15 Best Things to Do in San Cristóbal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico is a wonderful place for travelers to base themselves for countless adventures throughout the state of Chiapas. San Cristobal de las Casas is a lovely and lively town in Southern Mexico, largely inhabited by indigenous people, which adds an interesting cultural flair.
San Cristobal de las Casas is the fourth largest municipality in the Mexican state of Chiapas, with a growing population of more than 200,000 residents. It was also the former capital to Chiapas. And given how rich in culture this city is, San Cristobal de las Casas is still recognized as the unofficial cultural capital to Chiapas.
San Cristobal’s altitude and mountain location further contribute to the city’s appeal while also providing for many recreation pursuits throughout the surrounding area. The 2,200-meter elevation (that’s 7,218 feet or 1.36 miles high) gives the city a crisp and cool climate.
The pedestrian-friendly cobblestoned streets and pastel dwellings laid out onto this mountain setting further add to San Cristobal’s charm. It’s a fantastic hub for travelers to base themselves for further explorations and things to do all throughout the state of Chiapas.
And rather than exclusively listing things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico, this travel guide is written more so to provide travel inspiration for the many things to do all around San Cristobal de las Casas and throughout Chiapas. Here you’ll find activity recommendations, directions on how to get there using a variety of methods, and travel tips along the way. We’ll still dish out plenty of suggestions for on things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas. Yet this guide goes on further to offer travelers recommendations for the best things to do from San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.
1) Things To Do in San Cristóbal de las Casas
If looking for things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico, let us first suggest an amble about this pretty city to visit some of its most important sites. It’s easy to walk around the city and visit most of San Cristobal’s most notable attractions within a day. Below are some of the churches, museums, atmospheric streets and other things to do directly in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.
Notable Churches to Visit in San Cristobal de las Casas
During any visit to San Cristobal de las Casas, you’ll undoubtedly wind up at the town’s central Cathedral, which overlooks the main plaza in the center of town. If dressed appropriately, go inside this yellow structure to see local residents stopping to pray among the gold leaf flanked interior. This Cathedral dates back more than two centuries and is the site of Pope Francis’s visit in February 2016.
For those who are into churches, don’t only visit the cathedral because you’ll find many beautifully adorned structures all around town. Perhaps most notably is the lovely Templo Santo Domingo with its pink facade. This historic church and former convent dating back to the 1700s is arguably the most beautiful church in San Cristobal de las Casas.
There are two other churches to visit, if not for the religious structures themselves, then go for the spectacular views of San Cristobal de las Casas! If you have the energy, hoof it up to either of these two churches that are perched atop hills in San Cristobal de las Casas: Iglesia de Guadalupe and Iglesia de San Cristobal. You’ll not only be rewarded by the ornate churches, but you’ll earn stunning views of San Cristobal de las Casas down below.
Museums to Check Out in San Cristobal de las Casas
You’ll also find over a half dozen museums throughout San Cristobal de las Casas. Here are three of the most notable museums in town:
Walk Around this Beautiful Town
Yet perhaps the best thing to do in San Cristobal de las Casas is to stroll along the many pedestrian-friendly streets and simply soak it all in. The main pedestrian thoroughfare is Real de Guadalupe. This central walkway is always bustling with local life and lined with some great restaurants and cafes.
Stop into a cafe to sip some local Chiapan coffee in the morning and switch over to pox, a local liquor, by nightfall. Be sure to head over to San Cristobal’s Zocalo, the central plaza, which is a great place for people watching, relaxing, and street vendors. There’s also no shortage of shopping opportunities either as you can find an abundance of locally made handicrafts at the boutiques along Real de Guadalupe in addition to the sprawling local craft market.
Simply walking among these sights in San Cristobal de las Casas can be a great introduction to the area. Below is a map of San Cristobal de las Casas, to get your bearings and understand where each of the aforementioned places are located.
