Palenque in Mexico is the perfect location for a sunshine holiday with a difference - just imagine exploring tropical jungles, gazing at waterfalls and strolling through local villages on your next getaway.
While you might initially be drawn to Mexico's beaches when it comes to planning a sun-soaked break in this part of the world, you'll be able to bask in just as much sunshine while immersing yourself in some beautiful natural landscapes further inland on adventure tours in the state of Chiapas.
Palenque itself is a famous UNESCO World Heritage site consisting of a complex of Mayan monuments, temple-pyramids and other structures built at some point between 500 and 700 AD.
The ruins attract crowds of visitors every year, but it is the jungles and other natural features that surround Palenque that are well worth a visit on Mexico adventure holidays here.
One ideal spot to head to in order to explore the dense forest is Agua Clara, which can be found at the point where the Tulija and Shumulha rivers join some 34 miles west of the town of Palenque.
Here, a number of paths have been cleared of vegetation to allow visitors to easily get around the jungle. You can venture deep into the forest on horseback for a unique experience and listen to guides who can tell you all about the history of the area and the creatures that make their home among the trees.
Another point of interest in the region is the Misol-Ha waterfall, which has a 100-foot drop and is located around 19 miles south-west of Palenque on the Tzaconeja river.
Make sure you take plenty of photos of this impressive sight and spend some time looking around the mini resort that has sprung up around the waterfall. Shops and a restaurant can be found here, while guided horseback tours are also available.
If you have an interest in wildlife, it may be worth making an excursion to Las Guacamayas, a nature reserve situated almost 160 miles from Palenque.
The site is home to howler monkeys, white-tailed deer, snow hawks, scarlet macaws and many other animals and birds. If you wish, you can also go hiking and camping in the reserve.
Culture and history
There's plenty to see in Palenque when it comes to local culture and history. Museums of note include the Alberto Ruz Lhuillier Palenque Site Museum and the Lak Puj Kul Textile Museum, while visits to the area's villages will reveal their unique craft traditions and provide the chance to pick up handmade bags, clothing and jewellery as souvenirs.
As well as touring the archaeological site of Palenque itself - perhaps on informative small group tours - you can also head to other historic points of interest to get a real feel for how the Mayan civilisation flourished in Mexico.
Tonina harbours the remains of another city similar to Palenque featuring monuments and temple-pyramids, while Bonampak has some fascinating murals that detail how Mayan society was structured.
The latter is located in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, which is home to one of the largest expanses of humid tropical forest in Mexico, as well as in Central America.
Activities in Palenque
Along with various opportunities to hike through Palenque's jungles, you can also take advantage of the chance to try other activities in the region.
If you like the idea of seeing the area from the water, head to Puente de la Cueva to begin a rafting adventure along the Usumacinta river, which is the longest waterway of its kind in Central America and loops around Palenque towards the border with Guatemala.
For a particularly exhilarating ride, make sure you visit between July and October, as this is when the river is especially powerful.
You'll journey down the river through areas of dense forest towards Bolon Ahau, a waterfall with a drop of 46 feet, before ending up in the village of Paraiso, where you can explore a cave.
If you'd rather stay on dry land, there are tours that begin in Agua Clara and head towards the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains for a tough uphill trek that rewards you with the chance to explore more spectacular tropical jungles.
Planning your Mexico adventure
There are several ways to plan your holiday in this part of Mexico. You could book an organised tour with an operator specialising in trips to the region, or you could make Palenque just one stop on a longer getaway.
For example, if you've always wanted to travel to America, you may wish to go to Palenque from the US - or vice versa - to make the most of your time in this section of the western hemisphere.