San Cristobal is Chiapas’ cultural hub, with art, food and music at every turn. But if you want to get away from the crowds and get a glimpse into the every day life of Chiapanecos, you should scout out one of the San Cristobal neighborhoods for the day they celebrate their patron saint. Parades, prayers, costumes and tiny dynamite displays on the street invigorate the streets of the La Merced neighborhood during the festivites.
After decades below the surface of the Grijalva River in Chiapas, the Templo de Quechula has reappeared and become one of the area’s most fascinating tourist attractions. This 16th-century church had been underwater since the building of a nearby dam, and local fishermen now act as guides, taking tourists out to peruse its watery atrium and passageway. It’s said this church was one of the grandest ever built in this area of the country – if at some point the river floods, the church will once again be below the surface.
In 1994, an indigenous movement dedicated to social justice and in opposition to the economic oppression felt from the Mexican government and multinational companies sprung up in the Laconda jungle. This group, who called themselves the Zapatistas, have taken a step back from their original agressiveness in the political and social sphere and are developing their communities along Zapatista ideals. There are opportunities for taking a tour with one of the various organizations that work with the Zapatista communities, but you can also just head out on your own, driving yourself or taking a cab.
Tascalate is an ancient, indigenous drink prepared as a foamy mix of ground, toasted corn, cacao, pine nuts, chile and the brightly orange condiment achiote, a seed common to Mexico. Historians believe the drink was invented around the time of the arrival of the Spanish, and it was prepared for special occasions and dedicated to love. It’s most popular in Chiapa de Corzo, Suchiapa and along the coast, but can now be found throughout the country as a pre-prepared powder to be mixed with water. You can find tascalate at most local markets such as the Juan Sabines market in Tuxla.
While this canyon might be on all the must-see lists of Chiapas, we had to include it in ours, as the Sumidero is such a beautiful and unusual experience in Mexico. The canyon was created around the same time as the Grand Canyon and has walls that are over 1,000 feet high. Several endangered and threatened species make their home in the canyon and there are dozens of waterfalls, caves and incredible natural landscape to enjoy. You can easily hire a boat to take you out into the Canyon from either Chiapa de Corzo or Tuxla Guiterrez.
Leave your camera at home (it’s prohibited to take photos) and take in the scene inside the main church in San Juan Chamula outside of San Cristobal de las Casas. The indigenous community that are the parishors of this church has created an interesting religious syncretism between Catholism and their people’s ancient belief system. Inside you will find an open floor covered in pine needles instead of pews, candles lit in every direction and local shaman curing and cleansing parishoners.
Coffee plantations in Chiapas have teamed up to offer a kind of “coffee trail” where you can visit farms, hike, go birdwatching and other outdoor activities. Four plantations currently host guests including the Finca Irlanda, Finca Hamburgo and Finca Argovia that are also boutique hotels. This is a great way to get to know one of Chiapas’ most famous exports and learn the history of its industry in the in area. If you don’t want to stay at a specific hotel, you can book a day tour that will take you to several.