COMPLETE GUIDE For Chiapas Mexico - Top 10 Things To Do In 2022
Updated: Jul 26, 2022
Searching for a backpacking route in Mexico that you can do in 2 - 3 weeks?
The state of Chiapas is the perfect place if you're looking for some beautiful mountains, lush rainforests, and stunning waterfalls! In San Cristóbal there is also a lot of Mexican culture to explore.
So, here are the best places to visit in Chiapas, Mexico & how to get there:
(If you head to Guatemala afterwards, here is complete guide how to get there and what to do!)
Table of Contents:
1. San Cristóbal de las Casas
Being the base for backpackers and expats alike San Cristóbal is definitely a special city... If you stroll around the old streets in the center it feels more like a small village though. Many describe it as a pueblo magico...
(That is me and Chester, the hostel dog, walking around the streets of San Cristóbal...)
Free walking tour
I totally recommend to do the free walking tour which starts every day at 10 am and 5 pm from the Plaza de la Paz.
It takes about 2 hours and the guides which are super friendly and knowledgeable are happy to answer all your questions you might have about San Cristóbal or Chiapas.
Cafés & restaurants
Like Oaxaca City San Cristóbal is one of the cities in Mexico with an amazing coffee culture. You can find a lot of amazing (!) coffee places where you can buy regional coffee or enjoy a freshly made cappuccino, latte or espresso.
Frontera is definitely my favorite one where I went almost daily. However, there are many many more!
If you're not into coffee, there is also a lot of high-quality cacao which you can enjoy as a hot chocolate or buy 100 % raw at really decent prices.
You can find many delicious vegan restaurants in San Cristóbal, e.g. Veganos la Taqueria where you can get vegan tacos for 8 pesos every Tuesday.
Te Quiero Verde has really delicious vegan food as well, however a bit pricier.
Other good restaurants are: Pachamama and Masala Raf (Indian).
One of the best bars to party, dance or just having a drink is Café Bar Revolución.
It offers live music, salsa nights and an overall cool atmosphere to have a fun time!
Another chill venue you should check out is La Viña de Bacco which offers a wide selection of wines for as little as 1 USD per glass, including free tapas.
Every Friday there is a rave a bit outside the city where you can party until sunrise...
The local markets
I was going to Mercado Viejo almost every day to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at super cheap prices. Depending on the season you can buy a huge bag of mangos for as little as 20 pesos (~ 1 USD).
A 5 min-walk away is Mercado de la Caridad y Santo Domingo where you can buy jewelry, clothes and other artisan things.
In the center, especially on the main walking street Real de Guadalupe are many small shops and street vendors that sell all different kinds of stuff. You can find a lot of beautifully hand-made handicrafts there.
If you're into thrift shopping, San Cristóbal might be your paradise! You can find many thrift shops where you can get really cool clothes for 1 or 2 bucks. Check them out!
Where to stay in San Cristóbal?
There are many nice hostels in San Cristóbal that cost as little as 6 USD/night.
I loved my stay at Iguana Hostel where you can find a chill family vibe and a rooftop overlooking the city (6 USD/night).
If you're into party and drinking, Puerta Vieja might be just perfect for you. It's the biggest hostel in San Cristóbal and they have different events every night (like Mojito night). The price of 11 USD/night includes free breakfast AND dinner as well.
Another hostel I can recommend is Posada del Abuelito. It's a really cute place and comes with free breakfast (7 USD/night).
All of the three offer private rooms. At Iguana it costs about 400 pesos (~ 20 USD), at Puerta Vieja around 500 pesos ( ~25 USD) and at Posada del Abuelito around 600 pesos (~ 30 USD).
There are two lookouts that are in walking distance from the center. One is up at the Guadalupe Church at the end of the main walking street...
The other one is at the church Iglesia de San Cristóbalito. It is less known, so the place is really quiet.
TIP: If you feel lazy, the rooftop of Kinoki offers some cool views of the city as well. It is a restaurant with a built in cinema where you can watch local movies for as little as 50 pesos (~ 2 USD).
2. Parks in San Cristóbal
As you can see there is a lot to do in San Cristóbal! But there is even more to do around it!
El Encuentro is about 30 mins walking from the center. When you reach the entrance you need to walk another 15 mins along a river to get to the actual park. There's also the possibility to eat some delicious organically grown food in a small hut next to the river. The park is an open area surrounded by a mountain, a lot of trees and a small river. I've heard you can also camp there.
Montetik is a bit further outside. You can take a colectivo from here (next to Café Frontera) that gets you directly to the park (8 pesos). The park offers some amazing walks through needle forests. Since the trees are pretty high it reminded me a lot of the forests in California.
My personal favorite is El Arcotete. You can take a colectivo from here which directly brings you to the entrance (8 pesos). Arcotete has really beautiful nature and a lot of walks you can do around the area. There are also some caves to discover.
