A land of adventure and natural wonders, highlands and tropical jungle where fascinating archaeological sites hide and vibrant indigenous culture remains nearly unchanged. If you only knew Chiapas in association with the “Zapatista” movement, take a seat, because we invite you to discover what the magical state of Mexico has for you!
These are only a few of the many attractions in Chiapas. Although we proved that is completely doable in a week trip, we wish we could have spend more time and therefore we recommend you do if possible: the slower you travel, the better!
On this map you can see the distances and our itinerary
Sima de las Cotorras
As soon as we saw a picture from this place, we wanted go there! Sima de las Cotorras or “parakeet’s sinkhole” translated to English; it’s a dramatic 160 m wide sinkhole that plunges 140 m down into the earth where a tropical forest lies with trees up to 30 meters high. Wait, still want more? Added to this unique scenery at sunrise a green cloud of screeching parakeets spirals out for the day creating an amazing spectacle .The season to watch this natural spectacle is from March to October when parakeets are in the area and live in the sinkhole hence the name “Sima de las cotorras” (parakeet’s sinkhole).
Apart from watching the parakeets ascending in circles from the sinkhole, there are others activities to do like trekking around or walking few meters into the hole where you can also spot rock painting dating back as old as 10.000 years.
Paid activities like climbing or rappelling the Sima, are also available and with no doubt are the main draw for travellers who get here.
Accommodation at the Sima de las Cotorras is available for around 400 pesos 2person/day in nice and spacious stone houses. They also offer a restaurant with yummy local food overviewing the sinkhole.
How to get there?
From Tuxtla Gutierrez airport get a van (colectivo) to Tuxla city (17 pesos p/p) there, you can get a bus to Coita/Ocozocoaudla de Espinosa (16 pesos p/p). Once there the transportation is very limited. Ecoturismo Sima de las Cotorras offers transportation with a cost of 500 MXN return.
Chiapa de Corzo
This historical city, 15 km away from Tuxtla, was the first colonial city in Chiapas. Its typical central square holds one of the popular city symbols: the fountain called ‘The Crown’. This unique architecture was built to represent the Spanish crown in the Americas.
Although there are several things to visit in this small town the main draw for tourist is the getaway for one of Mexico’s natural wonders: El cañon del sumidero –Sumidero Canyon.
Sumidero Canyon surrounded by national park, has vertical walls, which reach as high as 1000 m from where in 1535 groups of indigenous people committed collective suicide by jumping into the canyon in order to not be submitted by the Spanish. Apart from this sad side of history, this national park offers stunning scenery and varied wildlife like crocodiles amongst others.
There are two ways to explore the Canyon: The most popular one is to hop on a boat to travel the 35 km from Chiapa de corzo to Chicoasen dam, which gives you the opportunity to spot the wildlife, other option is to drive through the national park to get an impressive view from the top.
Boat trips depart from Chiapa de Corzo, take around 2 hours and the price is of 160 pesos each. Boats will not depart until full.
How to get there?
Getting there from Tuxtla is no problem buses and vans make their way several times a day.
San Cristobal de las Casas
One of the most magical and charming towns of Chiapas, located at 1200 m of altitude and surrounded by mountains, its cobblestone streets and colourful colonial buildings attract travellers from around the world. San Cristobal de las Casas is also rich in culture, and different indigenous groups precedent of Maya call it home. Some of these ethnic groups are the Tzotziles and Tzetales whom still wear their own traditional costumes, speak their own languages and keep their religious practices.
San Cristobal de las Casas was also known for being the first city taken by Zapatista army, a group of indigenous armed against Mexican government, fighting for national liberalization and marginalization. An emblematic sentence, that identifies their government-independent villages and their movement, is: ‘Here the people command and the government obeys’.
This city offers many interesting historic facts and these are a few things to visit while you’re in town: ‘El Cerrito de San Cristobal Church’, Guadalupe Church, Central Square, Cathedral, temple of Santa Lucia, Temple of Santo Domingo and the typical market. Furthermore we visited Na-Bolom Museum where you can get an introduction to the Lacandon people and their culture, especially interesting if you plan to visit the Lacandon jungle.
Accommodation in town is varied; we stayed in Hostal Luna Nueva (250 pesos 2 people/day).
San Juan de Chamula Church
San juan de chamula is a small Tzotzil village 10 km from San Crsitobal. This indigenous village, with its own police, council and government defends its independence from Mexican government. Most of the villagers wear traditional clothes and have deeply rooted customs and practices.
