Sumidero Canyon is a pretty special place. I’ve been wanting to go here ever since I read about it on Jessica’s blog last year. Sumidero Canyon is actually the main reason I wanted to go to Chiapas in the first place. Sure, the Palenque Ruins are insanely beautiful, but this canyon stole the show for me.
While the canyon is the main attraction, it’s actually located in a large national park, Sumidero Canyon National Park. The whole park is over 50,000 acres and the canyon is only a small part of that. The thing that I was most intrigued by is that Sumidero Canyon is best seen from below and by boat. There are some areas of the canyon that you’ll see as you head down Grijalva River, which the guide will point out to you, where the canyon is over 1,000 meters tall – that’s over 3,000 feet high!
Taking a Sumidero Canyon Tour
While you can do the canyon on your own, I highly recommend going with a tour. The tour is not only easier, but it’s also cheaper and allows you to see more than you would if you went it alone.
There are two places that you can tour from, Tuxtla Gutierrez or San Cristobal de Las Casas. Since San Cristobal is more of a tourist town, you’ll find that it’s much cheaper to go from there rather than Tuxtla (even though Tuxtla is actually closer to the canyon).
Walk down the main pedestrian street in San Cristobal, Real de Guadalupe, and you’ll spot tons of different tour companies who run the exact same tours. Most tours include the boat trip and a stop in the town Chiapa de Corzo, which is where the boat launch is located. I also really wanted to go further into the national park and see the canyon from higher up at the viewing platforms. You usually pay slightly more for this tour option – be sure to ask!
I highly recommend the company we used, Tours por Chiapas. The guy in there spoke excellent English and their tour of Sumidero Canyon with the lookouts was the cheapest – only 350 Pesos per person. It’s located right next to the popular wine bar, La Viña de Bacco.
What You’ll See on a Sumidero Canyon Tour
We got picked up from our Airbnb in San Cristobal de Las Casas at around 9:30am and headed straight for the docks in Chiapa de Corzo. It takes roughly 45 minutes to get here from San Cristobal on a comfortable air-conditioned van. We had to wait for a while to get onto our boat, so we walked around, bought a drink and some snacks and tried to stay cool (it’s VERY hot here in March).
Once we got our life jackets and headed onto the boat, we were off into the canyon. At this point, it’s worth noting the entire tour is in Spanish. If you don’t speak any Spanish, you’ll miss out on a little bit of information about the canyon, but it’s nothing you can’t find on Wikipedia. It’s all about the beauty of the canyon, so don’t feel too concerned.
Every boat ride is roughly two hours and takes you all the way through the canyon. You’ll stop to see some crocodiles, a cave, and different rock formations along the way. Once you reach the end, you come to a hydro-electric damn.
While we were at this point in the canyon, another boat pulled up to ours selling drinks and snacks. We bought a beer for the return journey for the dear price of 90 Pesos (at least it was ice cold!).
The other thing that I really wanted to see on the tour were the lookouts. After lunch, we drove out of the town, through Tuxtla Gutierrez, and up and up and up. We entered the national park and stopped at three different lookouts, all of which allowed you to see down into a different part of the canyon. It was definitely worth the extra money in my opinion – there’s no way I would have gotten there myself unless I rented a car.
What to Do in Chiapa de Corzo
After the boat ride, most tours will stop in the town of Chiapa de Corzo. It’s a Pueblo Magico (basically a name that is given to towns around Mexico to help increase tourism) and has a few sights to check out.
You’re given about an hour to walk around and have lunch. I highly recommend walking down Calle Mexicanidad de Chiapas to the Mercado Publico Municipal. Outside of the market, there are tons of tables and little restaurants cooking up some local dishes that are absolutely outstanding. We ordered the cochinita al horno (oven-roasted pork) which you can either have in a soup or in a taco. Both were delicious.
Another local dish that everyone recommended while in Chiapa de Corzo is pepita con tasajo. It’s a pumpkin soup with spiced beef which looked really delicious, but I was just too hot for soup.
The other thing to try while in this area is pozol. It’s a drink made with corn dough and water, which doesn’t sound that good, but it is SO refreshing on a hot day. You can also get it with cacao added to it. The cacao does not make it taste like chocolate. Instead, it adds this sort of interesting bitterness that I really like. It’s worth trying for only 30 or 40 Pesos.
How to Get to Sumidero Canyon on Your Own
If you’d really rather do it on your own, you can either get there from Tuxtla Gutierrez or San Cristobal de las Casas.
From Tuxtla Gutierrez, you can take a direct colectivo, or shared van, straight to Chiapa de Corzo. This costs about 20 Pesos as of March 2018. Once you’re in Chiapa de Corzo, look for the vans that say embarcadero or hop onto one of the tours that leave from the main square.
If you are going from San Cristobal de las Casas, you’ll have to take a colectivo that goes to Tuxtla Gutierrez and ask to be dropped off in Chiapa de Corzo. This trip should cost about 40 Pesos and takes about an hour.
Once you get to the dock, you’ll have to buy a boat ticket which costs 190 Pesos. This includes your national park fee and the boat ride.
If you plan to go to the canyon on your own, I highly recommend getting here really early. The earlier the better because once the tours start arriving, you’ll be waiting a long time for a boat.
What to Bring to Sumidero Canyon
When I went in March, it was very, very hot. I recommend a hat, sunscreen (don’t forget to reapply, too!), sunglasses, and plenty of water. While you’re on the boat it’s incredibly breezy because of course, you’re in a speedboat. This means you won’t feel how hot you really are, you won’t feel how much sunburn you’re getting or how thirsty you are, so keep yourself topped up.
We were on the water for two hours and by the time we got off the boat I felt really hot and a little bit nauseous because I wasn’t drinking enough water. You can’t really wear your hat on the boat because of the wind, so that’s another reason to either bring a hat that you can secure on your head or be very vigilant with sunscreen.
It’s also worth noting that, like much of Mexico, Chiapas experiences a wet season between July and October and this may not be the best time to visit. The boats do not have covers, so if it’s raining you’ll be getting that straight to the face!
Resources for Planning Your Chiapas Trip
If you are visiting Sumidero Canyon, the chances are you’re exploring the rest of the region around San Cristobal de las Casas and Chiapas. I highly recommend checking out the Palenque Ruins and the surrounding area there. It’s a cheap and quick flight from Tuxtla Gutierrez to Palenque with Calafia airlines. I wrote a whole post about getting to and from Palenque and what to do while you’re there here:
I’ll be posting more about San Cristobal de las Casas in the coming weeks and I’ll add those posts here once they’re ready.