San Cristóbal 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 of Chiapas. And given how rich in culture this city is, San Cristobal de las Casas is still recognized as the unofficial cultural capital of Chiapas.
San Cristobal’s mountain location further contributes 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 the charm of San Cristobal de las Casas. 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 to area attractions using a variety of methods, local foods to try, and travel tips along the way. We’ll still dish out plenty of suggestions for things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas. Yet this travel guide goes on further to offer recommendations for the best things to do from San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.
1) Things to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico
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 of San Cristobal. You’ll find many beautifully adorned structures all around town. Perhaps most notable is the lovely Templo Santo Domingo with its pink facade, ornate stucco work, and intricate gilded altars. 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 Visit 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:
- The Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya ($65 pesos) is arguably the best museum in town, highlighting textile production throughout Chiapas. Located within Templo Santo Domingo, admission also includes entrance to the adjoining Museo de los Altos de Chiapas.
- The intimate Na Bolom ($60 pesos) highlights the region’s culture and history through artifacts, photography, and historical documents.
- Meanwhile, the Museo de Ambar (Amber Museum, $50 MXN) is another small museum that gives a look into the amber found here in addition to the adjoining store selling amber jewelry.
🚶 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 is lined with some great restaurants and cafes.
Stop into a cafe to sip some local Chiapan coffee in the morning. 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, 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 about 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 4:00 pm, from Plaza de la Paz, which is the main central plaza in front of the Cathedral. For more info, visit: freewalkingsancristobal.com
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 go beyond the churches and museums in town. The mountains 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 about what we think to be the best things to do all 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 a 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
You can get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Sumidero Canyon by either taking a tour or using a series of colectivos. We recommend using a tour, not just because it’s far more convenient. Inexpensive tours of Sumidero Canyon cost roughly the same as taking colectivos and booking a boat directly.
So we suggest taking a Sumidero Canyon tour from San Cristobal even for those who are typically more keen on independent travel.
🚐 Tour from San Cristobal de las Casas to Sumidero Canyon:
A trip to Sumidero Canyon is a very popular pursuit from San Cristobal de las Casas and hence is sold by nearly every tourism agency throughout town.
Prices between operators do vary, so it may be worth your time to ask around. Sumidero Canyon tours from San Cristobal typically cost around $500 pesos. Sumidero Canyon tours usually depart San Cristobal de las Casas as early as 9:00 am and can offer complimentary hotel pick-up.
Most Sumidero Canyon tours also include an hour stop in the town of Chiapa de Corzo for lunch and sightseeing. Some tours of Sumidero Canyon further include stops at the miradores (viewpoints) atop the canyon’s walls. When booking, check if these viewpoints are included in your tour.
Also, if having an English-speaking guide is important to you, be sure to inquire. English-speaking tour guides will be priced higher and may prove to be worth it. If your Spanish isn’t good enough, don’t worry, you will still be able to enjoy this beautiful canyon. Yet having the additional commentary may enhance your visit and prove worth it.
For those who like to plan in advance, book tours with trusted reviews, and not have to hunt around for a tour once in San Cristobal de las Casas, here are two recommended tours are you can book now:
🚐 Least expensive tour bookable online: This 8-hour Sumidero Canyon tour on Viator includes transportation, the boat tour through the canyon, a visit to the miradores, and a visit to the town of Chiapa de Corzo. It’s a solid tour, particularly for the price (only US$33). But just note that this tour does not include an English-speaking guide. Check pricing and availability for your dates.
🚐 English-speaking tour: This Sumidero National Park Full-Day Trip on GetYourGuide from San Cristobal de las Casas includes the canyon boat tour, a stop into Chiapa de Corzo, and the viewpoints, yet further includes an English-speaking guide and receives excellent reviews. It does cost more but is a great option for a full Sumidero Canyon experience. See current prices and recent reviews.
🚌 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 around $55 pesos. Expect the ride to take up to one hour. You’ll likely be dropped off on the side of the highway, where you’ll need to take an additional colectivo into the town of Chiapa de Corzo.
Once in town, it’s about a 10-minute walk to get to the Embarcadero (boat docks), located here. This is where you’ll find frequent boats giving the 2-hour tour for the fixed price of $250 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 inevitably hear the roar of this massive 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. The natural pools below the falls can be a refreshing place to take a dip during the dry season (roughly Jan-June). So pack a swimsuit and towel if you want to venture into those cool blue waters.
