Exploring Chiapas: 5 reasons to visit Southern Mexico
After spending more than one week in Yucatan, Chiapas was my second Mexican destination. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect and I thought it’d be difficult to surprise me with something more beautiful than Riviera Maya. You should have seen my face when I crossed the border of Chiapas state. Today I can say without doubt that Chiapas is the most beautiful state in the entire Mexico! It’s the poorest state in Mexico when it comes to economic situation, but when you look at its nature – parks, rivers, jungle, canyons… you ask yourself – how come? If you are going to Mexico and you don’t want to spend all your vacations in Quintana Roo, you have to visit Chiapas! Find below my 5 reasons to visit Southern Mexico.
Palenque is one of the most important places in the history of Maya civilization and another Mexican UNESCO Heritage hidden in the heart of Chiapas. This ancient city was in hands of Pacal the Great during his 68 years of reign, who built all the magnificant temples and pyramids without any tools or books. Imagine to be creative 1500 years ago without all the knowledge our civilization has today. I think Palenque is a great example of how far we can go as human beings. The ruins of Palenque are a very quiet place in the middle of the jungle, so you can just stay there for hours and enjoy the silence accompanied by incredible views. Thanks to its location, Palenque is one of the most authentically preserved ruins in Mexico.
The Temple of Inscriptions is probably the best spot to take the panoramic pictures. I also suggest you to reserve some time for the way back down, because you will stop every 5 minutes. Between waterfalls, ruins, birds and the intense green it’s just impossible not to take photos!
Cascadas de Agua Azul
The Agua Azul Waterfalls is an internationally recognized flora and fauna protection area and a real treasure of Chiapas, located only around 60 km from Palenque. The beautiful blue color of its water is a result of the high content of calcium carbonate and other minerals. You can choose from many smaller and bigger cascades following one after another and take a bath in the crystal clear water. Don’t forget to try one of the delicious drinks! I ordered Coco Loco and it was really good 🙂 Agua Azul is also a great place to do some shopping. I bought a handmade dress for my Mom and she wears it until today. It’s way much better to support local, indigenous community, rather than mall shopping.
San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is one of the most emblematic towns in Chiapas. Considered the crown jewel of Mexico’s pueblos mágicos, San Cristobal is perfect destination to slow down between one adventure and another. You will have a great opportunity to try real Mexican food and get closer to indigenous habitants and their daily customs. San Cristobal is a very safe town, nothing to compare with the capital city of Mexico or other big metropolis. My first advice is to simply walk and admire the colonial architecture, and reserve some energy for the night. The quiet town of San Cristobal really comes to life at night, with live music in almost every bar. Next morning try to wake up early and climb the famous stairs. The steps are exhausting but put a big smile on your face and prepare yourself for outstanding views from above. Remember that the most beautiful churches in San Cristobal are located at high points and are definitely worth your visit. Their colorful facades are simply one of a kind.
San Juan Chamula
Chamula is mostly inhabited by the indigenous Tzotzil Maya people. It’s forbidden to take pictures in this village and I think it’s great. Their town, their rules. A lot of people from all over the country visit Chamula to witness the mystical and fascinating rituals that occur in the town’s church of San Juan. The church is incredibly beautiful inside and it’s hardly possible to find any pictures of it, apart from its decorated facade, so you should definitely book one day to visit Chamula and discover its secrets. Chamula is the best example of religious syncretism – mixing animistic and Christians beliefs in one place. Just imagine a Christian Church with Coca-Cola bottles and animal sacrifices on altars…Sounds creepy, I know.
Taking a boat trip to Sumidero Canyon is a must, because it’s the symbol of Chiapas represented on the state seal. As you progress through Grijalva River, you will have an impression of the walls growing in front of you. At some lints they reach more than 1000 meters tall! The rock formations are simply impressing and the diversity of fauna will surprise you on every corner. From different bird species to even crocodiles, keep your eyes wide open!
So, why Chiapas?
Chiapas is a real pearl of biodiversity in Mexico and the uniqueness of this state is not possible to be described in only few words or 5 examples, but I hope this article will help you to make the right decision. What I love the most about Chiapas are not only the astonishing natural views, but especially its people. They are very open to chat with you and to share their traditions, so if you go to Chiapas, you have to take your heart with you.
Please, try to support them by buying handicraft or coffee directly from them. This way you will help to protect farmers and indigenous rights. Despite all, Mexico is still a country marked by historical abuse against indigenous people. This is reflected by the fact that Chiapas is one of the poorest states, even if exports the most of Mexican coffee. Mexico produces 60% of all the organic coffee in the world, but most of benefits go to big companies. This is something that has to change, and small contributions are the beginning of this change. I can assure you that you will fall in love with Chiapas from the very first moment. So if you have a chance to visit this beautiful state, give it a chance and let me know if I was right 🙂