Venturing into the heart of southern Mexico, Chiapas unveiled surprises at every turn. With Mihitravel as our guide, we anticipated the vibrant hues of San Cristobal, breathtaking mountain vistas, and many activities without breaking the bank. Yet, Chiapas had more in store: a haven for outdoor enthusiasts like us. From cascading waterfalls to diverse wildlife and unbeatable deals, dive into the wonders of Chiapas and discover why it’s an immediate must-visit!
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About Chiapas, Mexico
With its melodic name pronounced as [ˈtʃjapas], Chiapas stands as a vibrant gem among Mexico’s 32 federal entities. Officially recognized as the Free and Sovereign State of Chiapas, its heart beats in the bustling capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Yet, the state’s pulse is felt in its diverse cities, from the historic charm of San Cristóbal de las Casas to the coastal allure of Tapachula. Nestled in Mexico’s southern tip, Chiapas shares its beauty with neighbouring Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Tabasco while embracing Guatemala’s borders.
Bathed in tropical warmth, Chiapas is a canvas of lush landscapes, where rain showers bless the region, especially near Teapa, with generous rainfall. While much of its pristine rainforests have made way for agriculture, the state’s central sierras offer an excellent, misty retreat, housing cloud forests like the enchanting Reserva de la Biosfera El Triunfo, a sanctuary for rare birds like the resplendent quetzals.
But Chiapas is more than just nature; it’s a bridge to the past. The whispers of ancient Mayan civilizations echo through the ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilán, and Bonampak. And its soul? It’s in its people. Chiapas is a mosaic of indigenous cultures, each adding a unique hue to the state’s rich tapestry.
Top Things to Do in Chiapas
Venturing into the vast expanse of this natural park guarantees a day filled with exploration and awe. As dusk begins to set around 5:30 p.m., it’s advisable to commence the adventure at dawn. The park’s sheer size necessitates driving between the lakes, but every moment is undeniably worth it. For an authentic and unhurried experience, independent exploration is recommended over organized tour buses.
However, a word of caution for travellers: on the way to the park, many might encounter individuals posing as guides. It’s best to bypass these offers. Instead, upon entering the park and reaching the tranquil “Laguna de Aguatinta,” seek out Oscar. A beacon of local knowledge and passion, Oscar has spent his life amidst the untouched forests surrounding the park. His expertise is unmatched, and his humility is evident. With Oscar’s guidance, there’s no set fee; travellers can offer a donation for his invaluable insights.
Oscar’s presence not only deepens the understanding of the park but also introduces visitors to the authentic local cuisine, a culinary experience in its own right. Although primarily a Spanish speaker, Oscar stands out amongst guides. For those keen on planning, connections can be made with him. Oscar’s expertise spans beyond the park, from boat canoeing and horseback riding to trips to the Guatemala border. And for those considering an extended stay in Montebello, he offers the best cabin recommendations.
Behold the majesty of El Chiflon.
The moment one sees the Rainbow Falls at El Chiflon, it’s hard not to be captivated. This colossal waterfall cascades into a mesmerizing turquoise pool, offering a unique spectacle. Unlike typical waterfalls that plunge directly downward, the Rainbow Falls gracefully drapes along the cliff, creating a breathtaking visual display.
The park also boasts smaller waterfalls that evoke memories of the famed Plitvice Lakes in Croatia.
For thrill-seekers, an added bonus is a zipline that offers a swift descent, ensuring an exhilarating experience. However, a word of advice: avoid the left side to ensure the best zipline route. Interestingly, a slight detour can offer a more rewarding perspective, as some have found that the alternative viewpoint provides an even more stunning view of the falls.
For anyone planning a return trip to the region, a revisit to El Chiflon is undoubtedly at the top of the Chiapas, Mexico, bucket list.
Experience the thrill of horseback riding in Chiapas.
For those with a passion for horseback riding, Chiapas offers an unparalleled experience. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner, the diverse landscapes of Chiapas, from its sprawling farmlands to dense forests and quaint villages, provide a picturesque backdrop for an unforgettable ride. A highlight of the journey is the iconic Templo de San Juan.
