Yaxchilán & Bonampák (Chiapas)
No tour of Maya ruins is complete without a visit to Palenque, in the state of Chiapas. While you're there, book a day trip to Yaxchilán and Bonampák, sister ruins deep in the rainforest that are home to amazingly well-preserved stonework and murals.
Yaxchilán is famous for its intricately-carved lintels, the long stone that forms the top of doorways. Only the underside is carved, which means you have to crouch down and look upward for a good view, but the incredible detail will make you forget the cramp in your back, at least momentarily. Bonampák's highlight is a three-room structure with beautiful fresco murals, the red and teal hues still brilliant after more than a thousand years. Both sites also have terrific stele, as well.
Inside Tip: You'll have to take a boat to get to Yaxchilán; the river is home to huge crocodiles, so keep your eyes peeled and your fingers out of the water!
Practicalities: All-day guided tours from Palenque cost US$45 per person, including two hours at Yaxchilán, an hour at Bonampák, plus lunch and transport but not admission (US$3 per site). Overnight trips, including lodging and an additional hike, run around US$80 per person.
Two-day trips can be booked in Palenque; recommended outfitters include Na Chan Kan or Viajes Misol Ha, both on Av. Juárez near Hotel Avenida. Overnight trips typically include sleeping in Frontera Corozal, the small village upriver from Yaxchilán, and a hike in the rainforest the following day. You can also arrange to be dropped on the Guatemalan side of the river, where buses continue to Flores and the incredible Maya site of Tikal.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication