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What to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas: A Guide to the Heart of Chiapas

What to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas: A Guide to the Heart of Chiapas

There are tons of things to do both in the town of San Cristobal de las Casas as well as around the town in the surrounding Chiapas region. I’m really glad we decided to base ourselves in this busy, Bohemian town. Here’s how to keep yourself busy in San Cristobal de las Casas for a few days.

Head down to the bottom of the guide if you want some tips on the best restaurants to try in San Cristobal de las Casas as well as a few places to stay on your trip based on your budget and what location you want.

what to do in san cristobal de las casas

Hotels in San Cristobal de las Casas

Looking for the best hotels in San Cristobal de las Casas? There are so many great hotels, hostels, and Airbnb places to stay in the town, you’re bound to find one that suits your budget and style. These are my favorites for each price range.

Boutique Hotels in San Cristobal de las Casas:

Hostels in San Cristobal de las Casas:

Airbnb Places in San Cristobal de las Casas:

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, sign up first with this link to receive up to $35 USD off of your first booking. Once you sign up, come back to these links and the discount will automatically be applied to the price you see.

What to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

things to do in san cristobal de las casas

1. Explore the Town Center and All of its Churches

San Cristobal de las Casas is a gorgeous colonial town with a full day worth of sites to explore. Depending on where you’re staying, I recommend starting at either the far east of the town or the far west. The town is bookended by two churches that sit at the top of two very steep sets of stairs.

My favorite of the two was the Iglesia de San Cristobal de las Casas. There are more stairs here, but the view from the top is extraordinary and the interior of this tiny church is colorful. Walk around the paths behind the church for a little bit more exercise, or head back down the stairs and into the town.

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas

The climb up to the top of Iglesia de San Cristobal de las Casas

The other church at the top of the hill is Iglesia de Guadalupe. It’s straight up here to a church that is slightly larger and more ornate inside than the other. It’s also surrounded by tons of little restaurants and cafes, so you can spend a lot more time in this neighborhood.

From Iglesia de Guadalupe, walk down the street in front of it, Real de Guadalupe and it will soon turn into a pedestrian street. There are tons of great cafes, wine bars and restaurants to enjoy here and it leads straight to the Zocalo, or town square, where you’ll find a little park and the city’s cathedral.

Turn right when you reach the Zocalo to get to the city’s most ornate church, the Iglesia Santo Domingo. Both inside and out, this church is detailed and over the top. It’s surrounded by a craft market where you can buy just about anything from t-shirts and scarves, to shoes and snacks.

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas

The ornate exterior of the Iglesia Santo Domingo

The last church worth visiting is the Iglesia de Mexicanos. It’s only a few blocks further north from Iglesia Santo Domingo and the main square always seems to have some sort of event or market going on.

Please note: I visited the city in April 2018 and many of the churches are still recovering from damage caused by the September 2017 earthquake. Smaller churches are closed and the Iglesia Santo Domingo has had severe structural damage (perhaps so much that people should not actually be going inside it, so make that decision for yourself). 

What to do in San Cristobal de las Casas

Keep your eyes peeled for the beautiful colonial architecture scattered around the city.

2. El Arcotete

This park is a short distance from San Cristobal de las Casas and definitely worth a day trip if you have time and enjoy hiking. One of the things I love about Chiapas is the access to all of the natural beauty and this park definitely shows off some of that.

Once inside the park, you’ll find plenty of walking trails. There is also a river that winds its way through the rocks. You can take a boat ride on the river for 20 Pesos and if you’re feeling really daring you can even zipline through the park for about 100 Pesos.

To get to El Arcotete, you can easily take a taxi from the town center which should not cost you more than 100 Pesos. Always agree on the price before getting in the car so there aren’t any surprises. To get back, you’ll have to walk out of the park entrance back to the main road – roughly 10 minutes to hail a taxi. Alternatively, you could organize for a driver for the day with one of the tour companies in town. They will bring you to the park, wait for you, and bring you back. Be sure to negotiate the price until you’re happy with it.

How to see Sumidero Canyon Chiapas Mexico

The stunning Sumidero Canyon

3. Sumidero Canyon

This was by far my favorite thing about visiting the San Cristobal de las Casas region. It was my main reason for coming to this part of the country and I’m SO glad I did. Every tour company in town will sell you these tours. You can get it for as little as 300 Pesos per person and it includes transportation both ways, a stop in the town of Chiapa de Corzo, and the boat ride through Sumidero Canyon.

I highly recommend the tour company we booked with, Tours Por Chiapas, which is located on Real de Guadalupe next to the popular wine bar, La Viña de Bacco. We booked a tour for 350 Pesos which included all of the above as well as stopping at three of the viewing points above the canyon.

