10 days in Chiapas is the perfect amount of time to explore the ruins of Palenque, enjoy the hippie town of San Cristobal de las Casas, and see some of the natural beauty.
Of course, you can always spend more time exploring and visiting different sights, but if you are most interested in the major sites, a 10-day Chiapas itinerary is all you need.
10 Day Chiapas Itinerary
Days 1-3 Palenque
Start your trip in Palenque. There is a brand new airport only a few minutes from the center of town. You can fly here from Mexico City with Interjet, from Cancun with Calafia, or Tuxtla Gutierrez also with Calafia (the capital city of Chiapas). Flights aren’t every day, so be sure to plan well in advance.
There are some really great places to eat in Palenque town if you enjoy tacos and alambre. A few that I recommend are Taqueria El Fogon Suizo, El Herradero (seriously good steak and pastor tacos here), and Taqueria Tropitacos. There are also some great comida corrida (set lunch menu) restaurants around the Zocalo.
If you are looking for budget accommodation in Palenque, check out Yaxkin Hostel. For a nice boutique hotel, book a stay at Quinta Chanabnal. If you like using Airbnb, I can’t recommend El Penthouse enough. We stayed here for three nights and I absolutely loved it.
Of course, the main event in Palenque is the Palenque Ruins. I’ve written a full guide on what to see, whether or not to take a tour, as well as a few tips on hiking around the area which you can read here:
A Guide to Visiting the Palenque Ruins
In addition to the ruins, there are also tons of great tours you can take of the area. One that shouldn’t be missed is a tour that takes you to Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls. There are also other ruins to explore and other waterfalls like Roberto Barrios. If you are looking for a good transportation company to go to these sights, we used Tulum Transportadora Turistica and they were quick to reply to my emails and picked up us right on time.
Day 4 – Travel to San Cristobal de las Casas
There are three main ways to get to San Cristobal de las Casas from Palenque. You can take an overnight bus from the OCC bus terminal in the center of the city, you can take a van from one of the companies around Palenque like Tulum Transportadora Turistica, or you can fly. While of course the bus and van options are much cheaper (Anywhere from $15-$25 one way), we opted to fly so that we didn’t spend all day (or night) on a bus.
We flew directly from Palenque airport to Tuxtla Gutierrez airport, which is actually called Ángel Albino Corzo International Airport. From there we got a van with the company OCC. In total, it took us about an hour and 45 minutes to fly and take the van. Buses take anywhere from six to eight hours and vans take about five and a half hours.
If you’re looking for a good place to stay in San Cristobal de las Casas, I recommend this Airbnb where stayed. It was close to the center of town, but in a quieter neighborhood. The people who ran it couldn’t have been nicer, and it was a really reasonable price.
If you do decide to fly from Palenque to Tuxtla Gutierrez, I highly recommend booking yourself a roundtrip bus ticket with OCC while you’re at the airport. It’s actually cheaper to book them both at once and there are only a few every day, so you don’t want to risk having them booked out and being forced to take an expensive taxi.
Day 5 – Explore San Cristobal de las Casas
I wrote a full post about all of my favorite things to do in and around San Cristobal de las Casas, including the best restaurants and bars to check out which you can read here:
What to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas
You can easily spend a week in the town alone explore the little side streets and relaxing in different cafes. There isn’t actually a ton to do IN the town, but there is a lot to see in the surrounding area.
Day 6 – Sumidero Canyon
This was one of my favorite days during my entire trip to Chiapas. Sumidero Canyon is absolutely stunning and easily accessed with a day tour from San Cristobal de las Casas. It’s actually easier and cheaper to take a tour rather than to try and go it alone, so just sit back in the van and enjoy the trip.
I recommend going with the tour company Tours Por Chiapas. They are located right next to La Viña de Bacco, the popular wine bar on the main street of San Cristobal.
I wrote a full post about what you can expect from a tour of Sumidero Canyon, what to bring, how much it should cost, and it’s also filled with plenty of photos that show what a stunning canyon is really is. I also give you some advice for getting their on your own if you really don’t want to take a tour. You can check that out here:
Sumidero Canyon: Everything You Need to Know
Day 7 – Cycle or Horseback Ride Around San Cristobal de las Casas
After yesterday’s tour, you’ll want to relax for a day. Sleep in, then head into the center of town and rent a bike or head out on a guided horseback ride. One of the best places to go is San Juan Chamula. It’s a gorgeous town about an hour away by horse, probably about an hour and a half away by bicycle.
It’s a Pueblo Magico, a designation given to towns around Mexico that demonstrate a certain level of history and culture that make it worth visiting. The main reason to visit though, is the church. The outside of the church of San Juan de Chamula seems plain enough, but the inside is something very different.
Where you would usually find pews there is nothing but dried pine needles on the floor. It smells of incense, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where the smell was coming from. On days when they have services, you’ll see men in long tunics and people carrying long white candles through the church. It’s a very beautiful and peaceful place.
Before heading home for the evening, stop into Tours Por Chiapas and book your tour for tomorrow.
Day 8 – El Chiflon and Lagunas de Montebello
This is a long day, but is definitely worth it if you want to see more of Chiapas and it’s incredible natural beauty. You get picked up around 8am and drive about two hours to El Chiflon waterfalls. I thought this was just going to be a little waterfall before the main event at Lagunas de Montebello, but actually this was the best part of the day in my opinion.
When you get to El Chiflon, you are given two hours to explore. There are guides which are free (obviously they expect a tip at the end), but they only spoke Spanish, so we headed up the trail without a guide. We stopped at different lookouts and after about 50 minutes, we were at the top of the trail looking out over a HUGE waterfall.
I haven’t seen a waterfall this tall and powerful anywhere else in Mexico. I enjoyed the trail which was steep, but there were paved steps and plenty of places to stop and rest along the way. Like most tourist attractions in Mexico, there were plenty of stalls there selling juice, water, beer, and snacks.
I highly recommend trying some sugar cane juice. On the two hour drive to El Chiflon, you’ll pass by tons of sugar cane fields, so it’s nice to be able to sample the juice that is so close to the source. It tasted a lot different to sugar cane juice that I’ve had in Asia, but I still really enjoyed it.
After leaving El Chiflon, we stopped off for lunch, then headed south to almost the border with Guatemala. Lagunas de Montebello is a national park with five different lakes. We were able to stop at different lookouts and had the option of taking a ride on a small boat out onto one of the lakes.
Day 9 – Walk or Hike in El Arcotete
This park is about 15 minutes from the center of San Cristobal de las Casas and is easily accessible by taxi. I mention how to get there and back in this article about Things to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas.
There are caves to explore, you can go ziplining, or you can take a boat ride on the river that cuts through the park. It’s easy to spend the entire afternoon in the silence of this park. It’s not super popular, so you can have a lot of the trails all to yourself.
Enjoy a few drinks on your last night in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Day 10 – Grab Some Souvenirs and Head Home
One of my favorite places to wander for souvenirs was the craft market outside of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. There are so many scarves, blankets, shirts, shoes, and bracelets to try on, you’ll struggle to pick just one of each! You can haggle a little bit on the price, especially if you do end up buying more than one of each, but they won’t go too low.
On our last day, we stopped at all of our favorite spots – lunch at El Lechon Coleto, coffee at El Carajillo, and a few wines at La Viña de Bacco. Then we headed back to the OCC bus terminal and got a 6pm bus to the airport. There was no traffic at this time and we made it back to the airport with plenty of time to check in for our 8pm flight back to Mexico City.
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