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 San Cristobal de las Casas travel guide.
Plan to spend at least two hours at the El Chiflon waterfall. And don’t miss it. Taking a day trip here is one of our favorite things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas.
How to Get to El Chiflon Waterfalls From San Cristobal de las Casas
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 to El Chiflon and typically includes two hours at the waterfall, 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 visit both El Chiflon and Lagunas de Montebello. Or you can even stay in one of the cabañas 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 de Montebello on a long yet packed day.
🚌 Public Transport to El Chiflon Waterfalls from San Cristobal de las Casas
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 to El Chiflon Waterfalls from San Cristobal de las Casas
You can book a day tour to the El Chiflon waterfalls from San Cristobal de las Casas, which also includes subsequent visits to many of the Montebello Lakes. Just be prepared for long hours in the van due to travel times. Tours to the El Chiflon waterfall and Lagunas de Montebello are offered by tourism agencies throughout San Cristobal de las Casas. Or plan in advance to lock in a tour at a good price.
This all-day tour to El Chiflon & Montebello on Viator is fantastic value, has a nice early departure, has good reviews, and includes a very full day, but is Spanish-speaking only.
English speakers can consider this El Chiflon & Montebello tour in English on GetYourGuide, which is a higher cost but may be worth it for non-Spanish speakers who want to understand the areas visited.
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 these scenic 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. It all makes for yet another great day trip to take from San Cristobal.
How to Get From San Cristobal de las Casas to Lagunas de Montebello
If trying to experience Lagos de Montebello all in one day, then taking a tour is your best option.
Just understand that although tours to the Montebello Lakes pack in several beautiful miradores (lookouts), a tour limits your time to thoroughly explore this vast national park. For those who are active and enjoy the outdoors, you may want to consider more time there to hike, go horseback riding, and kayaking at Lagos de Montebello, which may not be possible to do during the short tour stops.
Yet a Laugnas Montebello tour can still be a great way to experience this beautiful place in the world all in one day.
🚌 San Cristobal de las Casas to Lagunas de Montebello by Bus
There are numerous buses every day 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 de Montebello area.
If using public transport to get to Lagunas de Montebello it’s best to stay overnight rather than try to spend so much time on public transport to get there and back on the same day. There are some lovely cabañas within the national park. We recommend Cabañas Junkolal Tziscao for its lakefront rooms, good rates, track record of great reviews, and plentiful activities available.
🚐 Tour of Lagunas de Montebello from San Cristobal de las Casas
Many San Cristobal tour agencies book excursions to Lagos de Montebello, including a stop at the aforementioned El Chiflon Waterfalls. The long day tour is heavy on driving, which can make the various stops at the lakes feel brief. But it’s still a great way to pack in a day quickly touring these picturesque lakes. We thought it was an excellent value, considering all the ground that is covered. Lunch is extra.
Again, this all-day tour to El Chiflon & Montebello on Viator is fantastic value, has a nice early departure, has good reviews, and includes a very full day, but is Spanish-speaking only.
English speakers can consider this El Chiflon & Montebello tour in English on GetYourGuide, which is a higher cost but may be worth it for non-Spanish speakers who want to understand the areas visited.
5) El Arcotete Ecoturist Park – Natural Arch
At El Arcotete, the Fogótico River carves its way through a mountain to form a natural tunnel and an arch. It’s an interesting sight that’s quick and easy to reach from San Cristobal de las Casas.
While this natural arch near San Cristobal is considered the main attraction, visitors to El Arcotete Ecoturist Park will also find a network of hiking trails, a lookout point, and a fun swing bridge to cross. These are all included in the modest $10 peso price of admission.
There are further things to do at El Arcotete for an additional cost. For example, access to walk into a cave is $15 pesos. A short boat ride is $20 pesos. Palapa rentals are $30 pesos. Rappelling is $50 pesos. Ziplining is $150 pesos.
You can find vendors offering snacks, tacos, quesadillas, beers, and micheladas.
It’s worth planning to spend a few hours enjoying these different attractions at El Arcotete Ecological Park. Yet avid hikers should plan for at least a half day at El Arcotete to further tackle the hiking trails. There’s a short circuit, that’s well-signed posted, and loops around to the different attractions. Yet other trails exist from El Arcotete that take you further, such as the 3.7-km exploration loop (route info on AllTrails).