I’ve written a full post about Sumidero Canyon, what you need to know about it, and how to get there on your own if you really don’t want to take a tour. You can read it here:

Sumidero Canyon: Everything You Need to Know

What to do in San Cristobal de las casas

Standing over one of the lookouts and lakes of the Montebello National Park

4. Lagunas de Montebello

I didn’t really know anything about Lagunas de Montebello National Park until we got to San Cristobal de las Casas. It’s another popular tour that you’ll find at all of the tour companies. It is a full day and the park is close to the Guatemala border (so close that my phone thought I was in Guatemala!), but it’s such a beautiful place.

It’s full of different lakes where you can take a boat ride or simply enjoy the view as the sun is beginning to set. The day we went (in early April) we had amazing weather. The sun was shining, there were flowers blooming all around the lakes, and the water just looked so crisp and blue.

what to do in san cristobal de las casas

At different times of the year, you’ll experience different weather. During the rainy season it can be misty and grey, in November and December it’s crisp, a little bit chilly, but still bright and clear. Be sure to check the weather before you book your tour so you don’t get rained on!

A tour to Lagunas de Montebello also includes a stop at Chiflon Waterfalls, which I’ll mention below. The tour costs 350 and is literally an all-day event, so worth the money in my opinion. Again, I recommend Tours Por Chiapas Just be sure to bring plenty of cash because you’ll stop for lunch, which isn’t included in the tour price, and there are also stands at the different places where you can buy drinks and snacks.

what to do in san cristobal de las casas

The waterfalls that I thought were the main ones at Chiflon, oh how wrong I was.

5. Chiflon Waterfalls

Chiflon Waterfalls are probably one of my favorite things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas. The falls are just under two hours from the town center and they are incredible. You climb a set of stairs up, up, up. We reached what we thought was the main fall, only to carry on up the trail to one of the tallest most powerful falls I’ve seen in Mexico.

As I mentioned above, you can easily see the Chiflon waterfalls as part of a tour that also takes you to Lagunas de Montebello. Ask around at different tour companies for the best price since most companies offer the exact same thing, but we pair 350 Pesos and enjoyed our tour with Tours Por Chiapas.

What to do in san cristobal de las casas

This is the main attraction. I could feel the spray from where I was standing when I took this photo!

6. The Church at San Juan de Chamula

The church in the little town of San Juan de Chamula is a unique mixture of Catholic influence blended with Mayan practices. The area around San Cristobal de las Casas was and still is home to many different tribes and cultures. You’ll no doubt hear locals speaking languages that are not Spanish. San Juan de Chamula is one of those areas where you can get a small peek into one of these cultures.

Walk into the church and where you would normally see pews, you’ll find nothing but pine needles scattered around the floor. Instead of sitting on pews to worship each Sunday, members of this congregation sit or kneel directly on the floor. If you visit on a Sunday you’ll see men dressed in wool tunics and worshippers carrying tall white candles through the church.

To get to San Juan de Chamula, head to the colectivo stand near Iglesia Santo Domingo. It is the cheapest way to get there at only 20 Pesos per person. It should take roughly half an hour. To get back simply hail a colectivo that is heading back towards San Cristobal de las Casas.

If you don’t want to walk all the way to the colectivo stand, you can take a taxi there and back which should cost about 100-150 Pesos each way. Again, be sure to ask what the price will be before you get going in the taxi so that you know what you’ll be paying.

Some tour companies around San Cristobal de las Casas run tours to the town of San Juan de Chamula. I’m not positive how much these tours cost, but it may also include trips to other local towns in the area.

Many of the tour companies also take you here via horseback or bicycle. If you enjoy horseback riding, this is a really great and inexpensive way to see more of the surrounding area. The horseback riding tours cost roughly 150 Pesos.

Bicycle tours are great for getting some exercise and they take you on trails that you wouldn’t otherwise go on. You can either go on a guided tour for 100-150 Pesos or rent a bike for about 50 Pesos an hour and head there on your own. It’s a pretty straight road with a few hills to tackle.

What to do in san cristobal de las casas

The main pedestrian street in San Cristobal de las Casas – Real Guadalupe.

Where to Eat and Drink in San Cristobal de las Casas

There are a ton of really great, very cheap restaurants around San Cristobal de las Casas, but as you might expect, they aren’t located along the pedestrian street. The best places I found were a short walk from the main strip and totally worth the extra few steps.

Galleria la Casa

Located along Real de Guadalupe close to the Iglesia de Guadalupe before the street turns into a pedestrian street. Cash Only.

