Bonampak Archaeological Zone
Bonampak Archaeological Zone (8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, US$4.50) is a modest site overall, but home to some of the best ancient Maya murals ever discovered. The famous murals adorn the interior walls of a small temple built innocuously on the staircase of the city’s main acropolis; painted in brilliant teal, red, and other colors, they depict sacrifices, ritual bloodletting, and violent battle scenes.
The images shattered previous assumptions about the Maya, who had been portrayed by many researchers as a peace-loving civilization, in sharp contrast to Central Mexican indigenous groups and, of course, the Spanish colonizers.
Getting to Bonampak
By Tour: Most people visit Bonampak (and Yaxchilán) as part of an all-day round-trip package from Palenque. The “tour” usually includes just transportation—no guide service, though the drivers are often quite knowledgeable—but it is a very practical option, even for those who eschew packages of any sort. That’s because visiting both ruins in a day requires keeping a tight schedule, which is impossible if you’re traveling by combi. A rental car is quicker, but you still get pinched for things that are included in the tour price (not to mention gas and the rental itself).
At Bonampak, a local cooperative controls the 10-kilometer access road, and charges an outrageous US$7 per person for round-trip van service to the ruins. Anyone not arriving by tour must pay, whether arriving by bus or rental car, though small discounts are available for students and seniors. Bikes can be rented a short distance past the control booth and parking area (van operators will try to convince you the stand is closed), but at US$6 for three hours, there’s no real savings.
By Combi: From Palenque, combis operated by Autotransporte Chamoan (Av. Miguel Hidalgo btwn. Calles 1a Pte. and Allende) leave for Frontera Corozal hourly 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; be sure to ask the driver to drop you at crucero Bonampak (Bonampak turnoff, US$7, 3.5 hrs), which is a kilometer off the main road and not an automatic stop. From there, you must take a local van (US$7 pp round-trip).
By Car: About 130 kilometers from Palenque in the town of San Javier are large signs and a prominent intersection marking the turnoff to Bonampak. Turn right and go a short distance further to a second intersection, known as crucero Bonampak (Bonampak turnoff). It’s another 10 kilometers to the ruins, but private cars aren’t allowed past; instead you must park and take a local van (US$7 pp round-trip).
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition