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“Everything you need to know about Yaxchilan (esp. tour)”
Review of Yaxchilan

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Full-Day Tour of Bonampak and Yaxchilán with Lunch
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Lacandona Jungle, Yaxchilan and Bonampak Day Trip from Palenque
Ranked #3 of 144 things to do in Chiapas
Certificate of Excellence
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Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
San Francisco, CA
Level 6 Contributor
261 reviews
74 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 275 helpful votes
“Everything you need to know about Yaxchilan (esp. tour)”
Reviewed June 19, 2014

Yaxchilan is definitely worth the effort of going there. I went on a small tour of ten people -- even though I loathe tours, I was glad to have used a tour guide in the end due to the three checkpoints you pass through where I saw many cars being searched -- booked through Palenque at our hotel. It does not matter which tour operator you use, although the prices may be different, but they will put you all into one van in the end. I paid $80 USD although I know I could have gotten it for less, I liked the tour operator I found, and he was at my hotel. He spoke perfect English and was very good overall.

This trip is not for anyone who is not in good physical condition. You don't have to be an athlete, but you will be in the sun, walking, and driving bumpy roads at times. I am in my late 30's, relatively fit with a ton of energy, and went with my teenage son during the off-season.

We were picked up at 6 am from Palenque and then picked up the others at their hotels. The driver was ferocious at first, and I was truly terrified of how fast he was going, although I now realize he was trying to get us there and back in time, nothing more and nothing less, and was an excellent driver. Still, the man drove fast and cut it close with some of his overtaking. My son got severe car sickness from it all, so I gave him motion sickness medication that I had on me. It was about a two hour drive until we stopped for breakfast at a place that was pretty delicious, actually, buffet style. Then, back in the car, off to Frontera Corozol, you have three lunch options that you pick prior to returning which are chicken, carne, or quesadillas. Don't lose your group because there's no one to really tell you where to go, especially if you don't speak Spanish!

Now off to the boat. This part is wonderful and very fun with outstanding scenery as the foliage grows denser, the border of Guatemala just 20 meters from the lancha boat, a long motorized canoe with palapa-covered seats on each side. It's also rather a long ride of an hour. The boat operator said nothing the entire time. I looked for crocodiles but saw none, but I did see many monkeys. When we arrived, we were given two hours, which was barely enough time! The restrooms are at the entrance and are clean, but be sure you have a good pack with plenty of water. And be sure you have a map. I brought the one from my Moon Guide, which was somewhat helpful although incomplete. We first went to the right up the steep path only to be greeted by howler monkeys and a large building which we climbed through a bit. This was rugged terrain. I saw one woman fall, tripping on tree roots. Then we descended back to the main site where we could not figure out how to enter other than through the aptly named labyrinth, which was pitch black, and where I walked through a fair amount of water. Fortunately for everyone behind me, I had a flashlight since everyone was wandering through the dark! It still takes a bit to get out, but it's an incredible experience. Not recommended if you're scared of bats; there are hundreds of them inside.

Once out, it's surprisingly large. Perhaps half the size of Palenque, although with few tall structures. The one tall one, the one that is the most famous, is an incredibly high walk. It's also slippery, or was when we were there since it had been raining for a few days, so be careful. We climbed this, but you cannot go inside. Then we climbed back down, explored the small structures, watched incredible leaf cutter ants, reveled at the rainforest since it's very thick here, although they do cut it back around the main ruins. Don't miss your boat back! Make sure to note what time you depart and how long they tell you you that you have to return. I am not sure what happens if you miss the boat or how they would even find you given that it's not a small place. Note: they give you this info in Spanish ;) I don't speak Spanish but recognized the numbers and such. I must say, it was the most stunning thing I saw in Mexico, and Mexico is a place where you turn the corner only to find something yet more stunning than you can imagine. This was one of a half dozen ruins that I saw and was my favorite (although Palenque's ruins are a very close second as they are far more grand).

Afterwards, you return by lancha to Frontera Corazol and have a sit down lunch which is okay, a bit quick, and Lacandon vendors will hawk their wares outside (I bought some bracelets for twenty pesos). Next up is usually Bonampak, although I will not review that here since this is Yaxchilan. It is usually included in tours, however. Then home, the driver a bit more relaxed, and you're dropped off at your hotel 13-14 hours later.

Things you will be glad you brought (in a waterproof backpack):