How to Get From San Cristobal de las Casas to El Arcotete Ecoturist Park
It’s easy an easy half-day trip to get from San Cristobal to El Arcotete, making it a good option among things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas if you’re running short on time. It’s easiest to take a taxi to get there. Yet to save a few pesos, take a colectivo. Or even consider a bike ride from San Cristobal to Arcotete and back.
🚕 Taxi to El Arcotete
It’s a fairly quick trip to reach El Arcotete by taxi. Expect to pay somewhere between $75-$100 pesos each way from the center of town. Note: there may not be any taxis waiting around El Arcotete, 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 El Arcotete. Alternatively, arrange return transportation with the taxi that drops you off.
🚐 Public Transport to El Arcotete:
It’s possible to take a colectivo from San Cristobal to El Arcotete. You can find colectivos to El Arcotete departing from the mercado (market) and also nearby Iglesia de Guadalupe. Look for the colectivos marked with “Arcotete.” Expect to pay about $15 pesos each way.
🚲 El Arcotete by Bike
Cycling to El Arcotete can be a tough incline to pursue on the way there, but you are rewarded with a fun cruise back into town upon the return. Bike rentals are typically about $50 pesos per hour in San Cristobal. Expect it to take one to two hours to get to Arcotete and perhaps only 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
In the nearby village of San Juan de Chamula, visitors will find a very unique and fascinating church, which 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 in Mexico. But inside the San Juan de Chamula church, it’s completely different from any other church 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 are 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. Then there are the sacrifices at the altar, which can involve chickens. It’s quite the scene.
Yet somehow it 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 $25 peso entrance fee for visitors that you can pay directly at the church’s entrance. Also, note that no pictures or video recordings are permitted in this church. As a visitor, please be respectful of these deep cultural traditions.
There are a few other points minor of interest to poke around in San Juan Chamula. 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
San Juan de Chamula is only 10 kilometers from San Cristobal de las Casas. This neighboring town can be reached by a variety of methods including horseback, colectivo, taxi, or tour.
🐎 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 $18 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
It can be a great idea to take a tour to San Juan Chamula because local guides can offer a thorough explanation of what you’re witnessing at this church. They can go into all the details of the many rituals and traditions that you’ll be witnessing.
Many agencies in town offer tours from San Cristobal to San Chamula that also visit the indigenous town of Zinacantan. Such guided tours cost around $300 pesos or so per person and last about 5 hours, but guides will likely be in Spanish. Alternatively, you can book this tour of Zincantan and San Juan Chamula, which is currently running at only $35 USD and ensures an English-speaking guide.
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, located outside of town. The Huitepec Ecological Reserve has a nice hiking trail with big, beautiful trees full of dangling air plants.
Expect to take about an hour or so to complete the 4.5-km loop trail. Plan for a longer trek if pausing periodically for birdwatching or to appreciate the nature.
Huitepec isn’t necessarily a “must” for things to do in San Cristobal. Yet it’s something we recommend as an easy and pleasant diversion to get some fresh air for those with a prolonged stay in the area. Expect to pay $40 pesos per person to enter the reserve.
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.
🚕 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: Colectivos passing by Huitepec depart from the mercado in San Cristobal. The cost is $10-15 pesos per person.
Use Chamula-bound colectivos to get to Huitepec Ecological Reserve. Just be sure to let the driver know you’re getting off at Huitepec. If using public transportation, consider combining a trip to Huitepec with San Juan de Chamula.
8) Chiapa de Corzo
The town of Chiapa de Corzo is often used as a gateway to tour the stunning Sumidero Canyon. Yet this holds its own special appeal, known for its colonial architecture, colorful festivals, and local artisanal crafts. In fact, Chiapa de Corzo is designated as one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (Magical Towns) by the Mexico Tourism Board.
The plaza acts as a focal point of this small colonial town. This is where you can find the town’s clock tower and the 16th-century La Pila fountain, said to pay tribute to the Spanish crown. Also, be sure to check out the big ceiba tree known as La Pochota.
This magic town also boasts an impressive cathedral. Admire Chiapa de Corzo’s Templo Santo Domingo, built way back in the late 1500s. Wander through the public market to find an economical lunch or some artisan products like lacquerware and wood carvings.
Yet it’s Chiapa de Corzo’s position on the Rio Grijalva that 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
It’s located less than an hour’s drive from San Cristobal de las Casas.
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: Prices for tours from San Cristobal de las Casas to Chiapa de Corzo & Sumidero Canyon start at $350 pesos. See the Sumidero Canyon section of this guide (#2) for more info.