Also, consider taking the Free Walking Tour of San Cristobal de las Casas. It’s a two-hour tip-based walking tour of the city that visits many of those locations while a local guide provides a wealth of information of San Cristobal de las Casas’s history, cuisine, culture, and practical information to know during your stay. It’s a great overview of San Cristobal that can make for a particularly nice intro for new visitors to the city. This walking tour departs every day at 10:00 am and 5:00 pm, from Plaza de la Paz, which is the main central plaza in front of the Cathedral.
Explore Chiapas, Beyond San Cristobal de las Casas
While it’s great to get acquainted with the town itself, what we think are some of the best things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico goes beyond the churches and museums in town. The mountain surrounding San Cristobal contain plentiful natural beauty and adventure all throughout the state of Chiapas. There’s even quite a bit to do just within a short 15-minute drive from the center of town.
So without further ado, the remainder of our recommendations go into detail of what we think to be the best things to do around San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.
2) Sumidero Canyon Boat Tour
A Sumidero Canyon boat tour is the quintessential day trip to take from San Cristobal de las Casas. And that’s for good reason. Sumidero Canyon is an extremely beautiful place, it’s not too far to reach, and it’s an inexpensive excursion from San Cristobal de las Casas.
The Sumidero Canyon Tour is a must-do activity when visiting San Cristobal de las Casas.
A 45-minute drive takes visitors to the boat docks on the Grijalva River to embark on a small motorboat. The journey continues with 2-hour ride through the impressive Sumidero Canyon.
As you travel deeper and deeper, you’ll notice the looming canyon walls seem to grow higher and higher. Eventually, those canyon walls will tower nearly a kilometer in height over you!
Along the way, you’ll stop at points of interest such as a waterfall that spans the entire wall of the canyon. Depending on recent rains, the waterfall may be dried up.
And if you’re lucky, you may spot some crocodiles or spider monkeys during the 2-hour voyage through Sumidero Canyon.
How to Get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Sumidero Canyon
It is actually cheaper and far more convenient to go to Sumidero Canyon as part of a tour. So we’d recommend that, even for those who are typically more keen on independent travel. Rationale for traveling independently from San Cristobal de las Casas to Sumidero Canyon could be for those who wish to spend more time in the town of Chiapa de Corzo or those who want to incorporate a visit to Tuxtla Gutierrez. But if only wanting to see the canyon, then using a tour to get there from San Cristobal is definitely the best option.
Tour from San Cristobal de las Casas to Sumidero Canyon: This is a very popular tour and hence is sold by nearly every travel agency and hostel in town. Prices between operators do vary, so it may be worth your time to ask around. We paid $250 pesos per person using Tours por Chiapas located on Real de Guadalupe, just a half block from the plaza. Their tour departs San Cristobal de las Casas at 9:00 am and offers complimentary hotel pick-up. Most Sumidero Canyon tours also include an hour stop in the town of Chiapa del Corzo for lunch and sightseeing. Some tours of Sumidero Canyon further include stops at the mirador atop the canyons walls. When booking, ask to ensure if that is included in your tour. Also, if having an English-speaking guide is important to you, be sure to inquire. Such additions may add to the cost of the tour, but it may prove to be worth it.
San Cristobal to Sumidero Canyon Using Public Transport: Catch a colectivo from San Cristobal de las Casas to Chiapa de Corzo. Find colectivos around the market for the $50 pesos, one-hour ride, each way. From Chiapa de Corzo, walk a few hundred meters alongside the riverbank to get to the docks where there are frequent boats giving the 2-hour tour for the fixed price of $200 pesos per person.
3) El Chiflon Waterfalls
El Chiflon is a stunningly blue series of cascades that culminates with the enormous Velo de Novia waterfall, plunging a dramatic 120 meters. While walking up a path on the bank of the Rio San Vincente for about a kilometer you’ll inevetablly hear the roar of this massic waterfall grow louder and louder. Once the mist begins hitting you in the face, the sparklingly blue cascades reveal themselves, one after the next.
As you traverse up the path, you’ll notice just how well manicured this park is, which has hammocks and benches to relax in along the way. Bring a swimsuit and towel if you want to take a dip in the cool blue waters below the waterfalls.
