site can be reached from federal highway 190, about 13 kms southwest of Comitan.

There are a couple of other sites in the area that can be visited.  To obtain the best viewing pleasure and absorb the interesting facts about the area will require time.  If you intend driving to the area, you should ensure that you obtain a Mexican insurance coverage for the entire length of time you will be in the area.  It is easy to buy Mexican auto insurance online and stipulate the time period you want.You can purchase your Mexican insurance policy from this link. The main consideration to make is not to leave home without your insurance.

6 Comments. Leave new

Walter Clifford

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Charmaine Gunn

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Venice Delnero

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Marcus Strosnider

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Lizette Knappenberger

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Denna Greiner

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