While the ride promises adventure and excitement, it’s essential to prioritize safety. Especially for those new to riding, it’s crucial to be aware of personal boundaries and ensure a comfortable and secure experience. Chiapas beckons with its natural beauty, but always remember to ride responsibly.
Experience the Mystique of Templo de San Juan
Step into a world where tradition intertwines with spirituality at the Templo de San Juan. The air is thick with the scent of burning incense, while the rhythmic chants in Tzotzil, the indigenous language, create an atmosphere of reverence. The absence of pews, the straw-covered floor, and the sight of countless candles burning directly on the ground paint a picture far from conventional churches. And yes, there’s even a chicken poised for a ceremonial offering.
While the Templo de San Juan identifies as a Catholic church, it stands out as a unique blend of indigenous beliefs and Catholicism. Located in the heart of Chamula village, visitors are reminded of the strict no-photography rule, preserving the sanctity and mystery of this sacred space. Visiting here is not just about sightseeing; it’s a deep dive into a rich tapestry of culture and faith.
Ascend the Majestic Ruins of Palenque
While many of Mexico’s iconic ruins, like the pyramids at Chichen Itza, are off-limits for climbing, some still beckon adventurers to scale their ancient steps. Palenque stands as a testament to this allure. Unlike sites such as Angkor Wat, which bear the brunt of extensive tourist footfall, lesser-known gems like Palenque offer a unique opportunity to explore without causing harm. The thrill of ascending these ruins is unparalleled, especially when rewarded with panoramic city views from atop its ancient structures. For those seeking a blend of history and adventure, Palenque is a must-visit in Chiapas.
Unveil the Vibrancy of San Cristobal
Amidst the natural wonders that envelop it, San Cristobal often gets overshadowed. However, this vibrant city is brimming with activities and deserves its spotlight. As an ideal hub for explorers venturing into Chiapas, Mexico, San Cristobal offers a blend of affordability and convenience.
Planning excursions has become a breeze with many transportation and tour agencies at your fingertips. The city boasts a diverse culinary scene, from authentic local dishes to international flavours. For instance, one can relish a Pad Thai plate reminiscent of Asian adventures, though with its unique twist.
But what truly sets San Cristobal de las Casas apart is its vivid palette. Every corner of the city bursts with colour, making every stroll a delightful visual treat.
Misol-Ha Waterfall: Chiapas’ Hidden Gem
Nestled just 12.5 miles away from the historic site of Palenque in Chiapas, the Misol-Ha Waterfall stands as a testament to nature’s splendour. A serene haven, it promises visitors an intimate communion with nature, complemented by the warm hospitality of its dedicated staff.
Managed by a collective of landowners known as ‘ejidatarios,’ the waterfall’s surroundings are meticulously preserved to maintain the rich flora and fauna. Their commitment to conservation is evident in the eco-friendly services they offer. From ecological accommodations to a restaurant serving a blend of local, national, and international delicacies, every aspect is designed to enhance the visitor’s experience. The fourteen cabins, tucked amidst 98-foot trees, offer a unique stay deep within the jungle.
Misol-Ha is an unmissable stop on any traveller’s itinerary, representing the best of Chiapas’ eco-tourism. Its strategic location places it close to attractions like the Agua Azul Falls, Agua Clara Waterpark, and various archaeological sites, including Palenque, Bonampak, Yaxchilán, and Tonina, making it a central point for exploring the wonders of Chiapas.
Take a boat ride through Sumidero Canyon.
Nestled just east of Tuxtla Gutierrez lies the awe-inspiring Cañon Sumidero, carved by the mighty Rio Grijalva. Historically, the canyon’s towering walls stood even taller, with waters challenging even the bravest navigators. However, with the dam’s construction, the river transformed into a deep, tranquil passage, easily navigated by boats. This dam, known as the Chosen hydroelectric dam since 1981, is a pivotal source of Mexico’s electricity.
For those seeking a panoramic view of the canyon, the Miradores offer an unparalleled perspective. Yet, to truly immerse oneself in its grandeur, a boat ride from Chiapa de Corzo, a stone’s throw from Tuxtla Gutierrez, is essential. This 2-3 hour voyage unveils the canyon’s majesty, with cliffs soaring up to 2,500 feet and a rich wildlife display. The journey may also include explorations of the local caves.
