The state of Chiapas is in the southernmost part of Mexico and borders Guatemala. Hike along hidden jungle paths in the Selva Lacandóna and learn all about the Mayan culture which is still very much alive here. Embedded in the emerald green jungle are the ancient Mayan sites of Palenque, Yaxchilán and Bonampak, which may have sprung from an Indiana Jones movie.
Another must-see is the colonial mountain village of San Cristobal de las Casas, located at an altitude of 2,000 meters.
The name of the capital city of Chiapas comes from a mix of indigenous and spanish words. Tuxtla comes from the Nahuatl word meaning “place where there are plenty of rabbits”. And Gutierrez was added in honoour of a General. Tuxtla Gutierrez is not known as a tourist destination, but mainly because of its airport as a stopover for travel to San Cristobal de las Casas, or as a starting point for sightseeing in the area.
The Zoological Garden of Tuxtla is worth visiting, although the term garden is not quite applicable because its´enormous 140 hectare site. The zoo is very impressive and since almost the entire area is forested the visit is very pleasant natural experience. Admire the numerous, predominantly native species, such as big cats, crocodiles, parrots and the endangered Quetzal, (the long green feathers of which the Aztecs used in jewelry). There is also the Parque Madero with an Anthropological Museum, a botanical garden and a children’s park.
San Cristóbal de las Casas is located in the remote highlands of Chiapas, surrounded by thick pine forests, in the Valle de Jovel. Various indigenous communities, mainly from the Maya, are deeply rooted here and there is a colourful cultural diversity. The city is surrounded by small villages where you can learn a lot about the autonomous and traditional life of its inhabitants. The city also offers a wide range of handicrafts. The bustling street scene is a real pleasure and you can spend hours strolling along the cobblestone streets, observing the small town life.
San Cristóbal is a quaint and pretty town and it is worth taking a long walk to explore the various neghbourhoods. As in almost every Mexican town, the Zócalo forms the heart of the city and is the meeting place for locals and tourists. The ochre-coloured Cathedral overlooks the square on the north side and impresses with its beautiful stonework facade. Also worth seeing is the ex-Convento y Templo de Santo Domingo with its pink facade and magnificent interior design as well as the pretty church of Santo Domingo. An indispensable part of every stay in San Cristobal is a visit to the colourful market, an experience for the senses. In the dense crowd of people, stands and goods, almost everything is available from meat to vegetables, fruit and other agricultural products to clothing and even small cattle.
The absolute highlight of a trip to Mexico is a trip to the archaeological site of Palenque which is considered the most beautiful Mayan site in Mexico. This excursion is often combined with a detour to the Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls. The pyramids and temples of Palenque lie in the lush jungles of Chiapas. Much of the site is still hidden under the thick vegetation. The imposing size of the complex as well as the beautiful architecture and art of the temples against this wonderful backdrop are very impressive. The screams of howler monkey accompany the mysterious ambience! The city of Palenque is generally considered rather unattractive and not worth seeing. Nevertheless, it is the ideal starting point for visiting the archaeological site and exploring the area deeper into the Selva Lacandona.