You can also bring a picnic, but we’d instead recommend stopping at one of the charming and economical cafes to enjoy a snack in front of the babbling brook. For adventure seekers, we recommend taking a ride on the zipline, which is covered in a subsequent section (#10) in this guide.
Plan to spend at least two hours at El Chiflon. And don’t miss it. Taking a day trip here was one of our favorite things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas.
How to Get from San Cristobal de las Casas to El Chiflon
As a day trip, El Chiflon is most easily reached as part of a tour from San Cristobal de las Casas. It can be accessed by public transport but will take considerably longer since you’ll have to transfer in the town of Comitan. A tour from San Cristobal goes directly there and typically includes two hours at El Chiflon, which we found to be ample time. If you think you’d like to linger longer, consider basing yourself in Comitan for a few days, which will give you greater accessibility and flexibility to both El Chiflon and Lagunas Montebello. Or you can even stay in one of the cabanas at El Chiflon. But if trying to see El Chiflon in a day and return to San Cristobal, a day tour is best. These tours typically include stops at both El Chiflon and Lagos Montebello on a long yet packed day.
Public Transport to El Chiflon: You can catch a regular bus or colectivo from San Cristobal de las Casas to the town of Comitan, a nearly 2-hour ride. From Comitan, take one of the regular colectivos that depart every hour, which will bring you to a turn-off for the park, where you’ll need to walk about 15 minutes down the road to the actual park entrance.
Day Trip from San Cristobal to El Chiflon: You can book a day tour from San Cristobal de las Casas to El Chiflon that also includes subsequent visits to many of the Montebello Lakes. Prices for this tour are $300 pesos when booked in San Cristobal, making for great value. Just be prepared for long hours in the van due to travel times. We used Tours Por Chiapas to book our tour, yet the tour to El Chiflon and Lagos Montebello is offered by many agencies and hostels throughout San Cristobal de las Casas.
You can also book this tour online on Viator, currently listed at only $18 USD.
4) Lagunas de Montebello National Park
In extreme Southern Chiapas, just before the border to Guatemala, there are a series of beautiful lakes tucked amongst the oak & pine forests. These lakes are known for their varying hues of green and blue that glisten in the sunlight. But check the weather before you venture all this way, as the lakes can often be misty and overcast.
Go with the right weather, and you’ll be in for a treat. Either way, it’s a very peaceful and tranquil place to escape into nature. Yet there’s much more to do than just gawk at the lakes. You’ll find hiking trails, caves to explore, cenotes, horseback riding, kayaking, and even some small Mayan ruins.
You can also slip across the Guatemalan border to poke around the markets and buy some Guatemalan goods.
How to Get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Lagunas Montebello
For those who really enjoy the outdoors, plan to spend at least a night at one of the cabañas so you can take in all of these activities and attractions. If you trying to experience Lagos Montebello all in one day, then self-driving or a tour is your best option. However, although the tour packed in several beautiful miradors (lookouts), we found that the tour limited your exploration of this vast National Park. Lagos Montebello probably deserved more time to be covered by way of hiking, horseback riding, and kayaking that is not possible to do during the short tour stops. Yet it was still a great way to experience this beautiful place in the world all in one day.
San Cristobal de las Casas to Lagunas Montebello by Public Transport: There are numerous buses everyday plying the nearly 2-hour route from San Cristobal de las Casas to Comitan. From Comitan transfer to one of the frequent colectivo vans which stop at all the major points of interest throughout the Lagunas Montebello area.
Tour to Lagunas Montebello: Many San Cristobal tour agencies book excursions to Lagos Montebello that include a stop at El Chiflon along the way. The long day tour is heavy on driving, which can make the various stops at the lakes feel brief. But it’s still a good way to be able to pack in a day quickly touring these picturesque lakes. We booked our Montebello Lakes + El Chiflon tour through Tours Por Chiapas for $300 pesos per person which included transportation and all admissions. (Lunch is extra.) We thought it was an excellent value, considering all the ground that is covered.
This Lagunas Montebello tour can also be booked online here, currently listed at only $18 USD.
5) El Arcotete
This pleasant natural attraction is worth spending a few hours to enjoy. A river carves its way through a mountain to form a natural tunnel. It’s an interesting sight that’s quick and easy to reach from San Cristobal de las Casas!
