What We Saw On The Tren Maya From Mérida to Palenque

Bound for Chiapas and taking an option that already beats the bus

Our Best Stories — Straight to Your Inbox!

Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup and get our biggest headlines once a week in your inbox. It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Known as Lakam Há during pre-Hispanic times, Palenque is today the most visited archaeological site in Chiapas and one of the most impressive in the entire Maya world. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The city of Palenque, named after the archaeological site just a few kilometers away, is home to the westernmost station on the Tren Maya route. 

Once tickets went on sale for this journey, we could not keep from checking out the Mayan Train, as it is also known.

There are eight operational Tren Maya stations between Mérida and Palenque, though most are still under construction. Graphic: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Having already experienced the Tren Maya from Mérida to Cancún, we had a fairly good idea of what to expect. However, venturing beyond the Yucatán Peninsula somehow felt different and more exciting.

To board the Ie-Tram, passengers must have a Va y Ven card loaded with at least 14 pesos of funds. They can be purchased at the Ie-Tram station at La Plancha. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The adventure began at Mérida’s Ie-Tram hub in La Plancha Park, from where we were whisked away to Mérida’s Tren Maya station in Teya in just over 20 minutes. 

Passengers on the Ie-Tram holding tickets to Mérida-Teya station are given priority when boarding. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Taxis and ride-sharing applications are also an option to get out to Teya, but as the Ie-Tram runs on a dedicated lane, it is faster and cheaper. 

When disembarking from the Ie-Tram, the Tren Maya Mérida-Teya station is roughly 100 feet away. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

From Mérida to Palenque

During the trip between Mérida-Teya and Palenque, the Tren Maya reached a top speed of 75 mph, but is expected to exceed 100 mph once the trial phase is complete. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

A good deal has changed at Mérida-Teya station since our last visit, as the ceiling is now finished, and a handful of shops, including an Oxxo, GoMart, and a combination Subway/Pizza Hut, have set up shop. 

Of the Tren Maya stations we have visited, Mérida-Teya is the closest to being finished. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

After checking in, we did not have to wait long before the train arrived, and the boarding process was orderly and overseen by México’s National Guard. 

The operation onboard and at Tren Maya stations is under the control of the National Guard. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Once onboard, we settled into our seats and prepared for the eight-hour trip ahead, slightly faster than by bus — and much more comfortable. 

The crew said the route is still in a trial mode, and after the tracks are settled, the trip will take closer to five hours and reach a maximum cruising speed of approximately 100 miles an hour. 

Teens enjoy some beer and snacks on the Tren Maya. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

After 20 minutes or so after pulling out of the station, Premiere passengers were offered coffee and a sandwich, which was included in the ticket price. While it was nice to get anything at all, the food and drink aboard left much to be desired, so it’s not a bad idea to pack a lunch and snacks.

The Tren Maya staff was professional and courteous. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine 

Before we knew it, we had arrived at the station in Umán, followed by Maxcanú, where passengers got on and off, likely to experience the train for the first time. 

Though the dining car is not yet operational, there is a small onboard kiosk selling sodas, beer, potato chips, and sandwiches. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The next major station we hit was Campeche, where several more passengers hopped on and off, though the process was expedient and lasted no more than five minutes or so.

Like in Mérida, the train station in Campeche is a little out of town, though buses have been set up to transport passengers to the city. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Nobody boarded or disembarked at the train station at Edzná, which, as it turns out, is roughly 10 miles from its archaeological site with no shuttle information posted. 

The ancient city of Edzná is considered the “second city” of the Itzá, the Maya people who built Chichén Itzá. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

As the trip continued southwards, the views slowly began to change, with small hills visible in the background, as well as several scenic river crossings. 

As we ventured even further south into Tabasco it was interesting to see how the landscape began to change once again, along with the brightly colored homes next to the track. 

Unlike in Yucatán, many homes in Chiapas and Tabasco are made out of brightly colored wooden planks. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

As nighttime began to fall, and the novelty of the train had worn off, we began to approach our final destination.

A view of the Tabasco countryside from a Tren Maya window. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Once outside the Palenque station, taxis offered rides into town for 200 pesos. However, being the frugal travelers that we are, we opted to take an ADO shuttle for 25 pesos. As it turned out, the shuttle stopped right across from our hotel. 

As soon as the train pulled into the Palenque station, passengers began to disembark and look for taxis and shuttles. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

All in all, the trip between Mérida and Palenque, though tiring, was comfortable and a better option than the bus. The train was not exactly packed, though this was in part because as the route is still in a “trial mode” not all seats were being sold.

For more information about the archaeological site at Palenque as well as details about our stay in the city, pick up the next print issue of Yucatán Magazine, available in March. 

From Palenque To Mérida

As you would expect, the trip back from Palenque was nearly identical to the trip there. However, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

Once a popular destination for backpackers, Palenque has stepped up its game over the past few years when it comes to dining and accommodations. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

If you did not purchase your return at Mérida-Teya, the only place in Palenque Tren Maya tickets can be sold is at the FONATUR office in the north of town. 

The FONATUR office in Palenque is the only place in town to buy tickets for the Tren Maya. While it is possible to buy the tickets online, this option is far more expensive. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

From downtown, a taxi to the Tren Maya / FONATUR office should not cost you any more than 50 pesos, but make it clear that you want to go to the ticket office, not the Tren Maya station itself.

The Tren Maya station in Palenque is still under intense construction. Basic services like bathrooms are working, but don’t expect to find any convenience stores or other amenities. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The easiest way to get to the Tren Maya station in Palenque is to take a shuttle from the main ADO station downtown for 25 pesos per person. 

The trip on the ADO Shuttles takes no more than 15 minutes at most. All departures to the station are scheduled for one hour before the departure of the train itself. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine.

A few more things to consider

Each passenger on the Tren Maya is allowed to bring aboard a suitcase weighing no more than 25 kg or 55 pounds, as well as a carry-on bag. However, at no point did we observe any bags being weighed. 

Pets are not allowed on the train, though assistance animals are, as long as all of their documentation, including a valid certificate and vaccine card, is complete. 

For Mexican travelers, the Tren Maya between Mérida and Palenque is 1,215 pesos for Tourist Class and 1,389 pesos for Premiere, which offers roomier cars and a few more snacks. For foreigners, the price is 1,848 and 2,957 pesos respectively, which admittedly is steep. Keep in mind that price discrepancies have been spotted, even on official printed materials, but hopefully, these mistakes will be sorted out soon.

A rendering of what the train station at Palenque is to look like when completed. Photo: SECTUR

Special discounts of around 30% are available for residents of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo.

When returning to Mérida, the Ie-Tram departing from Teya station stops at La Plancha and Paseo 60. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
- Advertisement -spot_img
SUBSCRIBEspot_img
ADVERTISEMENTspot_img
Verified by ExactMetrics