🚌 San Cristobal to Chiapa de Corzo by Colectivo: Find Tuxtla-bound colectivos departing from the mercado in San Cristobal. These colectivos will allow you to depart on the highway near Chiapa de Corzo, to connect to a colectivo into the city center. Expect to pay $55 pesos for the one-hour ride towards Chiapa de Corzo.
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 $10 pesos, it’s a bargain that’s waiting to be explored, just a 20-30 minute drive from the center of San Cristobal de las Casas.
The cave itself is nice and has a separate entrance fee of $20 pesos, definitely worth the price of admission. 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. This additional excursion deeper into the cave 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 caves, just come Grutas de Rancho Nuevo for the huge quesadillas alone. These fluffy corn quesadillas are among the best we’ve had in Mexico!
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. We thought 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 $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 $120 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:
- Grutas de Rancho Nuevo
- El Arcotete
- El Chiflon
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 it 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 for yourself. The zip line is well staffed with multiple employees on both ends. The El Chiflon zipline has a weight limit of 100 kilos (220 pounds), so you’ll want to opt out of this activity if you exceed that.
I’ve been on dozens of zip lines 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!
There are now three adult zip lines at El Chiflon plus an additional zip line specifically for children. The cost to ride each zip line varies between $150-$250 pesos depending on the zip line, or $550 pesos for all three.
Another zip line 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 is the least exciting of the three ziplines, 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 Arcotete 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! Check it out in the video below.
We rented our bikes from Jaguar Adventours which offers both bike rentals and daily tours on mountain biking trails throughout Chiapas. The bikes were all in good condition and rates are $60 pesos per hour or $300 pesos for the day.
Yet if you’re looking for more of a true mountain biking trail, you’re better off joining a tour. Jaguar Adventours offers many mountain biking tours throughout the region, with prices ranging from $450 pesos to $1,700 pesos.
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 the 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’s 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 800s AD and are set within the overgrowth of a jungle. Palenque boasts tall temples that have been excavated, many of which you can climb up to get a birds-eye view of the neighboring ruins.
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.
The two entrance fees for the National Park and the Palenque ruins themselves total $110 pesos per person which also includes entrance to the museum.
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. If you have the time to visit Palenque as an overnight visit from San Cristobal de las Casas, we’d recommend doing so.
To get to this fascinating ruin site in one day is possible. But you must endure a total of nearly 10 hours of busing on winding mountain roads to get to Palenque and back to San Cristobal all in one day. Yet if that is your only opportunity to be able to visit Palenque, it’s our opinion that the lengthy roundtrip journey is worth the drive.
🚐 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 is a good way to include Palenque in your trip to Southern Mexico. In our opinion, it’s worth the effort to experience these impressive ruins however you can.
Day tours to Palenque also usually make stops at the Misol-Ha Cascades and Agua Azul Waterfalls, further helping to justify the lengthy journey.
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 only $67 USD.
🚌 Bus from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque
There are roughly a half dozen ADO buses that connect San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque, yet this indirect route takes twice as long as the tours between San Cristobal and Palenque. It’s a 9-hour ADO bus ride, each way! Tickets range from about $250-$450 pesos. Visit the ADO bus site for up-to-date bus timetables and costs.
Because of the lengthier route of ADO buses, you may want to consider private transportation or a tour to get from San Cristobal to Palenque using a more direct route than the ADO buses. There are even one-way transport connections that stop at the waterfalls along the way, before ending at Palenque. Inquire at local travel agencies in San Cristobal de las Casas for up-to-date connections between San Cristobal and Palenque.
14) Agua Azul Waterfalls and Misol-Ha Cascades
The Agua Azul 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 tempting you to stop for an empanada or a cerveza. And why not? It’s a beautiful view to enjoy a yummy snack.
Entrance to the Agua Azul waterfalls is $50 pesos.
The Agua Azul cascades are best visited in combination with the Misol-Ha waterfall. 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.
Entrance to Misol-Ha cascades is $40 pesos.
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. These waterfalls are 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.)
15) Try Local Chiapan Food & Drinks in San Cristobal de las Casas
Throughout your stay in San Cristobal de las Casas and when returning from the many excursions and day trips suggested above, you must reserve some time to try some of the local Chiapan cuisine! There are lots of local foods and drinks to try throughout San Cristobal de las Casas.