At Arcotete you’ll also find a network of hiking trails, a lookout point, and a swing bridge, which are all included in the modest $10 peso price of admission. Palapa rentals are an additional $30 pesos. Ziplining is $100 pesos. A short boat ride up the river is $20 pesos.
How to Get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Arcotete
It’s an easy trip to get to from town to Arcotete which makes it a good option among things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas if you’re running short on time. For a longer outing, take a taxi there and then hike on the crude trail along the riverbank, taking you on an alternate route back into town. Or take a bike ride to Arcotete and back.
Taxi to Arcotete: It’s a fairly quick trip to reach Arcotete by taxi. Expect to pay somewhere between $50-$100 pesos each way from the center of town. Note: there didn’t seem to be any taxis waiting around there, so you may have to ask a park worker to call one or walk the ~2 kilometers from the park entrance back to the main road if wanting to take a taxi back from Arcotete.
Arcotete by bike: Cycling to Arcotete can be a tough incline to tackle on the way up, but you are rewarded with a fun cruise back into town on the return. Bike rentals are typically $50 pesos per hour in San Cristobal. Expect it to take one to two hours to get to Arcotete and perhaps only about 20 minutes to get back. (See more info on biking to Arcotete in #11 of this guide.)
6) Templo de San Juan in San Juan de Chamula
We highly recommend a visit to the nearby village of San Juan de Chamula to experience its extremely unique and fascinating church, which oddly blends together indigenous Tzotzil Mayan traditions with Catholicism. Among all of the cultural things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico, this is our top recommendation.
From the outside, Templo de San Juan appears to be just like any other church we’ve seen in Mexico. But inside the San Juan de Chamula church, it’s completely different from anything we’ve ever experienced.
It remains the most interesting church we’ve ever stepped foot inside.
There are no pews inside Templo de San Juan. Instead, dry pine needles cover the tile floor. Soft rhythmic music and clouds of incense fill the air, as light beams in from the few windows on the east side. Mismatched tables line the walls of the church, topped with thousands of flickering candles of all shapes and sizes.
Worshipers kneel down on the pine needle covered floor. Men dress in black wool tunics that look as if they came fresh off a sheep. Don’t be alarmed by the ear-piercing blasts shaking the church. Outside, powerful firecrackers (dynamite?) is lit, another bizarre ritual.
Each churchgoer to Templo de San Juan has their own assortment of dozens of tall skinny candles, big wide pillar candles, and small votive candles all dripping with wax onto the floor. They chant prayers in their native tongue. Yet perhaps most peculiar is watching them gulp carbonated orange sodas so that they can loudly burp into the incense-filled air. Apparently, this is how they rid their evil spirits. If you’re really lucky (or unlucky depending on your perspective), you’ll also witness some sacrifices at the altar, which often involves chickens.
It’s all very strange yet somehow remains peaceful. It’s a very intriguing place in the world that we’d recommend to any curious and open-minded travelers throughout Chiapas. There is a $20 peso entrance fee for visitors that you can pay directly at the church’s entrance. There are a few other points of interest to poke around in San Juan Chamula too but they are all afterthoughts in comparison to the captivating Templo de San Juan.
How to Get from San Cristobal de las Casas to San Juan de Chamula
This neighboring town is only 10 kilometers from San Cristobal de las Casas and thereby can be reached by a variety of methods including hiking, biking, horseback, colectivo, taxi, or tour.
Hiking to San Juan Chamula: It’s about a two-hour trek each way. Follow the road or ask around town for directions on a path.
Cycling to San Juan Chamula: Feel the burn as you pedal up the mountainous roads, but it’s a very doable cycle trip from San Cristobal to Chamula. Bike rentals start at about $50 pesos per hour.
Horseback from San Cristobal to San Juan Chamula: Go for a horseback ride between the two towns for $150 pesos. It takes about 60-90 minutes each way and you’ll have an hour to explore San Juan Chamula. (More about this trail ride is detailed in #12 of this travel guide.)