This is the place to head for a cheap and filling breakfast or lunch. They make great omelets, awesome chilaquiles, and nice strong coffee. The breakfast includes a drink, tortillas or rice, and a huge plate of food. It ranges in price from 40 Pesos to about 60 Pesos. They also have a Comida Corrida, or set lunch menu which includes soup, a main meal, and a drink. Depending on what you want for your main, the lunch menu starts at 45 Pesos.

where to eat in san cristobal de las casas

These eggs covered in mole from Galleria la Casa were AMAZING.

El Buen Comer

Real de Guadalupe 85, Cash Only.

This is a great place for lunch. They have a menu of the day which includes a drink, soup, and a filling main meal with tortillas. It was a reasonable 75 Pesos for the whole meal.

El Lechon Coleto

Real de Guadalupe 141, Cash Only.

The menu is small, but there’s only one thing you need to order here, the Cochinita Horneado, the roasted pork. If there are a few of you, you can order it by the kilo, otherwise, I recommend simply getting a plate of the cochinita which costs 45 Pesos. It comes with a bowl of beans, a salad, and a nice serving side of meat topped with a sticky, crunchy, incredibly delicious piece of chicharron. I loved this place so much we went back twice. If you’re still hungry after the plate of meat, I recommend the gorditas with chicharron.

where to eat in san cristobal de las casas

This plate of pork was one of the best things I ate in San Cristobal de las Casas

Tacos Señor Rodeo

 Francisco I. Madero, right around the corner from the Zocalo. Cash Only.

If you want a good late night taco spot near the center, look no further. They have two spits of meat going at once, sirloin steak and pastor (spiced pork). Both are exceptional, but I really, really loved the sirloin. It was juicy and well seasoned. You can have it in a taco, on a plate with tortillas on the side, or my preferred way, in a quesadilla.

El Mesón del Tacos

Crescencio Rosas 32, accept cash and card.

Our Airbnb host told us about this place, and I’m so glad he did. It doesn’t open until 6pm, but from that moment until they close at 1am, there is a line out the door. You never wait too long, but if there is a bit of a line, be sure to head to the main counter inside the restaurant and get a number. They’re known for their grill plates of different meats. Two people can easily share one of the plates which cost about 90 Pesos. They serve beer as well as really delicious horchata. This is a must-visit spot if you enjoy late night tacos.

Carajillo Café

Real de Guadalupe 53, accept cash and card.

This is one of the best coffee shops that we tried during our stay in San Cristobal de las Casas. They have both indoor and outdoor seating and the interior is really cute. Choose from different styles of brewing like French press, Aeropress, or cold brew or opt for an espresso style drink. This was also one of the few cafes I found here that did milk alternatives like almond and coconut milks. A little bit pricey compared to other coffees on the trip, but worth the splurge if you’re a coffee snob. They also have breakfast options and cakes that looked really great if you like sweets with your coffee.

Where to drink in san cristobal de las casas

Where we spent several of our nights while we were in San Cristobal.

La Viña de Bacco

Real de Guadalupe 13, accept cash and card.

This place needs no real introduction. Spend more than 24 hours in San Cristobal de las Casas and you’ll soon learn about this popular wine bar. The menu is extensive with tons of Mexican wines as well as wines from around the world. Prices start at 20 Pesos per glass and each glass comes with a little tapas dish which is usually just a piece of bread with some a strange (to me at least) topping. You could while away the whole night here ordering wine, listening to buskers play music as they pass, and munching on bread and olives and endless bowls of popcorn. At the end of the night, your bill would still only be about $10.

Posheria

Real de Guadalupe 46, may accept card but have cash just in case.

The local drink of Chiapas is call Pox or Posh depending on where you see it. Both are pronounced the same, posh. It’s a liquor made of corn, sugar cane, and wheat. It was supposedly used for Mayan celebrations and at important ceremonies. Either way, it’s not something you see much outside of Chiapas and this place specializes in it. Start with a small glass of the classic to get an idea of the real taste. Then you can branch out to the flavors – the almond and coconut were my favorites. It’s served with orange slices and a posh infused chocolate truffle which will just about knock you off your bar stool.

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What to do in San Cristobal de las Casas Chiapas Mexico - a guide to San Cristobal de las casas - where to eat in San Cristobal, the best hotels in San Cristobal de las Casas and what to do with your time when you're there!

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LaRae Murphy

Thursday 24th of October 2019

Enjoy your articles and info. Is there much English in Chiapas? as compared to more touristy areas like Cancun, PV etc? Thanks!

Laura Bronner

Monday 28th of October 2019

It depends on which part you are traveling in. There are plenty of English tour guides and English speakers in both Palenque and San Cristobal de las Casas. Of course not as many as the areas that you mention, but still enough to get by if you don't speak and Spanish.