Trying local Chiapan food and drinks in San Cristobal is a wonderful way to connect with the region’s cultural heritage. Here are a few local foods and drinks you should try while visiting:
☕ Chiapas Coffee: Chiapas is famous for its coffee, which is known for its rich flavor and smooth finish. Be sure to try some local Chiapas coffee at one of San Cristobal’s many local cafes.
Try Cafeologia for a cup of local coffee brewed in-house ($85 pesos) or a barista-led tasting of four different coffees ($500 pesos, English). Also try the Museo de Cafe, which serves up some history from the small, free museum alongside your cup of coffee.
🍫 Chiapas Chocolate: Chiapas is renowned for its quality cacao. Be sure to try the rich, locally made local chocolate while in San Cristobal de las Casas. There are a number of chocolaterías around town.
Grab a bar at Kakaw Museo & Chocolateria Cultural, or reserve a spot at one of their workshops to make your own. Alternatively visit Chocolateria Jangala to try their local chocolate, a cup of hot chocolate, or a full tasting of Chiapas chocolate.
🫔 Tamales Chiapanecos: These are similar to traditional tamales throughout Mexico with a distinctive Chiapas twist of the masa (corn dough) wrapped in a banana leaf. There are many different types of Chiapas-style tamales, each with different fillings. Tamales can be found at markets and street vendors throughout San Cristobal de las Casas.
Head to Tamales Yo’o Moc San Cristobal to try their many tamales estilo chiapanecos, including a tamal with rare local Simojovel chile and another tamal that includes hierba de chipilín, a local leafy vegetable. Or try their tamal de bola, local to the area.
🥃 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 pox tends to be smoother, more pleasing to the pallet, and without the burn of pure posh.
🥣 Sopa de Pan: “Bread Soup” is a traditional dish of Chiapas that’s particularly associated with San Cristobal de las Casas. This comforting and rich concoction is perfect for the often chilly evenings. This soup consists of pieces of Coleto bread soaked in a rich broth made from tomatoes and a blend of spices, along with raisins, plantains, green beans, and hard-boiled egg.
It’s usually served as a starter. You’ll often find it includes in the “menu of the day” at restaurants throughout San Cristobal. Restaurante La Lupe is one of many restaurants that serves this soup – check the menu for the comida tipica (typical foods) section. La Lupe can be a good choice as a crowd-pleaser with its many offerings, great service, live music, easy-to-find location on Real de Guadalupe, and an extensive salsa bar.
🍽️ Mole Chiapaneco: Chiapas has its own style of mole that differs from other regions where mole is popular, such as Oaxaca. Chiapas mole has a complex mixture of ingredients that can include chiles (ancho, guajillo), tomato, peanuts, onion, prunes, spices, chocolate, and plantains, among other local ingredients. This rich sauce is typically served over chicken or turkey.
Find Chiapas mole in various restaurants through San Cristobal de las Casas, such as Restaurante el Fogón de Jovel. In fact, Fogon de Jovel boasts many typical foods from Chiapas including the aforementioned sopa de pan and tamales chiapaneco, among others. We personally can recommend Fogón de Jovel for its local Chiapan cuisine and warm friendly service.
Tascalate: is a traditional drink native to Chiapas and found widely throughout San Cristobal. It’s made from a blend of toasted corn, cacao, pine nuts, achiote for color, and sugar. Served either hot or cold, tescalate is known for its bright yellow-orange hue and unique, sweet flavor. This is a non-alcoholic drink that has roots dating back to pre-Hispanic times.
Also look for pozol, another non-alcoholic beverage from this region, made from corn dough and often flavored with cocoa, typically served chilled. Find tescalate and pozol throughout San Cristobal de las Casas at local markets, from street vendors, at cafes, and chocolaterías.
Bonus: Where to Stay in San Cristobal de las Casas
There are some great value hotels and hostels throughout San Cristobal de las Casas. But be sure to book a room before you arrive, particularly in high season, as all the best places do tend to get reserved in advance.
San Cristobal de las Casas is a pleasantly walkable town. So we strongly recommend finding somewhere that’s within walking distance of the center of town and Real de Guadalupe, for convenience.
Also, while traveling throughout Mexico it’s often nice to find accommodation with air conditioning. But this is not needed in San Cristobal de las Casas. Instead, you may want to check if there is heating. It can get cold during the nights up here!