The most interesting place in this small village is the Church. Although another colonial church from the outside, what is happening inside can’t be more different from classical churches: The floor is covered in pine leaves, its smell is mixed with burning wax from the hundreds of candles scattered all over the room. Locals pray, whilst observing spiritual healers practising rituals where a hen is sacrificed.
It was a quite intense experience for us, and we were so startled that we spent more that 40 minutes just observing every little family and their unusual rituals.
An entrance fee of 20 MXN is required for any foreigner to enter the church, and photos are not allowed once inside , and they take this very seriously, so we advise to respect the rules .
How to get there?
To get to San Juan de Chamula there are vans departing from the market, 12 MXN
Agua azul, Misol Ha waterfall and Palenque
Due to limited time we decided to visit these three attractions in one-day tour from San Cristobal de las Casas. We paid 400 MXN with entrance included
Agua azul waterfalls
Characterised from its turquoise colour due to dissolution of minerals in the water, these series of waterfalls of different levels form natural turquoise pools where you can swim and feel like the characters from the “blue lagoon” film.
Unsurprisingly, this place is one of the top attractions in Chiapas and therefore several restaurants and souvenirs shops are part of the deal. But don’t worry! Not even that can spoilt the wonder of this place. As the waterfalls has different levels we advise you to explore a bit further so you can have your own turquoise pool to yourself!
Note: Unfortunately for us we couldn’t see the proper turquoise waters due to rains.
An impressive 30 m high waterfall, surrounded by tropical rainforest, where you can dip in its lagoon to cool off from the heat, or walk behind the noisy water curtain to get a bit more sense about the power of the fall. You can also visit a little cave with its own waterfall inside for a 10 MXN entrance fee.
Palenque archaeological site
Although more than 90% of this great city is still hidden underneath the rainforest that covers the area, this is one of the top Mayan archaeological site and for good reasons a Unesco World heritage site. Palenque is well known for the temple of inscriptions, the funerary pyramid and final resting place of Pakal the great ruler of Palenque. Trap doors lead to its magnificent sarcophagus where his body was adorned with beautiful ornaments such as the famous Jade death mask.
Apart from its archaeological value, Palenque is surrounded by jungle, so there are high chances to spot wildlife.
Our visit to the Lacandon jungle was the highlight of our trip to Chiapas; if you are a nature-lover this will be your place.
The Lacandon jungle covers around 1.5 millions hectares and is one of the most important tropical rainforest remaining in the Americas. This “ America’s lung” manages to preserve endanger species such as Jaguars, tapir, river otter and the harpy eagle amongst others, and it has managed it thanks to its indigenous people, from where this jungle takes its name.
The lacandon people are one of the most isolated indigenous societies in Mexico. They live from and for the jungle and have the purest relation between men and nature I have ever seen, wise as they are they choose to protect the forest over money and power. “We can’t eat money when the forest is gone” they say.
But protecting the forest has never been so difficult, as with the extension of human settlements, land for farming are requested by other groups and nearby villages.
The Lacandon people try harder everyday to find the balance between the modern world and their culture without loosing their indigenous customs. A few of them still wear typical white tunics and long hair, while others prefer jeans and t-shirt. Either way they are fighting everyday to save the most sacred to them, their forest!
Visiting them you won’t only have the adventure of your life, but you will also help them. There are small camps and eco-accommodations in different areas of the Jungle, we visited the village called Lacanja Chansayab.
Things to do in Lacanja
The swiftlets waterfall
A 5 km (return) easy trekking route where you will discover the proper Lacandon jungle, its sounds, its green colors its wildlife, and when hot enough you can jump into the different pools the waterfall offers! It makes for a perfect jungle day; note: on the way the several archeological remains under the vegetation!
Lacanja archeological site
This site is the remain of a Mayan settlement under the jungle, this place is sacred to the Lacandon people and you must be guided.
Lacanja lagoon and Bonampak
This is a 2-days route guided by Lacandon people, where you will discover the beautiful turquoise color of Lacanja lagoon, camp at night and visit the popular Bonampak archeological site, famous for having the best preserved murals in the Mayan world.
Yaxchilan archeological site
Getting there is an adventure on its own, only reachable by boat and hidden in the heart of the jungle, the boat trip is a great opportunity to spot wildlife.
There are more activities available like rafting, canoeing, etc…
How to get there?
From Palenque city there are local vans to San Javier Junction (Cruce San Javier) is about 2 hours trip. From there is 6 km to Lacanja Chansayab, you can get a taxi on the junction.
If you haven’t visited the magical state of Chiapas, you are missing a great corner of the world! what are you waiting for?
Watch the video of our adventure in Chiapas