~ bug spray with a HIGH concentration of DEET (25%+) and still, expect to be bitten as you sweat it off
~ wear long pants and socks to minimize mosquito bites, as well as hiking shoes, not sandals, and a t-shirt, not a tank top. A hat (if you are going to Bonampak, which is not shaded). Lightweight socks and some sort of sneakers with tread on them. I wore a pair of regular sneakers and was fine, although they got very muddy.
~ your camera, of course, in a plastic ziplock bag.
~ a small flashlight
~ sunscreen (if you are going to Bonampak)
~ a lot of water. I also tucked in a few Cliff bars.
~ a map of Yaxchilan
~ a little money for souvenirs. While I'm almost morally opposed to purchasing trinkets, the Lacandon natives' jewelry is beautiful and authentic, made by them, and it helps them to sustain their lives, so I bought two bracelets and two necklaces, and I've worn all of these. They cost about 150 pesos in total and are one of the four things I bought while in Mexico for over two weeks. Also, drinks are available in a few places but not too many.
~ tissue pack, for the restrooms, as well as for wiping the sweat from your brow (I was glad I remembered this and used the whole pack)
~ antibacterial wet wipes. I use these not just to sanitize my hands but also to cool my face when sweating (did I mention it's hot? And humid?)
~ waterproof sunscreen. You will definitely sweat yours off and will need to reapply.
~ motion sickness medication if you are at all susceptible to it, for driving OR the boat, which is pretty still, although on return, a storm was kicking up and created some waves.
~ a pocket Spanish-English phrase book if you don't speak Spanish. Sorry, but this saved me when my son was carsick since I was able to ask the driver if he could sit up front, which was arranged. It also helped me in general since really, no one spoke English; the driver, they will tell you, speaks English. Ours spoke perhaps ten words?

While that sounds like a lot, it really wasn't, and I used everything there. I also brought a bandana to tie around my neck once it was totally sunburnt, which was at Bonampak.

Yaxchilan is amazing. It's a once in a lifetime experience and is stunningly beautiful. It's not hard although I did hear one person on the tour remark that it was the most adventurous thing she had ever done. I've done yet more adventurous things, but it was definitely not for the faint of heart but for those with a thirst for life. Wonderful!

Visited June 2014
10 Thank Aqusite
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Lausanne, Switzerland
Level 6 Contributor
101 reviews
18 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
“Rewarding effort”
Reviewed June 12, 2014

It takes a bit to get there. Usually, sleeping in Frontera Corozal,taking a 45 mn boat the ruins, and back.
The boat ride can be interesting as you will probably spot crocodiles.
The site will be probably all for your self(it was the case for us). No vendors makes it a very desirable ruin to visit (Chichen Itza looks more like Disneyland than a ruin).

Visited May 2014
3 Thank Distenz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Copenhagen, Denmark
Level 4 Contributor
30 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 30 helpful votes
“coolest site of Mexico”
Reviewed May 31, 2014

Yaxchilan is luckily not as well-visited as for example Palenque or Chitzen Itza. That is fantastic for those who get there, because having the site for yourself is a great experience. The trip from Palenque is super easy and comfortable, the boatride is gorgeous, the site itself a perfect combination of excavated and restored parts and stuff left to the jungle.
The howler monkeys, tucans and crocs spotted there definitely added to the sense of adventure.
A clear recommendation, especially because Bonampak is nearby which is also worth visiting.

Visited May 2014
3 Thank Kees_iggy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Statue of a Person sitting on top of the temple - Yaxchilán”
Reviewed May 29, 2014

For me it was specially impressive looking a partially destroyed sculpture of a Person sitting, like those in Ramsés II (Abu Simbel) Temple in Egypt, it feeled like related, you have to go to this striking spot.

Me impresionó la estatua de una Persona sentada en un trono, de manera tan parecida al templo de Ramses II (Abu Simbel) en Egypto, se siente como si estuvieran relacionados, tienen que ir a verlo.

Visited May 2014
1 Thank GabOrHoy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brisbane, Australia
Level 4 Contributor
49 reviews
22 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 30 helpful votes
“One of the highlights of my trip”
Reviewed April 24, 2014

I visited this site in conjunction with Bonampak, which I have reviewed separately.

Whilst staying at Palenque, a friend and I decided to forgo the Palenque archeological site and visit Bonampak and Yaxchilan instead. It was highly recommended by our trip guide and I was keen to explore as many archeological sites as possible and this one out of the way was instantly appealing.

We were able to join a small group of others (11 of us in total including a guide and driver). The trip is quite long, we left at 5am from the hotel, picked up the other guests from various lodgings and hit the road. We stopped for breakfast about 7 am at a very popular roadside restaurant. The food was very satisfying. This was included in the price of the tour.

We then made our way to the river, which is a natural border between Mexico and Guatemala. Here we boarded motorised longboats and travelled up the river for approximately 30 minutes.

When we arrived at Yaxchilan, there is not much to see from the riverbank, however as we continued deeper into the area, it was clear this is a large site hidden by the rainforest.

The various sites were expertly explained to us by our guide, we were able to understand the significance of this site and were impressed by the well preserved buildings. There are numerous Stela's and lintels that have been recovered.

This site was not crowded which added to the experience and we were able to take our time and appreciate what we were seeing.

This was definitely one of my favourite sites.

Another great experience was hearing and seeing the spider and howler monkeys.

After we left Yaxchilan, the same way we arrived, we had a lovely lunch (included) before heading to Bonampek.

Overall, this trip was well worth the time and money, which was not overly expensive by Australian standards (approx $100), but certainly higher then other trips taken in Mexico/Central America.

It was a long day but one I would highly recommend doing and will do it again when I return to Mexico.

Visited May 2013
4 Thank Kawm2003
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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