Colectivo to San Juan Chamula: Colectivos depart near the market and cost $15 pesos each way for the 30-minute drive.
Taxi to San Juan Chamula: You can hire a private taxi from San Cristobal to Chamula at negotiable prices.
Tour to San Juan Chamula: Many agencies in town offer tours from San Cristobal to San Chamula that also visits the indigenous town of Zinacantan. Such guided tours costs around $250 pesos per person and last about 5 hours total. Alternatively, you can book this tour of Zincantan and San Juan Chamula online with Viator, which is currently running at only $19 USD.
7) Huitepec Ecological Reserve
In the Huitepec Ecological Reserve, you’ll find a pleasant hike on the outskirts of San Cristobal de las Casas. The trail goes up the side of a mountain and winds through a lush forest.
It’s known as a good place for birding just outside of town. However, we saw more avian life from our backyard in San Cristobal than we did at Huitepec.
Still, it’s a nice hike with big, beautiful trees full of dangling air plants. We’re in relatively good shape and it took us about an hour to complete the loop trail. Expect the trek to take longer if you take your time or if you’re really trying to spot those elusive birds.
Huitepec isn’t necessarily one of the “must” things to do in San Cristobal, but we still recommend it as a pleasant diversion to get some exercise or fresh air for those with a prolonged stay in the area. We were charged $30 pesos per person to enter the reserve, although reports about the entrance fee vary.
How to Get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Huitepec Ecological Reserve
You can get to Huitepec by walking, taxi, or collective. We recommend taking a taxi there and catching one of the many passing colectivos back into town. Or walk back. There is a trail along the side of the road for pedestrians, yet there’s nothing too particularly interesting on the route to/from Huitepec.
Taxi to Huitepec Ecological Reserve: A taxi costs $50 pesos, one way from the center of San Cristobal de las Casas to Huitepec.
Colectivo to Huitepec Ecological Reserve: The cost is $10 pesos per person and colectivos depart from the market. Take one heading on 190 towards Navenchauc.
8) Chiapa de Corzo
Chiapa de Corzo is listed as one of the “Pueblos Magicos” (Magical Towns) by the Mexico Tourism Board and is less than an hour drive from San Cristobal de las Casas. The plaza acts as a focal point of small colonial town. Here you can check out the clock tower. Be sure to poke around the big tree – La Pochota – and the La Pila fountain which is said to pay tribute to the Spanish crown.
And like most towns in Mexico, there’s an impressive cathedral, of course. In Chiapa de Corzo, you can admire the Templo Santo Domingo, built in the late 1500s.
Chiapa de Corzo’s position on the Rio Grijava makes it an ideal jumping off point for boat trips up the Sumidero Canyon. You can easily locate the docks for this trip by strolling down the riverside walkway. There are many restaurants and cafes lining the riverbank to have a meal or just relax with a drink.
How to Get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Chiapa de Corzo
Chiapa de Corzo is best visited in combination with Sumidero Canyon, given its proximity to the docks for the boat tours. A tour from San Cristobal typically includes an hour stop at Chiapa de Corzo, but confirm this before booking. If you desire more time, consider taking a colectivo instead.
Sumidero Canyon Tour including Stop at Chiapa de Corzo: Price for tours from San Cristobal de las Casas to Chiapa de Corzo & Sumidero Canyon start at $250 pesos. See the Sumidero Canyon section of this guide (#2) for more info.
San Cristobal to Chiapa de Corzo by Colectivo: Find collectives to Chiapa de Corzo at the market for the $50 pesos, one-hour ride, each way.
9) Caving – Grutas de Rancho Nuevo
Just a short drive from San Cristobal de las Casas, you can find a caving system in a park that is set amongst towering pine trees. With entrance to the park a mere $5 pesos, it’s a bargain that’s waiting to be explored just outside of town.
The cave itself is nice and has a separate entrance fee of $20 pesos. If you’ve done much spelunking in the past, you may be underwhelmed by Grutas de Rancho Nuevo. But we found these caves to definitely be worth the modest price of admission. And if you haven’t done much caving before, you’ll likely be fascinated. The smooth trail that winds through the cave is an easy walk and contains guardrails making it safe as well.
