Templo de las Inscripciones

Top choice in Palenque

Perhaps the most celebrated burial monument in the Americas, this is the tallest and most stately of Palenque’s buildings. Constructed on eight levels, the Templo de las Inscripciones has a central front staircase rising 25m to a series of small rooms. The tall roofcomb that once crowned it is long gone, but between the front doorways are stucco panels with reliefs of noble figures.

On the interior rear wall are three panels with the long Maya inscription, recounting the history of Palenque and this building, for which Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier named the temple. From the top, interior stairs lead down into the tomb of Pakal (now closed to visitors indefinitely, to avoid further damage to its murals from the humidity inevitably exuded by visitors). Pakal’s jewel-bedecked skeleton and jade mosaic death mask were removed from the tomb to Mexico City, and the tomb was recreated in the Museo Nacional de Antropología. The priceless death mask was stolen in an elaborate heist in 1985 (though recovered a few years afterwards), but the carved stone sarcophagus lid remains in the closed tomb – you can see a replica in the site museum.