Known for its legendary Mayan ruins, the town of Palenque sits in the heart of a very dense, very steamy rainforest in Eastern Chiapas. While being a bit sweaty seems an entirely appropriate side-effect of being in the jungle, it must be noted that Palenque’s particular brand of tropical heat in the warm months (Jun – Sep) gives even Tulum’s humid climate something to aspire to.
On a recent trip, we decided to throw our vagabond budget to the wind and splurge on a night at Chan-Kah, a jungle eco-resort in Palenque’s archaeological zone (rooms from $95 US). Was it worth it? Totalmente. Every peso. The resort grounds were vast, Edenic, and cultivated with care (think: Central Park meets Apocalypto), the focal point of which was an impressive group of large, cenote-style pools surrounded by natural environs so lush that they made the Discovery Channel look sadly 2D.
And indeed, there was no shortage of wildlife encounters. Bands of agouti (giant guinea pig-type animals) ambled out of the underbrush. Neon-colored butterflies zigzagged between prehistoric-looking trees. Bushes drooped beneath the weight of Golden Guayacan flowers the approximate size and weight of robust babies. And we never tired of catching sight of our favorite: a miniscule lizard that hopped upright and sprinted around on two legs, like a freakishly small dinosaur.
And then there’s the jungle soundscape, which can only be described as a bacchanal of unseen things. Insects hummed with the might of herculean armies. Staggering ranks of birds trilled out complex melody lines. Most memorable, were the otherworldly growls of the canopy-dwelling Howler Monkeys, a slow crescendo of rasping pitches that ricocheted down from the heights above, creating an effect that was simultaneously terrifying and thrilling. The first guttural calls that we heard sent chills down our spines, prompting us to beat a path in and out of the shadows, hoping to catch sight of one of the elusive callers. Sadly, to no avail.
After we grew weary of being repeatedly spurned by the scary, cool, invisible monkeys that roamed the treetops, we returned to our bungalow, a cozy space featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, a thatched roof patio, and (thanks be to Pakal!) hot water on demand. We were pleased to find that the electricity was activated only when we placed our key in a slot near the door, and marveled over one, intriguing detail: a placard next to the sink which informed visitors of the source of Chan-Kah’s water supply—a cenote located beneath the legendary Temple of Inscriptions (circa 600 B.C.) at the Palenque ruins.
And so, surrounded in natural rainforest splendor and cleansed luxuriously with sacred shower water apparently blessed by Mayan Priests over 2000 years ago, we slept like blissful, spoiled babies. The next morning came quickly, and with the mountains of Chiapas calling, we said our farewells to Eden and boarded our bus. To distract ourselves from nervously watching our driver as he multitasked (eating an unbelievably messy sandwich while dodging sections of washed-out road), we relived our favorite moments at Chan-Kah, and concluded that yes, we will most definitely return. If only to see a screaming monkey in action.