Best Hostels in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
🏨 Posada del Abuelito is often recognized by review sites and guidebooks the best hostel in San Cristobal de las Casas. We recommend it for its comfy beds, awesome hot breakfast with eggs, clean kitchen, butterfly/hummingbird garden, chill social area, hot water showers with good pressure, central location, reliable wifi, and great staff.
With all they offer, including their great breakfast, you’d expect prices to be pretty high. But beds in their shared dorms start at less than $200 pesos per night (~$11 USD) and private rooms for just a bit more. Incredible value! Check availability for Posada del Abuelito on HostelWorld.
🏨 If Posada del Abuelito is sold out, we recommend trying Puerta Vieja Hostel, which has one of the best locations of any hostel in San Cristobal, located only one block from the main plaza.
🏨 Or also consider Iguana Hostel which is a good option for those looking for more of a hostel in San Cristobal with a more social vibe.
Great Value Hotels in San Cristobal
If you’re looking for a good mid-range hotel room in San Cristobal, you can find some bargains for less than $50 USD per night. Here are some of our hotel recommendations that tick all the boxes and offer excellent value.
🏨 Parador Margarita may be one of the best bargains in town. You can sometimes find rooms at this 4-star hotel for as low as $40 USD per night, including a great made-to-order breakfast! Excellent for couples.
🏨 La Estancia comes recommended for its spacious rooms and helpful staff. With its beautifully airy courtyard, it doesn’t even feel like you’re steps from centro. But you are! With nightly rates under $50 USD per night, it’s hard to beat.
🏨 Hotel Posada Primavera is a charming boutique hotel with tastefully decorated rooms and tranquil gardens that surround. The hotel maintains a rustic charisma even though it’s well-located smack in the center of town.
Worth the Splurge in San Cristobal
It’s pretty amazing that you can find 5-star luxury accommodation in San Cristobal de las Casas for about $100 or so per night. Meanwhile, there are a handful of luxury properties in town for those who really want to splurge.
🏨 The Casa Santa Lucia not only has class, but style. Each suite in the 9-room hotel is beautifully adorned with local Chiapas artwork and crafts. With an exceptional staff and a wonderful hot breakfast is included, it’s worth the modest upgrade from mid-range hotels to stay at this fantastic hotel that bit of delivers luxury for less.
🏨 Hotel Bo may be the most luxurious hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas and has hefty rates to back-up this reputation. If you really want to splurge on a hotel, this is the place to do it.
Travel Tips for San Cristobal de las Casas & Chiapas
Before you depart on your trip to San Cristobal de las Casas, here are a few travel tips and recommendations to consider.
✈️ How To Get to San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico
San Cristobal de las Casas does not have an airport with passenger flights. Instead, fly into Tuxtla Gutiérrez International Airport (TGZ), also known as Ángel Albino Corzo International Airport. This airport has regular connections throughout Mexico in addition to Guatemala City. If traveling to San Cristobal from outside of Mexico, you will likely connect in Mexico City.
From TGZ, there are bus connections to San Cristobal de las Casas making the 1h 15m trip for $242 pesos. Check ado.com.mx and search from ‘aeropuerto ángel albino’ to check times and up-to-date prices. Alternatively, taxis from the Tuxtla airport to San Cristobal de las Casas will cost about $800-$1000 pesos.
If already in Mexico, you can consider catching a bus to San Cristobal de las Casas from destinations such as Mexico City, Merida, Oaxaca, Villahermosa, and Cancun. Yet traveling to San Cristobal from many of those places will endure quite a lengthy bus ride that can be easily avoided with a flight on one of Mexico’s budget airlines serving Tuxla (e,.g. Volaris, Viva Aerobus). Be sure to compare prices before and transportation times before taking a long bus journey San Cristobal.
⛰️ Acclimatize to the Altitude in San Cristobal de las Casas
Before you go on your first adventure, realize that San Cristobal de las Casas rests at an elevation of 2,200 meters (~1.4 miles or 7,200 feet) in altitude, which makes for some chilly nights and even causes shortness of breath for those who have not yet acclimated.
Hence, we suggest beginning a trip to San Cristobal de las Casas with light physical activities to get acclimated. Take a short stroll around this most pleasant town. Then work your way up to more strenuous pursuits such as a challenging uphill mountain bike excursion or a demanding mountain trek.
Exploring the city’s museums and churches is a good low-energy thing to do in San Cristobal de las Casas to get warmed up on your first day in town.
