San Cristóbal de las Casas, the Cultural Capital of the Chiapas

After three layovers and a very long flight from Kilimanjaro, I landed at a small airport in Tuxtla Gutiérrez late in the night. I collected my luggage and booked the cab to the hotel to crash for the night.

On waking up early the next day, I went back to the airport to rent a car and begin my adventures in Mexico!

San Cristóbal de las Casas

The first destination is a town called San Cristóbal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas. I know I know… it is a long name… so, lets just call it San Cris from now onwards, as it is so called by tourists & backpackers alike. It is truly a hidden gem and a very different town from what you’d typically expect from a trip to Mexico.

After a short 60 km drive from Tuxtla, on a winding road around hills and through the clouds, you’ll reach the beautiful Pueblo Mágico.

Narrow cobblestone streets in San Cristóbal de las Casas

San Cris is a small town located in a hilly region and hence it is cooler than the surrounding towns nearby. Upon reaching here, I was immediately transported to a time back in history, in the colonial era. The narrow cobblestone streets pass through the center of the town, with spanish colonial architecture all around.

It is not a big town, but it is rich in culture, indigenous community, history and spanish colonial architecture. It is a great destination for all kinds of travellers – luxury comfort to backpackers.

Ideally, you should plan to spend at least 3 days in San Cris to explore the town and spare one day for a full day excursion to the Sumidero Canyon or to the El Chiflon waterfalls. These day trips can easily be arranged from San Cris.

Note: Unfortunately, I lost many pictures from my Mexico trip due to a memory card error or accidental overwrite. I don’t know what happened exactly. Most of the pics that I lost were from the day exploring San Cristobal. Hence, I apologize that I do not have many pictures to share 😞. Hey, life happens!

What to do & see in San Cristóbal de las Casas?

Walk around the town

The best way to see the town is on foot. While walking, you’ll get to see the locals go about their daily routine. As you pass through the narrow streets, the smells and colors of different houses, restaurants and cafes lining the streets, will tickle your senses.

In the centre of the town is the beautiful Parque de San Cristóbal Las Casas where you can sit on a bench, people watch and let the time go by ever so slowly.

Iglesia de Santo Domingo

Cathedrals and Churches

There are numerous churches and cathedrals in San Cris. Right in front of the San Cristobal Park is the San Cristobal Cathedral which dates back to 1528. It has a beautiful baroque facade, which is a good structure to photograph.

On the Southwest corner of the town is another place that is worth visiting and is excellent for photography. It is Iglesia de San Cristóbalito. This church is situated on a hill and you can get to it by climbing a set of stairs for an excellent view of the town from above.

San Cristóbal from Iglesia de San Cristóbalito
View from Iglesia de San Cristóbalito

Another beautiful building and a must see is the Iglesia de Santo Domingo and right next to it is the local market where you can shop for souvenirs.

Visit some of the many notable museums

Some of the famous museums to visit in San Cristóbal are Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya – the museum of traditional textiles, Museo del Ámbar – the museum of Amber which is found here and the Museo Mesoamericano del Jade – showcasing the Jade artefacts displayed in a chronological order of when they were made and used by the mesoamericans. These artifacts were excavated from the entire region of Mexico and its neighbors (including Guatemala and South America).

I only visited the Jade museum, but I really enjoyed it. Even though it is a small museum, it is full of interesting information on the importance of Jade to the Mayan people. They even give you a printed copy in English that explains each artefact and its relevance in history. The highlight is the last room, which is a recreation of the Tomb of King Pakal which is located inside the Temple of the Inscriptions in Palenque.

Note: Museo Mesoamericano del Jade is permanently closed for relocation. Check out the latest news online before visiting.

Sumidero Canyon Boat Tour

Due to lack of research prior to arriving here, I only had a day and a half to spend in San Cris. Hence, I could not visit the Sumidero Canyon. But, from what I read about it later, it is definitely one of the best day trips to do from San Cris. It is a deep canyon, and boating or kayaking down the river will give you a completely different perspective of the canyon.

Restaurants & local food in San Cristóbal

When you’re in Rome, be a Roman. Just like that, when you’re in Mexico, eat mexican. I can’t stress enough how delicious the Mexican cuisine is. The aromas of hot peppers, fresh cilantro and freshly made warm tortillas lingers in the air. My mouth is already watering just by writing about the mexican food.

There are many good restaurants around Parque de San Cristóbal Las Casas, which are frequently visited by the tourists as well as the locals. One restaurant that I liked the most and I highly recommend is El Caldero, which is famous for its lip-smacking broths. Especially, on a cool day in this small hilly town, it is always nice to have a bowl of hot soup.

Authentic Mexican food at El Caldero

Where to Stay in San Cristóbal?

Based on your traveling style, there are all kinds of options available in town – from boutique luxury hotels to dorm hostels to bnbs.

I stayed at a hostel named Rossco Backpackers Hostel. It was reasonably priced at CAD$ 30 per night for a private room and a private bathroom. It also has a pool table and a common area to meet & hang out with fellow backpackers.

Artwork at Rossco Backpackers Hostel
A huge cactus on hostel premises

The Globe Backpacker’s tips before heading to San Cristobal

  1. San Cris is a very walk friendly town. In fact, the best way to explore the narrow cobblestone streets is by foot. You never know, you may find some amazing hole in the wall restaurants and cafes.
  2. San Cris is located at an elevation of 2,200 meters. It might take a day or two to acclimatize to some who are visiting from sea level. I would recommend spending a night before taking part in strenuous activities like walking around the town as mentioned above.
  3. Spend some time sitting and people watching at Parque de San Cristóbal Las Casas. On a weekend, the park is lively with the hustle and bustle of locals spending time with their family and vendors trying to make a sell.
  4. Plan for an extra day or two for day trips around the town. As mentioned in the post above, Sumidero Canyon is a must visit. If I’d ever visit again, I would definitely do the boating trip in the Sumidero Canyon. The cascade El Chiflón is another frequently visited waterfall at about a 100 kms from town.

I really enjoyed my time in San Cris and I would definitely love to come back and stay a bit longer next time. The Mexican vibe is very authentic, which makes me want to visit the town again and spend more than two days here.

Have you been to San Cristóbal? If so, I would love to hear about your experience and places you visited and things you saw. If I’ve missed anything important, please mention it in the comments section below, so other readers may benefit from it.

Also, if you have any questions related to planning a trip to this part of Mexico, hit me up on any of my social handles. I would be more than happy to help you and if I am not sure, I can definitely point you to the right resources that’ll help you make your travels memorable!

Cheers & Happy Travels!!!

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