San Cristóbal de Las Casas (San Cristóbal), is located in a beautiful highland valley in the Chiapas state; which is the most southern part of Mexico close to the border of Guatemala and Belize. San Cristóbal is a popular tourist destination and I understand why. It has the Maya culture, gorgeous highlands & canyons, colorful streets, markets and all with a great vibe and ambiance. You can feel and see the indigenous roots in this area of the country; the dresses of the women are awesome. The town has survived many earthquakes, but you don’t see that many damage.
Transport to and from San Cristóbal de las Casas
I arrived in San Cristóbal de las Casas from Puerto Escondido in the late morning by ADO overnight bus. The bus ride was comfortable but was too long (16 hours); we had some road blockings of indigenous people so we had to do a detour that took us 3 more hours……
Tip: Make sure you have some breakfast or snacks with you when travelling overnight. I always bring muesli bars or Jimmy bars to get me through the day.
My next stop is Guatemala, Panajachel at Lake Atitlán; this means a border crossing. I booked my transport at the travel agency Jalapeño in the main street Real de Guadalupe (450MXN). The shuttle picked me up in front of the hotel than you chance shuttles at the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Hope your bus will arrive in time, otherwise you have to wait and makes the trip long… So be prepared it’s a long trip in a less comfortable shuttle bus (no headrest…).
Tours in the San Cristóbal de Las Casas region
I did two tours in the 3 days I was in San Cristóbal; horseback riding tour to the town of San Juan Chamula and a boat tour into the Cañón del Sumidero. The other day I strolled around the city of San Cristóbal and chilled a bit, preparing for my trip to Guatemala.
1. Horseback riding to Chamula
When I’m on a holiday I always try to go horseback riding; I used to ride a lot when I was young. It’s a great way to explore the area and become one with nature. The area around San Cristóbal is beautiful. I booked this tour at Jalapeño Tours; the same for the next tour and transport to Guatemala. The horseback riding tour departs twice a day (200MXN); I took the morning session at 9:00AM. They picked me up at hotel and departed to starting point where the horses where already waiting.
The first part of the walk went through the woods, then the farmland and we stopped at the edge of the town called: La comunidad indígena de San Juan Chamula. After parking the horses the free time started and we walked to the main square where all the local vendors are displaying their agricultural products, animals, cloths and souvenirs. The main attraction in this indigenous town is the Iglesia de San Juan. You can book tours to get inside, but we walked on our own (25MXN). You are not allowed to make pictures inside the church. This experience is hard to describe; impressive, unreal and amazing.
The local beautiful dressed Maya families, pray and do their rituals inside this church covered with pine needles and candles everywhere. The smell and light is so impressive; something I had never seen before. They sacrificed chickens and soda drinks; small children joining the ceremony too. All I could think of that this is so different then my culture. After totally impressed of what I saw the horse brought me back to San Cristóbal. A must see when you are in San Cristóbal; by horse or by car!!
2. Cañón del Sumidero
The next day I went to see more nature around the San Cristóbal region; I booked the boat tour including Miradores to Cañón del Sumidero (340MXN). This canyon is at some points 1 kilometer high or deep depending on where you stand… I must admit the boat trip is very touristic; a fast boat with 35-40 persons will bring you all the way to the Chicoasén Dam (35km). This half way point (boat is going the same route back) is an embankment dam and hydroelectric power station on the Grijalva River. During the boat tour you will see the most spectacular views and wildlife!
We saw crocodiles, birds, strange plants and rock formations. I noticed a lot of plastic in the river, so still ask you to be aware of your plastic usage. The boat tour will take approximately 2 hours; first I was a big skeptical but I loved it!! Action, nature, amazing views and fun; so a must do when you are in San Cristóbal!!!
After returning to the shuttle we drove via the big city of Tuxtla up in the mountains to the Miradores. You can book this tour including these viewpoints; which was nice to see the canyon from another perspective.
We made 3 stops at the top of the mountains and then we drove to another small and colonial town called Chiapa de Corzo. We (I met some Dutch girls on the boat) were starving at the time we arrived at this attractive town and ran to the first best restaurant to get something to eat. After the 40 minutes free time the shuttle headed back to San Cristóbal, where we arrived around 16:00PM.
Tip: Bring some snacks, this trip could be long without any decent stops for lunch!
Where to go in Centro San Cristóbal de Las Casas?
The center of San Cristóbal is easy to walk; which is the best way to explore the many boutique shops, restaurants and nice churches which you can visit. The vibe is really good; safe and friendly people. The place is packed with vendors at every corner or plaza; this because of the many tourist that visit this historic town. The centre consists of a couple of sightseeing highlights which are worth to check out.
Plaza de la Paz with across the Catedral de San Cristóbal; a yellow colored cathedral that was damaged a couple of times by earthquakes in the past and probably in the future too. The Plaza 31 de Marzo, here you find the shoe-shiners, newspaper sellers and food stalls. Across you will see the Palacio Municipal, where you can walk through and then you get at the Parque de Los Arcos. It is a block with all nice buildings and plazas where a lot of activity takes place. In the north of San Cristóbal you will find the imposing 16th-century Templo & Ex-Convento de Santo Domingo de Guzmán. Next to this church you find a big market where you can find the Chamula women seller their colorful crafts and other tourist souvenirs.
Tip: There is a very huge local market where they sell a lot of souvenirs; so get some here. It was my last stop in Mexico so I did!!
If you missed your French fries you have to go to this small Belgium place called Frida’s Frites (Belisario Domínguez 9); with real good Patat (in Dutch) with real mayonnaise!!
I don’t drink beer, but I love a nice white wine. At this hot spot La Viña de Bacco on Real Guadalupe, you can get a good glass of wine and you get a tapas and popcorn accompanied with it.
I go to the Starbucks on a regular basis while I am on holiday; free wifi, good Latte Macchiato. The main reason to go to this brand new Starbucks in San Cristóbal is the amazing artwork on the wall, so check it out!
On the main street Guadalupe, I had fajita at a touristic Mexican restaurant, called La Lupe. The place is amazingly colorful and the service and food are great. It’s busy and the food is prepared fresh in front of you.
If you fancy a nice luxury desert, check out the Oh La La Pasteleria. Here you get the real deal!! The almond croissants are great for breakfast the next day when you need to take the bus or shuttle. (beginning of Real Guadalupe)
My accommodation was located in the city center; a boutique style hotel called Posada Primavera. It was ok, but it was not the best room I stayed. The front desk was not the best, no breakfast and the bathroom was mas o menos. It all looked really nice but I would not return to this place.
Tip: Bring your sweater and long pants with you, it could get chilly in San Cristóbal in the evening.
Next stop Puerto Escondido or Oaxaca? See blogs below!