After a 5-10 minute leisurely stroll through the cave, the pathway ends and you’ll proceed on rougher terrain after being outfitted with a flashlight & helmet, and led by a guide. This optional extension takes you another 5 minutes or so deeper into the cave for an additional $35 pesos plus tip for the guide. For the uninitiated, it gives you a tiny glimpse of what it’s like to traverse through a wild cave.
Just outside the mouth of the cave are a number of restaurants serving giant quesadillas. If not for the unexceptional caves, just come Grutas de Rancho Nuevo for the huge quesadillas alone. They are the best quesadillas we’ve had in Mexico! Delicioso!
Grutas de Rancho Nuevo also has some big slides to slip down, included with your admission. Additional for fee activities at Grutas de Rancho Nuevo are a zip-line and horseback riding. You could easily spend a half-day here filled with activities and it seemed like an ideal place for things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas for those traveling with kids.
If you’re looking for a more intense caving experience in San Cristobal de las Casas, you could consider an excursion with PETRA Vertical adventures, which offers more extreme caving excursions throughout the San Cristobal de las Casas area.
How to Get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Grutas de Rancho Nuevo
San Cristobal de las Casas to Grutas de Rancho Nuevo by Colectivo: You can find frequent colectivos at the market that pass by Grutas de Rancho Nuevo. Look for the colectivos heading to Teopisca and ask the driver to drop you off at the caves along the way. Expect to pay $10-$20 pesos per person each way.
San Cristobal de las Casas to Grutas de Rancho Nuevo by Taxi: A taxi to Grutas de Rancho Nuevo should cost about $50 pesos from the center of town to the caves. The drive takes about 15 minutes.
10) Zip-lining near San Cristobal de las Casas
The mountains around San Cristobal de las Casas hold numerous opportunities for those who seek the thrill of soaring through the tall trees that grow throughout this rugged landscape. Three places to zip-line near San Cristobal are:
Our recommendation on where to zipline near San Cristobal de las Casas is definitely El Chiflon! You soar above those spectacular blue waterfalls on a nearly half-kilometer zipline that you race through in just 40 seconds. It’s absolutely fantastic and we highly recommend for any thrill seekers visiting El Chiflon.
Equipment and operators here seemed safe in our view, but that’s something you’ll need to judge personally. The zip line was well staffed with multiple employees on both ends. The El Chiflon zip line has a weight limit of 100 kilos (220 pounds), so you’ll want to opt out of this activity if you exceed that. Cost to ride the zip line is $150 pesos that you pay directly to the zip line operators.
I’ve been on dozens of ziplines all around the world, and I’d say this is my favorite one. Ironically, it’s also probably the cheapest zip line I’ve ever done too!
Another zipline to consider near San Cristobal is the one at El Arcotete, which offers a big thrill, as it requires a frightening leap high from a cliff. For the more timid, I’d recommend the zip line at Grutas de Rancho Nuevo. It seemed least exciting of the three, as it simply flies over the restaurants and stables. Yet, that may be a good place for first-time zipliners to take the leap.
11) Mountain Biking around San Cristobal de las Casas
The mountains surrounding San Cristobal de las Casas contain some great trails to explore on two wheels. Without your own transport and local knowledge of the trail networks, you’ll need to book a tour in order to access some of the better single track in the Chiapas countryside.
If you prefer to cycle around on your own, you can rent a bike in San Cristobal and ride it up to El Arcocete which involves a fairly steep ascent. It’s about 8 kilometers from the center of town, mostly on paved roadways, which turns onto a dirt road for the final few kilometers. It’s well signposted and easy to navigate.
It’s a nice ride, particularly on the way back, which is almost entirely downhill! Yet if you’re looking for more of a true mountain biking trail, you’re better off joining a tour.
We rented our bikes from Jaguar Adventours who offers both bike rentals and daily tours on mountain biking trails throughout Chiapas. The bikes were all in good condition and rates are $50 pesos per hour or $250 pesos for the day.