🧳 What To Pack for Your Trip to San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico
San Cristobal de las Casas gets chilly, particularly so at night. It drops down to about 5°C (low 40s F) overnight during the winter months. Yet even summer months can expect overnight lows to go down to 10°C (low 50s F).
But temps do significantly warm up during the day, usually somewhere between 18°-22°C (65°-72°F). And it is much warmer at lower altitude day trips throughout Chiapas, such as the Sumidero Canyon tour.
As a result of these temperature changes, it’s important to pack for both warm and cool weather. To ensure you haven’t forgotten anything important before a trip to San Cristobal de las Casas, you can check out our Ultimate Packing Checklist which is full of packing tips and recommendations.
🚕 Getting around San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal is an extremely walkable city. If you’re of decent health, using your own two feet can be the best way to get around town.
To get further afield, consider taxis, which are generally honest and cheap. Just confirm the fare before setting off in a taxi. There is no Uber service in San Cristobal de las Casas.
🚱 Be Particularly Careful with Tap Water in San Cristobal de las Casas
While it is generally inadvisable to drink tap water throughout most of Mexico, this holds particularly true for San Cristobal de las Casas. There’s something funky going on with the water system here lately and many people do get sick.
It’s best not to even brush your teeth with faucet water in San Cristobal de las Casas, even if you’ve been fine doing so elsewhere in Mexico. Also, be careful with fresh produce that may have been rinsed with tap water.
💬 Learn Some Basic Spanish
There’s not much English spoken throughout San Cristobal de las Casas. Some residents actually speak a local indigenous dialect. Yet just about everyone speaks Spanish. So it can be a great idea to learn some basics before a trip to San Cristobal de las Casas. Even simple pleasantries can go a long way with pointing and a smile.
We also like to use Babbel as an easy, fun, and inexpensive way to learn Spanish. With each lesson just 10-15 minutes, it’s something we can always work into the day and the associated app even lets us learn Spanish on the go. It’s a great way to brush up before visiting San Cristobal. Right now you can use this special offer to save on your subscription.
⚠️ Have You Purchased Your Travel Insurance Yet?
You never know what could go wrong during a trip to Mexico. Possibilities include getting sick, a flight getting canceled, lost baggage, your phone falling in the water, your camera going missing, etc.
There’s also the real possibility of earthquakes. San Cristobal is in an active tectonic area, with a major quake last shaking the city during the September 2017 Chiapas Earthquake.
In such events, travel insurance will have you covered and help with emergency evacuation if necessary. We never roam around Mexico without travel insurance. We use and have been happy with World Nomads, with what we’ve found to have the best price and coverage combination. Enter the dates for your trip to get a quick estimate.
💡 More Practical Travel Tips for Mexico
We’ve assembled an in-depth guide to reveal all our tips on how to save money, avoid hassle, stay safe, respect cultural etiquette, and have fun throughout the wonderful country of Mexico.
🇲🇽 Where To Next After San Cristobal de las Casas?
If you found this San Cristobal de las Casas travel guide to be helpful, you may also like our guides to these other awesome travel destinations in Mexico:
- Merida – The Yucatan capital is so full of culture and adventure. It’s also a great place to visit before or after San Cristobal de las Casas, with a stop in Palenque in between.
Read: Best Things to Do in Merida Mexico
- Oaxaca may be best known for its delicious cuisine, yet it also serves up loads of activities.
Read: Best Things to Do in Oaxaca Mexico
- Guanajuato might just be the most beautiful town in Mexico. It’s certainly the most colorful.
Read: Best Things To Do in Guanajuato Mexico
- Queretaro boasts a wine region, an ancient pyramid, and one of the largest monolithic rocks in the world.
Read: Best Things to Do in Queretaro Mexico
- Morelia may be one of Mexico’s most underrated cities to visit.
Read: Best Things to Do in Morelia Mexico
Best Things to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas?
Those are what we think are the best things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas. Have you been to this charming town in Chiapas, Mexico? What are some of your favorite adventures to embark on from San Cristobal? Let us know in the comments below!
Or if you stumbled across this blog because you’ll be visiting Chiapas soon, let us know what you most excited to do in San Cristobal de las Casas. If you have any questions about the area, let us know in the comments and we’d be happy to help if we can! Have a great trip!
Are you inspired to explore San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico? Bookmark this page or pin the image on the right to your travel Pinterest boards for future reference:
Publishing note: This San Cristobal de las Casas Travel Guide was initially published on March 2016 and more recently updated in June 2023 to keep this info up-to-date.