All the parks cost a small entrance fee and are closing before it gets dark.
3. Hiking around San Cristóbal
1. Don Lauro
Don Lauro is a mountain a bit outside the city, so you might wanna take a taxi or colectivo to get there. The hike to the top takes about an hour. From there you have a really amazing view overlooking the whole city of San Cristóbal! There is also the possibility to do some rock-climbing there. You can book tours at Vertigo Rock Climbing.
2. Reserva Huitepec
If you go to Chamula, you can get off at Reserva Huitepec. It's a beautiful 1 - 2 hour round trip through a thick forest. There is a gate, but we didn't have to pay an entrance fee.
3. Volcán Huitepec
The most beautiful hike I did around San Cristóbal was this one. It starts at Reserva Huitepec as well. Once you are at a small bench on the top, instead of continuing the loop, you just continue further up the hill. It's a small trail and at one point you reach two crossroads where you have to turn left.
It's not an officially marked trail, so there is the possibility to get a little lost on this one. It's always helpful to remember from which trail you came and to hike with other people.
If you followed the right trails you reach an opening which soon leads to a small village close to Volcán Huitepec. From there you can walk down to the main road (or take a taxi/colectivo).
You might wanna take your time at the village, though. There are almost no cars, and you can really feel the silence and calmness above the clouds. Apart from a few friendly locals, there is no one...
You can also get there by taking a colectivo to "San Felipe" from the old market which will drop you here. From there you can walk up or wait for another colectivo.
*** If you want to know more about San Cristóbal (for example when to visit, is it safe, or how to get there), check out my IN DEPTH-article about San Cristóbal! ***
4. Sumidero Canyon (Day-Trip)
Technically, everything in this blog post is possible to do in one day if you leave early from San Cristóbal. If you can, I always recommend to take some time to explore certain areas. However, Sumidero Canyon is perfectly suitable as a day-trip from San Cristóbal:
For every activity I compare going by yourself to booking a tour. So, you can decide what suits better to your needs.
The Cañon del Sumidero is certainly one of the most impressive things I saw on my trip through Mexico. It is a deep natural canyon with vertical cliffs as high as 1 000 m!
I think the easiest option is to book a tour at your accommodation in San Cristóbal or to book it online (29 USD). It includes the entry fee to the national park, all transportation and the boat tour.
It is also possible to visit the national park by yourself. This makes sense if you have your own car or motorbike. Otherwise you need to get there by colectivo or taxi, pay the entrance fee (34 pesos) or the boat tour (200 pesos; including the entrance fee). So, in the end you don't save that much money, but need to organize a lot more.
The tour starts early morning and it takes about 1.5 hours to the national park where you first stop at a few lookouts to admire the canyon. The view is amazing! Still, the boat trip through the canyon is the real highlight!
Be prepared, it is super touristic at the harbor. After entering the boat you first get taken to some floating vendors where you can buy beers, soft drinks and snacks.
After the commercial part is over, the real tour begins... There is a lot of wildlife to observe... All different kinds of birds, spider monkeys, butterflies and fish...
At one point you go to a small river island which is home to hundreds of vultures.
Chances are high that you gonna see some real crocodiles that are chilling along the river and that can get quite big there...
For the most part of the tour, you can see the huge steep walls of the canyon on either side. The longer you go, the more open and wider the area gets, though. Eventually you'll arrive in Chiapa de Corzo where you'll have some time for lunch before your shuttle takes you back to San Cristóbal.
5. Village of Chamula (Day-Trip)
Another popular day-trip is visiting the village of Chamula.
You can definitely do it on your own by taking a colectivo that leaves near the old market. It costs only 15 pesos (~ 0.7 USD) and takes about 30 mins.
There is also the possibility to book a shuttle to Chamula. It costs 15 USD, including the entry tickets. It leaves at 10 am and also goes to the traditional village of Zinacantan.
The other tour option is to book a horse-riding trip which takes you to the villages...
In Chamula the main tourist attraction is the church of Chamula. It is around a market place and is decorated with little flags...
What makes this church especially interesting are the local costumes there. It's a mix of traditional Mayan culture and catholic Western influences.
A thing that can seem a bit strange is that they kill living chicken inside the church and drink coca cola to "burp out" the bad spirits...
You are strictly not allowed to take pictures inside the church! The locals belief that taking pictures robs their spirits.
6. Palenque - Ruins, Jungle & Waterfalls
Before going to Palenque, you should consider how long you want to stay there and what you want to visit because it depends on how to get there.
There are two routes leading to Palenque. A faster one through the mountains (with the option to see waterfalls) and a slower one via Villahermosa.