12) Horseback Riding around San Cristobal de las Casas
There’s no shortage of horseback riding opportunities both from San Cristobal de las Casas and the surrounding area. Consider a trail ride at Lagos de Montebello or through the pine forests surrounding Grutas de Rancho Nuevo.
A classic horseback ride from San Cristobal de las Casas is to the nearby village of San Juan de Chamula. The trail ride is about 60-90 minutes each way, which winds its way through forest, meadows, farmland, and alongside a stream.
It’s a pleasant trail ride that takes in a mix of nature and local life. Your butt will have an hour break off the saddle at San Juan de Chamula to explore the village. We think it’s a great way to get to Chamula and spend a half-day.
We booked our horse ride from San Cristobal to Chamula with Jalapeño Tours at a cost of $150 pesos plus a tip to the guide. Our horses appeared to be healthy, well taken care of, and obedient. Rides depart at 9:00 am and 1:00 pm and last about 4 hours.
13) A Day Trip to the Palenque Ruins
The Palenque ruins are a massive ancient Mayan site in Chiapas. These impressive Mayan ruins date back to 700 and 800’s AD and are set within the overgrowth of a jungle. There are tall temples which have been excavated, many of which you can climb up to get a birds-eye view of the neighboring temples.
Follow the paths through the vegetation and you’ll feel like Indiana Jones as you explore the Palenque temples that have been swallowed up by the jungle. Many of the structures have been left unexcavated or partially excavated, which adds to the ruins’ mystique, seeing them being strangled by tree roots.
For a little more of what this ruin site is like, you can see our full post featuring 20 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit Palenque.
Directions: How to Get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque
From San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque is about a 4½-hour drive, so you may really want to consider an overnight stop in Palenque instead of a day trip. Yet it is still possible to go to Palenque and the nearby waterfalls all in one day, then return to San Cristobal. The two entrance fees for the National Park and the Palenque ruins themselves total $84 pesos per person which also includes entrance to the museum.
Tours from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque: You can book a very long day trip from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque and back. These typically depart early in the morning around 5:00 am and return around 10:00 pm at night, making for quite a long day and many hours in a van. But if you’re short on time and aren’t planning onward travel in that direction, this day trip can be a great way to include Palenque in your trip to Southern Mexico. In our opinion, it would be worth the early morning and the long drive to experience these impressive ruins. These day tours to Palenque also usually make stops at the Misol-Ha Cascades and Agua Azul Waterfalls. It is also possible to arrange a one-way transfer, which can often be more practical than taking a bus. Prices of these full day tours from San Cristobal to Palenque start at about $400 pesos when booked at tour agencies in town, making for good value.
Or try this day tour to Palenque that you can book online, which includes stops at the waterfalls and all entrance fees, making it a bargain at $38 USD.
Bus from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque: There are roughly a half dozen indirect ADO buses departing San Cristobal for a seven-hour ride to Palenque, ranging in price from $150-$350 pesos per person. A more direct bus takes less than five hours and is priced at $306 pesos but only has one departure each day. Visit the ADO bus site for up-to-date bus timetables and costs. Note that the ADO buses cannot be booked online and they will only get you as far as Palenque town. A frequent $20-peso colectivo will then get you to the ruins.
14) Agua Azul Waterfalls
This waterfall makes for a beautiful natural attraction on the way to or from Palenque. The mineral content gives Agua Azul its namesake blue waters which you can also swim in. Take a stroll about a kilometer or so up the path along the riverbank and you’ll find a few swimming holes to take a dip.
You’ll also notice several cafes set up by people trying to convince you to stop for an empanada or a cerveza. And why not? It’s a beautiful view.
The Agua Azul cascades are best visited in combination with the Misol-Ha waterfall. See below.
15) Misol-Ha Cascades
The Misol-Ha Waterfall is taller than at Agua Azul yet lacks the magical blue waters. You can go behind the waterfall and let the mist hit you right in the face. Continue on and you’ll find a small cave where you can pay a guide to take you into it.
Misol-Ha and Agua Azul are two separate waterfalls that are in two different locations yet often grouped together, and in combination with a visit to Palenque.
