Chiapas is the ultimate destination to put on your bucket list for 2022. This state of Mexico (the southernmost state bordering Guatemala) is home to lush waterfalls, charming colonial towns, jaw-dropping canyons, magical ancient ruins and an endless stream of hidden gems.
I had been wanting to visit this region three years but last year (on my birthday) I had a trip there cancelled due to the pandemic. However, I got the chance to visit this area in 2021 and it turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime. If you are planning a trip to Chiapas, Mexico – and need some inspiration to start building your itinerary – here are the best places to visit:
Of course, there are more incredible places to see in Chiapas but these are fantastic reference points to start putting together a travel plan. So in this article, I will be sharing my experiences in Chiapas and providing more detail around what to expect at each of these 10 destinations. Before I get started though, allow me to introduce myself and share my personal story.
My name is Lizzeth Huerta and I was born in the state of San Luis Potosi, growing up in a small town called Santa Maria del Rio. My passion for traveling around Mexico stems from my Dad’s job which always involved some form of travel. Every time he visited a new place, he brought me gifts and something representative of the gastronomy of that destination.
Since I went to university and started working, I decided that I wanted to see those places with my own eyes and have as many experiences as possible around my country. Today, I love nothing more than exploring my own backyard and having new adventures. Follow along @lizzhuertai2.0.
A Beautiful Adventure in Chiapas
My interest in Chiapas started when I first saw pictures of the waterfalls there. They are considered to be some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Mexico, so I wanted to see them for myself. I also wanted to experience the Lacandon Jungle. My trip in Chiapas lasted for eight days and I traveled by plane from Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez. Here are the places I visited:
- Chiapa de Corzo
- Sumidero Canyon
- Sumidero Canyon Viewpoints
- Cascada El Chorreadero
- San Cristobal de las Casas
- Agua Azul Waterfalls
- Zona Arqueologica Palenque
- Archaeological Site of Yaxchilan
- San Juan Chamula
- Comitan de Dominguez
- Cascada El Chiflon
- Velo de Novia Waterfall
- Lagunas de Montebello National Park
- Tuxtla Gutierrez.
Chiapas is a fascinating state with a rich cultural heritage. You can see the traditions of ancient cultures everywhere. On the other hand, the towns of Chiapas are surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and lush jungle. This state has everything a traveler could dream of and more. It’s a must-visit!
My Favorite Place in Chiapas: Yaxchilan
My favorite place in Chiapas was the Archaeological Site of Yaxchilan. The journey to get there was amazing! I took a boat tour on the Usumacinta River that forms in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and empties in the Gulf of Mexico. On the way, you enjoy the tropical vibe of the Lacandon Jungle and when you arrive one of the most impressive archaeological sites greets you.
10 Best Places to Visit in Chiapas
1. Archaeological Site of Yaxchilan
Yaxchilan combines an epic journey to get there on the Usumacinta River with a classic Maya urban complex – a unique expression of the Usumacinta style. This city was once a thriving place back in A.D. 500 and 700 and the history is palpable as you walk around and marvel at its ruins.
2. San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal is a beautiful town with colonial architecture, lovely streets to explore, fantastic gastronomy and mountains surrounding it. Here you can base yourself for many adventures such as the Sumidero Canyon Boat Tour, visiting Cascada El Chiflon and mountain biking.
3. Cascada El Chiflon
Cascada El Chiflon is home to not one waterfall but five! All of them are this beautiful turquoise color, which makes them so inviting and appealing. From San Cristobal de las Casas, the waterfalls can be reached in three hours and from Comitan de Dominguez it takes no more than 45 minutes. I recommend visiting these waterfalls from either of those towns.
4. San Juan Chamula
San Juan Chamula is a hidden gem of Chiapas. The church here is the centerpiece but there is so much more that makes up this destination, like the Tzotzil Maya locals who have been fiercely independent people for centuries. Everything is distinct in San Juan Chamula – from the people, to the traditions and dress, to the architecture and religion.
In fact, I had one of the best experiences of my travels when I visited the church of San Juan Chamula. There is a deep sense of indigenous and Mayan traditions here. The energy of this church is so indescribable that I still think about it today. It generates this unique feeling inside of me.
5. Sumidero Canyon
There are a couple of ways to experience this canyon. You can join a boat tour from San Cristobal de las Casas or find the best viewpoints from up above. The viewpoints are fantastic for photography but if you want to get immersed in the canyon, it’s best to join a boat tour. You won’t regret it!
6. Lagunas de Montebello National Park
Lagunas de Montebello National Park is one of the most unique places in Chiapas. Each lake at the park (59 in total) has a different color and there are a few great cabin accommodations to book in the area. You can enjoy the lakes, hike around the pine forest and even visit a couple of Maya archeological sites. The park was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 2009.
A quaint little town of 30,000 inhabitants, Zinacantan is situated in a valley surrounded by flowers and pine-forested hills. Due to its location in the highlands of Chiapas, this town is a little colder than the other destinations mentioned in this guide. But it’s no less precious and beautiful!
8. Agua Azul Waterfalls
As the name suggests, Agua Azul Waterfalls has this bright blue water that is a stunning visual spectacle to see. This color occurs because of the high mineral content in the water, which is then deposited on the rock. In the rainy season, the water is less blue but it’s still absolutely worth visiting.
The ancient Mayan city of Bonampak is home to incredible engravings, sculptures, murals and paintings. These all document the rituals, war practices and politics of the Late Classic Period of Mesoamerican civilization. The main attraction here is an acropolis that sits on a natural hill. You can walk up the stairs to a plaza that is surrounded by platforms.
10. Zona Arqueologica Palenque
Palenque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which achieved this status back in 1987. The various temples of Palenque are breathtaking to explore, even though they only represent a small fraction of how big this city was during the Classic period. I recommend spending at least a full day at the ruins, including a visit to the Palenque Site Museum “Alberto Ruz Lhuillier”.
Gastronomical Delights of Chiapas
The gastronomy in Chiapas is similar to the rest of the country, with the main difference being that some of the garnishes include fried plantain and cheese from the region. There are a few fantastic local dishes to enjoy like tamale balls and pork stews, and also traditional drinks such as pozol – which besides being delicious is very refreshing in the hot climate.
Where to Stay in Chiapas
Basing yourself in San Cristobal de las Casas is a nice idea as you are close to many amazing destinations and you can take several tours from here. Finding a hotel, airbnb or hostel should be no problem at all – just search online and book before you go, or turn up and see what you can find.
In Lagunas de Montebello National Park, I stayed in a cabin that I highly recommend – which includes a delicious breakfast and direct views of Lake Tziscao. The cabins I’m talking about are called Cabanas Junkolal tziscao.
Essential Info for Visiting Chiapas
The roads in Chiapas aren’t the best so I suggest traveling during the day to be safe. Chiapas has a large population of self-government for which they close the roads to protest. It’s important to check for alternate routes in case there is a blockage, since cell phone signal can be unreliable.
In most regions, the climate is hot. However, in San Cristobal de la Casas and nearby places the temperature is lower. It’s important to consider the appropriate clothing for both climates. Thanks for reading and enjoy!