This past week I traveled to the state of Chiapas.
Chiapas is located 14 hours south of Mexico City and borders the country of Guatemala.For this trip, I took an ADO bus from Mexico City. The trip took 14 hours and cost around $60.
The ride there may have been long, but the view was absolutely stunning!
When considering travel options I chose the bus, since flights here were twice as expensive and took you to the capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, whereas buses took you directly to the Pueblo Mágico of San Cristóbal de las Casas where I planned on staying.
San Cristóbal de las Casas
This quaint mountain town is hands down my favorite place yet. 😀
The town is an intriguing mix of local Mexicans with strong Catholic traditions, native tribes with strong indigenous heritage, and oodles of travelers from all over the globe.
For this reason, the town is charming, surprisingly affordable, 100% walkable, and extremely tourist friendly.
Also, due to its location in a valley surrounded by the mountains, the weather here is a comfortable 70 °F and smells of fresh pine trees. So wonderful. 🙂
For this trip it was difficult to decide where to stay simply because there were too many choices! The town has around 20 hostels, which means there is strong competition and all of the hostels offer of plethora of amenities at rock bottom prices.
I chose Posada de Abuelito, which was reviewed as the top hostel in the area by hostelworld.com.
For around $7/night, they provided warm beds with plenty of blankets, free WiFi, purified water, clean bathrooms with hot showers, and complimentary breakfast with fresh bread, homemade jam, and locally-produced coffee.
People from many countries and of all ages were at this hostel. There were plenty of adult travelers in their mid-50’s staying here who found the place very cozy and charming as well. 🙂
This place is so accommodating, they even arrange excursions at discounted prices.
For my first excursion, I went on a boat tour of Sumidero Canyon.
Sumidero Canyon is one of the 7 natural wonders of Mexico and its beauty is almost indescribable.
The tour began at the boat launch site, where we were supplied with life jackets and loaded up on sunscreen. 😀
These were a few English teachers from Minnesota and Michigan staying at my hostel who I decided to go with on this tour.
The boat tour takes around two hours and leads you down the Grijalva River, which is a river that rises in the Sierra Madre of Guatemala, passes through Chiapas, and empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
Although the sun is strong during this boat ride and you may have the urge to take a refreshing dip in the water, be warned that this river is one of the most polluted, and also full of dangerous wildlife, so your better offer bringing a personal misting fan or a floppy hat to stay cool. 😛 While on the river, our guide explained a few notable landmarks.
The first being this cave, which is supposed to look like a sea horse from afar.
The second being the Cave of Colors, where you will find the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Lastly, we passed by this impressive structure called the Christmas Tree Waterfall. Its appearance gave me the willies, since the tip of waterfall looked like the profile of the character from Jeepers Creepers.
Our guide also helped to point out of few unexpected encounters, like river crocodiles, iguanas, pelicans and vultures.
After cruising down the river for a bit, we entered the Sumidero Canyon National Park and we were required to flash our bracelets to the guard to gain entrance.
Finally, we had arrived! 😀
Sumidero Canyon is a geological fault formed millions of year ago. It is momentous at over 900 meters tall and covered in diverse vegetation.
After cruising through the canyon and returning back to the launch site, we took a short ride to the town of Chiapa de Corzo to shop in the market for handicrafts.
The region of Chiapas is well-known for its amber jewelry, which is sold at reasonable prices.
Overall I felt that this tour was 100% worth it, since it cost only $17, and included entrance fees and round-trip transportation. Two-thumbs up! 😀
The second excursion I took was a doozie, since it took us to visit multiple sights, including Cascadas Agua Azul, Misol-Ha, and the Mayan ruins of Palenque.
This 18-hour tour cost around $29, which included round-trip transportation and all entrance fees.
The tour bus picked us up at 5 AM and our guide immediately gave us a pep talk about the trip. He warned us that the trip was full of non-stop curves and we would pass over 200 topes (speed bumps) each way!
Subsequently, the friendly woman in front on me began handing out Dramamine to all of us passengers like candy. Hah. Yes, please! 🙂
After taking a few anti-emetics, we began our three hour drive to Cascadas Agua Azul.
Cascadas Agua Azul
Casadas Agua Azul means “blue waterfalls” and these stunning turquoise waterfalls are a geological phenomena due to the water’s high mineral content.
Numerous cascades flow rapidly over large boulders, and when splashing upon the trees, coats them in a thick layer of limestone.
Additionally, the area surrounding the falls is dense tropical rain forest.
Visitors can swim in the streams, and also shop at the numerous stands selling local handicrafts and regional empanadas.
I found this necklace for Dad made from the mandible of a jungle mammal that is eaten by the locals. So cool! 🙂
From there, we traveled two hours to Misol-Ha, which is another gorgeous waterfall located in the jungle.
At this point, the temperature had climbed to around 100°F and one of the kids had puked in the car.
I stopped briefly to view the waterfall, but was more interested in hopping inside this ice cream cooler. 😛
I settled for holding the soda door open for an extra long time while I decided on my beverage of choice. 😉
Our last stop was an easy 30-minute ride to the Mayan ruins of Palenque.
Again, my experience here was so magical that words do not give it justice. It’s simply indescribable.The Mayans inhabited Palenque in the 7th century and due to the numerous hieroglyphic inscriptions discovered on the monuments, much of Palenque’s history has been reconstructed. For example, the most famous ruler was named Pacal the Great and this is the Temple of Inscriptions, where his tomb was discovered.I also used this as an opportunity to leave my mark, since I brought along a bumper sticker of a famous Milwaukee bar. I ❤ MKE. :p
Below is the main Palace, which is the largest structure in Palenque where they held religious ceremonies and bureaucratic functions. This is the Tomb of the Red Queen, who was named as such from the bright red cinnabar they found spread over her remains.The experience also helps you to appreciate all of the hard work and effort that goes into excavating an archaeological site. For example, this is actually a temple that is yet to be excavated. It is hardly visible covered in thick vegetation and surrounded by budding plant life. Final thoughts: Palenque and its surroundings are absolutely incredible! One could get honestly spend hours walking around admiring these impressive ruins. What’s so great is that this archaeological site gives visitors the opportunity to feel taken back in time by wandering the paths, climbing the ruins, and getting lost in the beautiful jungle surroundings. Amazing! After two hours of touring, we turned around and began our 5-hour journey back. What a world-win of a day filled with lifelong memories. 😀
For my last excursion, I went to visit two local indigenous communities to learn about their unique customs and religious practices. The communities are a bizarre blend of modernized Catholic and traditional Mayan. For example, I visited a Catholic church where I saw Shamans killing live chickens with their bare hands right in front of my very eyes.
It was a very cultural experience that I can’t wait to tell you all about it in the next post. Until then. 🙂