Chiapas is a beautiful and mountainous region, with a rough climate and lush vegetation from which sublime Mayan ruins emerge. Indians are numerous in Chiapas: more than one million out of a population of 4.7 million. Each people speaks their own language and many do not speak Spanish. It is also the poorest state in Mexico: more than 80% of indigenous communities have neither clean water or electricity. It's hard to resist to the beauty of the colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas or the wonderful Mayan archeological site of Palenque, as well as the natural sites of Cañon del Sumidero or Agua Azul. Chiapas is a state apart, a state of great cultural and natural wealth that makes it one of our favorite destinations in Mexico.
Street of Merida
A former Spanish colonial city founded in 1528 on a culminating about 2,300 meters above sea level, San Cristobal de las Casas will be your reward after the winding and steep road traveled from Palenque, through the mountainous forests of Chiapas. Once past the shock of the change of temperature, (the tropical climate of Palenque left 5 hours ago, is already a bad memory), you will discover lively streets, warm and lively atmosphere. Lose yourself in these narrow, straight streets, these lively squares and colorful neighborhoods. San Cristóbal de las casas is a city apart in Mexico due to its unusual history and charm.
Palenque is a lively but uninteresting city in the north-east of Chiapas, between the great plains leading to the state of Tabasco and the "Altos," rugged mountains leading to Guatemala. Palenque means "surrounded by trees". The ancient names of the city meant "city surrounded by water" or "place where snakes and spiders reside". So why come here, will you tell me? Simply because it houses one of the most beautiful archaeological sites of Chiapas and even Mexico. A Mayan site mostly hidden in the jungle (It is assumed that 97% of the Mayan city is still in the forest on a width of 6 to 8km). The site is easy to visit and is absolutely sublime! The temples are fascinating, wedged between the rainforest and the mountains of Chiapas. In the evening, the screams of the spider monkeys descend from the mountains to resonate in the heart of the ancient Mayan city. A magical moment not to miss on the winding roads of Chiapas.
Canon del Sumidero
The Canyon del Sumidero is located north of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of Chiapas. Canyon del Sumidero is one of the natural wonders of Chiapas. Its almost vertical walls reaching heights close to 500 meters, are really impressive! They have favored here the presence of several microclimates. The Canyon del Sumidero is the natural habitat of badgers, monkeys, herons, vultures, vipers, crocodiles, turtles and a hundred other terrestrial and aquatic species. Stretching for nearly 32 kilometers along the Grijalva River, Canyon del Sumidero will reveal its unique natural formations on its walls, such as the Christmas Tree or Cave of Silence, not to mention its many waterfalls. By motor canoe, you will sail about 13 kilometers to the hydroelectric dam of Chicoasén, one of the largest electricity suppliers in all of Mexico.
A few kilometers from Palenque towards Ocosingo, discover the sublime waterfalls of Agua Azul. This magnificent series of waterfalls that flows into successive basins, is known throughout Chiapas as the most beautiful and turquoise waterfalls in the state. Of course if you come during the stormy tropical period, "Azul" will give way to a less photogenic "coffee" color. It is nice to swim in these clear waters despite the presence of many shops and restaurants along the river.
These two Mayan cities located in the heart of the jungle are fantastic. The exciting and fascinating side of these two archaeological sites, are just as much the place as the way to get there! Yaxchilan is nestled in the cove of the Usumacinta River and has no land access. We must then take a motorized canoe that is called "Lancha" to go down the river. It is also possible to visit the land where the Lacandons Indians live, staying overnight. This sweet scent of adventure will delight more than one of you!
On the road between Palenque and San Cristobal de las casas, discover the Mayan ruins of Toniná. The visit to the Mayan site of Toniná can be summed up, so to speak, with the ascent of a single pyramid. But what a pyramid! It will take you a good three hours of climbing to discover some of its many facets, as the building is complex and imposing. Culminating 75 meters high, it has recently been declared one of the highest pyramids of all Mesoamerica. Comparable only to the monuments of Tikal and El Mirador, in Guatemala, the Toniná pyramid surpasses even the famous Pyramid of the Sun of Teotihuacan. The acropolis of Toniná is an immense ensemble hosting a large number of buildings, altars and sculptures. It has 7 platforms, 10 temples and 4 palaces, almost all interconnected by perrons and labyrinthine corridors. These elements symbolize the regions through which the sun moves and thus mark the passage of time by determining in particular the seasons.
Laguna de Montebello
Located not far from Comitán, this constellation of lakes wedged between mountains and forests of oaks and conifers is really nice. On an area of 6000 hectares, about sixty lakes and two underground cenotes share this little paradise of land. In 2009, 50 years after it was protected and named as a national park (the first of Chiapas), Unesco listed it as "Biosphere Reserve". A great recognition for this piece of land in the most southern state of the country.
Puerto Arista is a small tourist destination located on the coast of Chiapas. The most developed seaside town in the state lies 18km south-west of Tonalá. It is true that the beaches here are not as beautiful as those of the Riviera Maya, or the neighboring state of Oaxaca. This small village of sinners surrounded by more than 40 kilometers of beaches swept for centuries by the waves of the Pacific and showing off in good weather the mountains of Chiapas, will suit all those seeking a little peace.
Here are two Indian villages Tzotziles most visited and especially the easiest to access from San Cristobal de las Casas. In the big village of San Juan Chamula located 10km north of San Cristobal, there is a surprising contrasting atmosphere between the typical streets of the Mexican villages and traditional local clothes. Here one comes mainly to see the church and the mystical traditions, a mixture of the Catholicism of the Spanish conquistadors and the Maya Tzotziles tradition. The exterior of the building is not spectacular or surprising, but once inside the atmosphere is striking. The church was completely emptied of its benches and chairs and all the statues of the Saints are lined up along the walls. Similarly, the bells were detached and placed on the ground. Scented pine needles litter the ground and everyone sits on the floor facing small tiny candles and incense to dialogue with the Holy Spirit of their choice. Practitioners must burp to evacuate evil spirits from their bodies. They used originally the alcohol (posh) traditionally used in Mayan rites but today, this drink is strongly competed by Coca-Cola! Yes because unfortunately, these bottles are cheaper than mineral water .. But this is another debate! The village of Zinacantàn is less well attended and the traditional costume is different. It is good to stroll a few minutes before to go back on the road.