Some 100km southwest of Villahermosa, between the borders of Veracruz and Chiapas, a narrow triangle of Tabasco thrusts into mountains known as the Sierra Huimanguillo. These rugged peaks are not that high, only up to 1000m, but in order to fully appreciate them, you’ll need to do some hiking: not only to canyons and waterfalls, but also to the ruins of Malpasito, with their astonishing petroglyphs. A car, however, is necessary. Although you can get to the ruins by bus, it arrives too late to visit the ruins, and there is no reliable overnight accommodation in the village (a small guest cabin was under repair in 2009; in a pinch, ask in the village for Guillermo Pérez, who rents rooms).
The site and waterfalls
The post-Classic Zoque ruins are overshadowed by jagged, jungle-covered mountains, the highest point in Tabasco. Though the ruins bear a certain resemblance to Palenque, the Zoque were not a Maya group – one of the few things known about them. On the way into the site you pass terraces and grass-covered mounds, eventually arriving at the unique ball-court. At the top of the stone terraces forming the south side of the court, a flight of steps leads down to a narrow room, with stone benches lining either side. Beyond this, and separate from the chamber, is a square pit more than two metres deep and 1.5m wide. This room may have been used by the ball-players to make a spectacular entrance as they emerged onto the top of the ball-court.
But the most amazing features of this site are its petroglyphs. More than three hundred have been discovered so far: animals, birds, houses and more, etched into the rock. One large boulder is covered in enigmatic flat-topped triangles surmounted by a square or rectangle, and shown above what look like ladders or steps – stylized houses or launching platforms for the chariots of the gods, depending on your viewpoint.
While in the area, you can cool off at the nearby Cascadas Las Pavas, a beautiful set of waterfalls, set in a tranquil spot down a path through dense flowering trees, and often surrounded by butterflies. To get here, backtrack along the road to town, and bear left at the fork.