When taking Option A and B you go on the faster route to Palenque, leading through the mountains. In the past there have been some reportings of road blocks where people wouldn't let cars pass unless the pay them money. However, police patrols the area quite a lot and I haven't heard from anyone that run into problems on that route recently. But just letting you know.
Option A: Day Tour to Palenque
Duration: 14 h
Cost: 45 USD
You can book a day-tour from San Cristóbal. If you don't have much time and want to see the area of Palenque, I can recommend doing it. It costs 45 USD and includes all entry tickets. The shuttle leaves at 3:30 am and comes back around 6 pm to San Cristóbal.
The tour includes:
1. Agua Azul Waterfalls
The Agua Azul waterfalls are a group of waterfalls that have formed shallow canyons surrounded by vertical cliffs. As the name suggests, they contain crystal-clear blue water and you can have a nice swim there!
2. Waterfall Misol-Ha
Misol-Ha is a 35 m waterfall in the middle of natural rain forest and tropical vegetation. It falls into a pool of clear blue water which is suitable for swimming.
3. Ancient Maya Ruins
The last stop is the archaeological site of Palenque... An ancient Mayan city known for its architectural and sculptural heritage with a number of admirable buildings...
Option B: Going by colectivo (Mini-van)
Duration: 6 h
Cost: 7 USD
You first need to take a colectivo to Ocosingo. The mini-vans leave next to the ADO-Bus station which is a 15 -20 mins walk from the center of San Cristóbal.
It is impossible to miss them since the drivers shout the destinations constantly.
As soon as the mini-van is full, they depart. They go quite frequently the whole day and start early morning. The ride costs 70 MXN and is about 3 hours. In Ocosingo you change to another mini-van to Palenque. It costs 70 MXN and is another 3 hours.
You also have the possibility to get off at the waterfalls.
Option C: Going by bus
That is the reason why big buses take another route via Villahermosa. You can book an ADO bus for 23 USD which takes around 9 h. If you decide for an overnight one, that might be even more comfortable than taking a colectivo through the windy mountain roads.
So if you're not in a rush, I would definitely go with option B or C and stay a few days in the area.
The town of Palenque
The town itself is not that exciting. There are a lot of souvenir shops, a central square and that's about it.
I stayed for 2 nights in Casa Janaab. It is a really clean and modern hostel that felt more like a hotel. It costs 16 USD per night for a dorm and 45 USD for a private room
It is the perfect place to visit the ruins. It's only 5 mins walking to the big roundabout from where you can take a colectivo for 10 MXN to the ruins. Alternatively you can take a taxi for about 50 - 60 MXN.
PRO-TIP: If you plan to stay longer in the area, go to El Panchan! It is a tiny jungle village 15 mins outside of Palenque. Many backpackers choose to stay there since it is cheaper and way nicer than the town of Palenque. One place where you feel like directly living in the jungle is Jungle Palace. You can't book it online, though.
The ancient Maya site also known as Lakamhaʼ ("Big Water or Big Waters") is the main attraction of the area. Although it is smaller than Tikal or Chichen Itza, it contains some of the finest architecture, sculptures and carvings that the Mayas produced.
There are two fees to see the ruins. Since they are within the Palenque National Park, you need to pay 35 MXN to enter the park. To visit the actual ruins themselves you have to pay a further 75 MXN, which adds up to 110 MXN (~ 6 USD) in total.
Are you planning to go to Mexico during Covid? You can enter the country neither needing a Covid-test nor proof of vaccination. In the bigger cities are certain regulations in place like wearing a mask or social distancing, but overall you can have a really free travel experience.
7. Lagos de Montebello
Option A: Going by colectivo (Mini-van)
Duration: 3 - 4 h
Cost: 6 USD
First you need to go to Comitán which is about a 2 hour drive. The mini-vans leave across the street of the ADO-Bus station which is a 15 -20 mins walk from the center of San Cristóbal.
The fare is 70 MXN and the mini-vans go quite frequently starting early morning.
Arriving in Comitán you have to walk 5 mins to the mini-bus terminal to Montebello. It costs 50 MXN and it takes another good hour to get to the national park.
The colectivo drops you at the main road. There are many tuc-tucs in the park to get around.
We decided to stay 2 nights at Lago Tziscao. I can totally recommend Ecolodge & Villas Tziscao! You can stay in a beautiful cabin right at the lake. It is super quiet and the perfect place to relax.
The next day we took a tuc-tuc that drove us to the 5 lakes of the park, including Lake Pojoj where you can also go on a boat tour around the island...
However, our favorite lookout was Mirador de Cinco Lagos...
Finally, our driver dropped us at Lagunas de Montebello where we took a swim in very refreshing water!