Adding to the canyon’s allure is the newly inaugurated Ecological Park, accessible only by boat. This haven offers a plethora of eco-adventures, from wildlife sanctuaries showcasing indigenous flora and fauna to adrenaline-pumping activities like kayaking, mountain biking, abseiling, and ziplining.
The Sumidero Canyon, with its breathtaking vistas and myriad activities, stands as an unmissable gem for any traveller in the region.
Get underground at the Grutas de Rancho Nuevo.
Delve deep into the mysteries of Grutas de Rancho Nuevo. While the initial 350 meters of this captivating cavern offer a visual treat, the real adventure lies beyond. Equipped with a flashlight and helmet, they dare venture where the light fades, plunging into the cavern’s heart and embracing the enveloping darkness.
Experiencing such profound, unadulterated darkness within the cave’s embrace is an adventure and a moment of deep introspection. It’s an experience that lingers long after you emerge into the light.
El Arcotete Park In San Cristobal
For those seeking a serene escape from the lively streets of San Cristobal, Arcotete Ecotourist Park (El Arcotete Parque Ecoturístico) is a top recommendation. Although a hit among the locals, this natural haven remains a lesser-known gem for backpackers. To truly immerse in its tranquillity, consider visiting on a weekday when the crowds thin out, offering a more personal experience with nature.
Swimming at Agua Azul
Dive into the refreshing waters of Agua Azul, reminiscent of the cascades at Krka National Park in Croatia. While the allure of swimming at the base of these majestic falls is undeniable, it’s essential to exercise caution. Not all areas are safe for swimming, so always heed the signs and stick to designated zones to ensure a memorable and safe experience.
Amatenango del Valle and Zinacantán
Venture just an hour south of San Cristóbal, and you’ll find yourself in the quaint town of Amatenango del Valle. This town is home to the renowned ceramist Juana “Juanita” Gómez Ramírez, whose Taller y Galería Artesanal showcases her exquisite jaguar and fish sculptures. Not only is her artistry a sight to behold, but her studio also plays a pivotal role in the town’s employment.
A short distance away, in Zinacantán, lies the abode of Catalina Pérez Hernández, a master of traditional backstrap loom weaving. Exclusive appointments through Journey Mexico allow visitors to explore her vast collection of embroidered textiles. For a mere 100 pesos, guests are treated to a lunch experience like no other. Catalina’s sister crafts the most delectable corn tortillas in the heart of her kitchen, served alongside black beans, salsa, and raw onions. Each tortilla is a testament to the region’s rich culinary heritage and drapes with embroidered linen. The tortillas are a product of a time-honoured process, where maize is dried on the husk and then simmered in lime water overnight.
How much does it cost to visit Chiapas, Mexico?
Experience the wonders of Chiapas, Mexico, without burning a hole in your pocket. Recognized as one of the most budget-friendly states in Mexico, Chiapas offers many experiences at incredibly affordable rates. Fancy a three-hour horseback riding adventure? It’s yours for just $10. Are you eager to explore the beauty of El Chiflon and Lagos de Montebello, including entrance fees? That’s a mere $16. And the breathtaking tour of the Sumidero Canyon, complete with transportation? Only $15. With such economical prices, travellers can indulge in a new adventure daily without straining their finances.
With its rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty, Chiapas stands as a testament to Mexico’s diverse offerings. From the ancient ruins echoing tales of bygone civilizations to the vibrant towns pulsating with modern-day artistry, this state beckons travellers with a promise of authentic experiences. Whether it’s the allure of pristine waterfalls, the intricate craftsmanship of local artisans, or the tantalizing flavours of traditional cuisine, Chiapas offers a journey that transcends the ordinary. As one delves deeper into its landscapes and stories, it becomes evident that Chiapas is not just a destination but a feeling, an adventure waiting to be lived. So, for those seeking a travel experience that resonates with the soul, Chiapas, Mexico, awaits with open arms and countless tales yet to be discovered.