Exploring Chiapas: Three Reasons to Visit Southern Mexico

144A2944.jpg

LUSH JUNGLES, EXPANSIVE RIVERS AND ANCIENT RUINS BECKONED US INLAND. WITH AGAPE SAFE IN HER SLIP WE HEADED FOR THE MOUNTAINS OF CHIAPAS, MEXICO.

144A2109.jpg

Chiapas is a unique place full of diversity. This southern most region of Mexico has pine-forested highlands, perennial rainforests, rugged mountains and colonial cities all lying side by side.

The legacy of Spanish rule and the remnants of ancient Maya civilization collide, a true paradise for adventure lovers looking to venture off the beaten track.

Our friend and talented photographer, Elise Sterck, flew down to join us on our inland adventure. We rented the cheapest car we could find and hit the road. The top three things to see in the state of Chiapas include waterfalls, ruins and the countryside, and we intended to taste and see what we could in the few days we had on land! Here’s a to-do list for your trip to Chiapas:

FIRST STOP: WATERFALLS!

Chiapas’s most visited waterfalls are El Chiflon, Agua Azul, Las Nubes, Misol-Ha, El Chorreadero and Aguacero. You can’t go wrong venturing out to see any of these beauties!

Most locations also allow camping and the best time of year to visit is the spring when the water is a stunning chalky blue color. During rainy season the falls are still beautiful but the water turns a murky brown.

 Camping at Aguacero. Photos by Elise Sterck.

Camping at Aguacero. Photos by Elise Sterck.

144A2363-Edit.jpg
144A2515.jpg

SECOND STOP: RUINS!

The most notable ruins in Chiapas are Palenque, Yaxchilan, Tonina, Bonampak and Tenam Puente. Some are more popular than others, and the best way we’ve found to beat the crowds is to go early when the parks first open or stay late until after the tour buses leave.

 Exploring Tenam Puente

Exploring Tenam Puente

144A2921.jpg
 We had the place to ourselves!

We had the place to ourselves!

THIRD STOP: SAN CRISTOBAL!

San Cristobal is a colonial city set in a highland valley, surrounded by pine trees and indigenous villages. The cobblestone streets are lined with cool cafes, funky hostels and traditional artisan markets. There is lots to do in and around this charming city, from visiting the museums, to browsing the markets, and seeing the colorful churches. It’s definitely a spot not to be missed.

144A2616.jpg
144A2768-1.jpg
 San Cristobal is known for it’s amber mines and the jewelry made there is beautiful.

San Cristobal is known for it’s amber mines and the jewelry made there is beautiful.

144A2639-1.jpg

As always, it’s important to be prepared for adventuring through a foreign country. Here are our 5 tips for packing/traveling in Chiapas:

1. BRING A GOOD WATER FILTER OR UV WATER PURIFIER.

Chiapas is known for it’s poor water quality and it’s safest to drink only bottled water or water you have filtered.

2. PACK FOR DIFFERENT CLIMATES.

3. IF YOU ARE GOING DURING RAINY SEASON MAKE SURE TO BRING A GOOD RAIN JACKET.

It normally doesn’t rain all day but you can expect some rain almost everyday for a short period in either early morning or in the evening. (Another reason to bring water-friendly gear!)

4. PATIENCE.

Practicing patience is key here. Everything takes longer and seems to lack in efficiency. Plan to set aside extra time for trips.

5. SAFETY.

We’ve spent six months living in Mexico and have yet to feel unsafe. Everyone we have met has been unbelievably kind and generous, but every country in the world has it’s bad apples and it’s best to put away your camera when you are not using it, do not wear flashy jewelry or clothes and steer away from sketchy streets. Trust your instincts!

Photos by Elise Sterck.