Chiapas is so much more than Palenque and San Cristobal de las Casas, two of the most famous sights in Chiapas. If you are looking for an authentic experience in Mexico, Chiapas is the place to be as the activities and locations are very diverse and relatively unknown. There are still many gems to discover in Chiapas and in this blogpost I will highlight a few!
Why you should visit Chiapas
Chiapas is not the most visited region in Mexico and it is often skipped for tourist favorites such as Yucatan and Quitana Roo. Over the past years most of Chiapas has become safe to visit, offering very interesting opportunities for travel. If you are doing a roadtrip in Mexico you should not miss out on visiting Chiapas. The variety of activities in Chiapas is huge and in this blogpost I am going to highlight a few examples of that. If you want to experience an authentic Mexico, you have many opportunities to do so in Chiapas. Locals already know that Chiapas is a lush, green gem full of colorful towns, but international tourists still have to discover most parts. Prices are lower than in the popular tourist areas and it is still possible to enjoy a good bargain or cheap hotel. We stayed in Hotel del Carmen in the centre of Tuxtla Gutierrez for 45 euro per night, which was a good deal. Mexican people are real foodies, so in Chiapas you can really indulge in all the local specialties that the region has to offer.
We rented a car to get around, which is the easiest way to travel with a kid, but most sights are well connected via bus/collectivo so you do not need to rent a car. Even at night it was safe to drive in most areas, which surprised me. However, unsafe situations still exist due to protests and roadblocks, so always be informed by a local about the current conditions. Our Mexican friends told us the area near the Guatamalan border was unsafe in November 2023, so they advised against going there unaccompanied. In the past it used to be unsafe driving up to Palenque, but there is a new highway via Villahermosa making a self drive possible again. So from time to time these unsafe situations switch locations and it is always wise to let a local advise you about the current conditions.
Activities in Chiapas
San Cristobal de las Casas: I will start with one of the most famous attractions in Chiapas, which is the colorful, colonial town. It is famous for a reason and it should not be missed on your itinerary. I wrote a separate blogpost on San Cristobal de las Casas which you can find here.
El Arcotete: This is a nature park with caves and forests, located just outside of San Cristobal. I certainly did not expect these kind of landscapes in Mexico, I almost felt like I was in Luxembourg 😉 We visited in the morning and pretty much had the whole park to ourselves. Next to this it only costs a few euros to enter, which is a very good deal for such a stunning piece of nature.
Chiapa de Corzo: Chiapa de Corzo is the lesser visited San Cristobal, which only locals know about. I absolutely loved the vibes in the main square, which is surrounded by shops selling colorful and handmade clothes. I wrote a separate blogpost which you can find here.
Palenque: Palenque is one of my favorite Maya ruins, due to its location and all the detailed carvings. You will get all the jungle vibes visiting this ruin. I visited in 2006, so I don’t have any aesthetic pictures, but I think you can google what it looks like 😉 Especially when traveling in or out of the direction of Campeche it is quite easy to visit Palenque and I would advise to make a stop and admire this site.
Roberto Barrios waterfalls: Unfortunately I have never visited these waterfalls myself, but I loved the pictures my sister took when she was here, so I am including them anyway. A real hidden gem, close to Palenque and you can have these all to yourself if you are willing to explore this area.
Canon del Sumidero: This is THE canyon of Chiapas, you can enter by boat and enjoying your ride through lush forests surrounded by reptiles such as crocodiles. No need to plan this very well in advance, as you can generally hop onto most boats.
Comitan: Another colonial town, which is mostly visited by Mexican tourists. In Comitan you will find lots of artisans producing local goods, making it a very good location to shop for presents. Comitan has a lovely main square where you will find the yellow church that I featured below. This square really comes alive at night, and you will find people dancing in the streets and having dinner at the food stalls.
Parque Nacional Lagunas de Montebello: If you are looking for water activities in nature, this is the perfect destination. Hielke went for a swim in the super cold water, but it is more known for water sports such as kayaking. Who knew that Mexico could look like Canada? Near Montebello lakes you can find the El Chiflon waterfalls, which we will definitely visit next time!
Zona Arqueológica de Chinkultic: Chiapas also has its fair share of archeological zones. Besides famous Palenque we visited Chinkultic, which was super quiet during the day. You are allowed to climb this ruin, so you can enjoy all the greenery from above. You can enter by paying just a few euros which is a stellar contrast to the price we had to pay for Ek Balam in Yucatan (over 35 euros).
Tuxtla Gutierrez: Tuxtla is the big city in Chiapas and if you fly, you will probably arrive here. Tuxtla itself is not very noteworthy, except for a few gems that we loved. In the heart of Tuxtla you will find the Marimba park, which is a local favorite where people dance on the street at night. In November 2023 the Marimba park was under construction, but it will quickly be reopened.
Ricavilla is a restaurant located in the hills overlooking Tuxtla. It is a favorite brunch spot for locals, you can visit for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They serve a very good buffet and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the price. We paid about 12 euros per adult and were able to eat enough for a whole day 😉 In the main area there is a Marimba band playing live music, which added such a nice touch. Next to the restaurant you will find a little kindergarten and playground. We did not see another tourist over here and were very happy our Mexican friends took us here for this authentic experience.
We visited Joyyo Mayu Park on a sunday afternoon and it was like the whole of Tuxtla Gutierrez was out here to play. It is a beautiful forested surrounding, with loads of activities such as boat rides and sports that you do.