Located in the high hills of southern Mexico, San Cristobal de las Casas is a colorful city sitting at an altitude of 2,200 meters (7,200 feet) above sea level and surrounded by nature. Its cobblestone streets and colonial cathedrals will be sure to delight visitors. With San Cristobal de las Casas as your base, you can also explore the best sights in Chiapas state. Take a day trip to the towering Sumidero Canyon, hang out around the azure waters of the Montebello Lakes, or head into the mountains to learn about pre-Colombian culture amongst the many indigenous villages. It’s southern Mexico’s greatest destination, and here are all the best day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas!
Sumidero Canyon. The Sumidero Canyon is not only Chiapas state’s premier national park but also one of the best places to visit in Mexico. In fact, for many tourists it’s the number one reason to visit San Cristobal de las Casas. This vast protected nature reserve is home to the Sumidero Canyon, which reaches staggering depths of up to 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) at certain points. A wide river twists and turns its way through the canyon, so of course, the best way to explore it is by boat. While cruising beneath the towering walls of Sumidero Canyon, keep on the lookout for crocodiles lazing on the banks of the river. The tropical rainforest that grows in abundance within the canyon is brimming with birdlife, and you can never be quite sure which other animals you’ll encounter on your journey.
Chiapa de Corzo. Located just off the road that leads to Sumidero Canyon is the small town of Chiapa de Corzo. This laidback destination was inhabited by indigenous people for thousands of years, but today it has the dubious distinction of being the first town to be founded by the Spanish colonizers in what would become Chiapas state; as happened with many Mexican towns, the Spanish built over the existing town. There are many layers of history to be discovered here on a short trip from San Cristobal de las Casas. While Chiapa de Corzo is now best known for its colorful colonial architecture – including an imposing catholic church, a Moorish fountain, and a classic, central square – you can also visit the nearby ruins of a pre-Hispanic town that is thought to have been at the height of its power around 500 BCE.
Tuxtla Gutierrez. Tuxtla Gutierrez is the largest city in Chiapas, but it’s almost always overlooked by travelers who head straight for San Cristobal de las Casas. Tuxtla Gutierrez, being far more developed and business-oriented, is a far cry from the colonial streets of San Cristobal de las Casas. However, it’s well worth a day trip from San Cristobal de las Casas purely to visit the city’s museums because it’s here, the state capital, where the rich archaeological finds of Chiapas inevitably end up.
Start by visiting the excellent Museo Regional de Antropologia e Historia (the Regional Museum of Anthropology and History), where you can find exhibits with artifacts dating back thousands of years. There’s also the Museo del Café, a museum dedicated solely to the humble coffee bean and the region’s history of coffee farming. Then there’s the Museo de la Marimba, which is devoted to the marimba, a local musical instrument, and of course, the exceptional Museum of Paleontology, where you can find ancient fossils, some of them tens of millions of years old.