We don’t recommend coming to Misol-Ha or Agua Azul as a standalone trip from San Cristobal de las Casas, as it is better visited as a day tour that includes Palenque or visited on the way from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque. (See #13 for more info on how to get here.)
Bonus: Eating in San Cristobal de las Casas
There are so many great restaurants and bars all throughout San Cristobal de las Casas. We only scratched the surface during our month-long visit, yet we still wanted to leave you some recommendations of what was our five favorite restaurants in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Maya Pakal: This is our recommendation for an incredible value. Go for the set menus that range between 78-90 pesos which gives you a 3-course meal with wine and a lovely breadbasket & dipping spreads. Choose a beverage, a soup, a main course, a desert, and even coffee or tea. It’s really incredible value here for what comes out to less than $5. Located here, on Francisco I. Madero between Av Insurgentes and Benito Juarez.
La Lupe: This is our go-to place for a well-rounded restaurant in San Cristobal de las Casas. Great service, consistently good Mexican food, fair prices, live music, and the most extensive salsa bar we’ve ever seen. We recommend the tacos al pastor and then putting the salsa bar to use. It’s an easy-to-find location on Real de Guadalupe, here between Av Cristobal Colon and Benito Juarez.
Tipica: The name of this small restaurant translates to “typical.” Yet it’s anything but. The concept here is to build your own meal by choosing a base, a meat, and a sauce. We loved the combination of enchilada, chicken tinga, and peanut sauce. The friendly and helpful service may even toss in a complimentary homemade dessert. Located here on Benito Juarez near the corner of Maria Adelina Flores.
El Caldero: In this chilly mountain town, there’s no better way to warm up than with a big bowl of soup! El Caldero serves a variety of traditional caldos (soups) that are both hearty and filling, served as an entire meal. Pozole is one of the most common choices made from a broth of hominy (dried corn) and pork, and served in three different styles: white, green, and red. Our favorite is “caldo tlalpeno,” a thick stew of shredded chicken and chock full of fresh vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and green beans. Add your own hot sauce, lime, avocado, onion, and cilantro for your tastes. Located here on Av Insurgentes 5-A, two blocks south of the Plaza.
El Bony: This is our top recommendation for a hole-in-the-wall, no frills, local joint in San Cristobal. It serves up some good fish tacos at cheap prices. Come with low expectations. Find El Bony on Isabel la Catolica just north of Real de Guadalupe.
Bonus: Drinking Around San Cristobal de las Casas
La Vina de Bacco: It’s no wonder this wine bar on, located here on Real de Guadalupe, is always packed. It seems they keep customers returning for the super friendly service, cheap prices, great live music, complimentary tapas, and the huge drink menu of not only wine but unique Chiapan spirits and craft beer too. This wine bar definitely tops our list of places to grab a drink in San Cristobal de las Casas.
500 Noches: This is the place in San Cristobal to try local Mexican cerveza artisanal (craft beer). It’s a trendy setting with well-trained staff who understands proper glassware and pours. 500 Noches has a vast menu of craft beer that only includes Mexican brews, and is organized by region. For a craft beer local to Chiapas, start with one of the Tzotzil bottles. Find 500 Noches here in the Esquina San Agustin complex, a trendy and atmospheric place that houses about a half-dozen eateries.
Café Bar Revolucion: This bar is usually rocking with their nightly live music that tends to start around 9:00 pm but Revolucion also gets bonus points for its craft beer. (We’re a little biased towards places with craft beer in San Cristobal de las Casas. ) It’s right at this central corner location.
Try Pox at the Posheria: Pronounced “posh,” the local firewater, pox, is popular here in San Cristobal and throughout the state of Chiapas. It’s an ancient and traditional Mayan liquor, often used for ceremonial purposes. This grain alcohol is made from sugarcane and we think it tastes a bit like rum. Flavored poxes tend to be smoother, more pleasing to the pallet, and forgos the burn of pure posh. The Posheria in San Cristobal de las Casas has a wide assortment of poxes to try onsite or to buy a bottle of this unique local spirt. It’s an easy-to-find location right here on Real de Guadalupe.