Option B: Day-Tour (Lagos de Montebello & Chiflon Waterfall)
Duration: 12 h
Cost: 25 USD
Again, if you're limited on time, I recommend to book a day-tour. For 25 USD it is reasonably priced considering they take care of all transportation and entry fees to Montebello and Chiflon waterfall. The bus leaves at 8 am, and goes first to Chiflon waterfall before visiting the 5 lakes in Montebello.
8. Chiflon Waterfall
El Chiflon ranks definitely among the most beautiful waterfalls I've seen. The cool thing about Chiflon is that you can hike along the river which consists of several smaller waterfalls and pools to swim in. After an hour walking you'll reach the top which is simply stunning.
There's also the possibility to hike further after the "official" top. It takes another 30 mins and you can explore more of the tropical forests and other parts of the waterfall. It seemed from the other side of the river you could hike to another lookout even further up, but we didn't go there.
El Chiflon costs 30 MXN entrance fee. To get there you can either book a day-tour that also goes to Lagos de Montebello (25 USD) or you can go there by yourself. From Comitán it takes about an hour.
You can also spend the night at El Chiflon. There are cabañas as well as opportunities to camp there.
9. Comitán (Ruins and Cenote)
In Comitán itself there is not much to do. We used it as a base to visit the surrounding area. Posada Imperio 2000 is close to the center, costs only 10 USD/night and offers a basic but clean private room.
Apart from Lagos de Montebello and Chiflon Waterfall, you can visit these two attractions from Comitán:
1. Zona Arqueológica Chinkultic
If you're looking for a less-known archaeological site, Chinkultic is the one to go! When we visited the place, we were the only ones! Exploring the whole site by ourselves with no one around was an incredible experience!
There is also a cenote which is a natural groundwater whole and gave the site its Mayan name Chinkultic meaning "stepped-cenote".
You can walk around the whole area admiring the beautiful nature. On top of the pyramids you have an amazing view!
Apart from its tranquility another great thing about Chinkultic is that it's free to visit!
I recommend visiting Chinkultic before or after Lagos de Montebello National Park. It's about 2 km from the main road, so you can either walk or take a tuc-tuc if you find one. It is also possible to take a tuc-tuc directly from Montebello to the site.
2. Cenote Chucumaltik
With a diameter of about 200 m and a depth of 70 m Chucumaltik is a cenote that has crystal clear blue water making it a great place to dive and snorkel.
The entrance fee is 30 pesos. To get to the entrance you can get off the Chiflon colectivo here and walk for about 2.5 kms or take a tuc-tuc or taxi.
I recommend visiting Chinkultic before or after Chiflon Waterfall. The entrance is about 2.5 km from the main road, so you can either walk or take a tuc-tuc if you find one.
10. Chiapas' beaches: Boca del Cielo & Puerto Arista
Although most people seem to go the beaches in Oaxaca, Chiapas has a beautiful coast as well.
The most common beaches are Boca del Cielo and Puerto Arista.
Option A: Day-tour
Duration: 9 - 10 h
Cost: 87 USD
You can book a guided tour that takes you to both beaches on one day, leaving at 7 am in San Cristóbal.
Option B: Going by colectivo (Mini-van)
Duration: 4 - 5 h
Cost: 15 USD
If you have time, I recommend going there by yourself and staying at least one or two nights...
From San Cristóbal you first need to go to Tuxtla Gutiérrez (approx. 1 h, 70 MXN). The mini-vans leave next to the ADO-Bus station which is a 15 -20 mins walk from the center of San Cristóbal.
In Tuxtla you can get a colectivo to Tonalá (approx. 2.5 h, 70 MXN).
From Tonalá you can take another colectivo to Puerto Arista or Boca del Cielo (approx. 30 minutes, 25 MXN).
Once you reach Boca del Cielo, you need a small boat that brings you to San Marcos (approx. 100 - 150 MXN).
Being only a few hundred meters wide, but many kilometers long this huge sand bank is the actual "beach" of Boca del Cielo.
If you follow Google Maps you might think that you can actually drive there. However, that's not the case. You need to take a short boat ride to get to the actual beach.
You can find a lot of seafood restaurants there as well as some cabañas to spend the night.
Entremares is the perfect place to spend a few lazy days at the beach! The staff is friendly and welcoming, the restaurant offers delicious seafood and its bungalows have super comfortable beds and an amazing sea-view.
Boca del Cielo is a really calm and peaceful place.
You can rent a kayak, visit the turtle sanctuary, or simply chill in a hammock all day listening to the sound of the ocean and admiring the tranquility of this amazing place.
Puerto Arista is another beautiful beach which has more hotels and is a bit more developed.
Heading to Guatemala afterwards?
Here is everything you need to know to get from San Cristóbal to Guatemala & 7 amazing things you can do there.
Heading to Puerto Escondido or Oaxaca City?
Here are 7 awesome things you can do in Mexico's state Oaxaca!
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Safe travels and enjoy your trip!!