View of a maya temple surrounded by grassy terraces.

Maya ruins in Palenque. Photo © Ruben Charles, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

If you’re visiting Chiapas for the first time and want to be sure to hit all the must-sees, this is the tour for you. It covers a little of everything—Maya ruins, indigenous villages, colonial cities, and some jaw-dropping natural attractions—all in just over two weeks. You won’t need a rental car for most of this trip; with the exception of Aguacero and Sima de las Cotorras (west of Tuxtla Gutiérrez) everything is easily accessible by public transportation or organized tour.

Day 1

Stretch your legs with a stroll through the town of Palenque, ending up at the zocalo (central park), where there’s occasionally live marimba music. Enjoy dinner at Las Tinajas.

Day 2

Spend the day visiting the Palenque Archaeological Zone and museum. It’s not a big site, but many travelers find themselves lingering over it, and the museum is terrific. Have lunch at Mayabell or Café Restaurante Don Mucho in El Panchán, near the entrance to the ruins. That evening, set up tomorrow’s tour of Agua Azul and Misol-Há.

Day 3

Take a tour of the Parque Nacional de Agua Azul and Cascada de Misol-Há waterfalls. You’ll be back by mid-afternoon, leaving time to relax and make arrangements for a tour of Yaxchilán and Bonampak archaeological sites tomorrow.

Day 4

Take an all-day round-trip tour of Yaxchilán and Bonampak Archaeological Zones. It’s a long day, leaving Palenque at 6 a.m. and returning just before dark, but the tour typically includes stops for breakfast and lunch.

Day 5

Catch a bus to San Cristóbal de las Casas. If you enjoy ancient ruins, consider stopping off in Ocosingo to visit Toniná Archaeological Zone, an excellent but little-visited site with a first-rate museum. Stay the night in Ocosingo, or simply stow your bags at the bus station while you see the ruins, then catch a later bus onward to San Cristóbal.

Day 6

Spend the day in San Cristóbal. Favorite sights include La Catedral de San Cristóbal and El Zócalo (the central plaza). Browse the artesanía market at Templo y Ex-Convento de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, admire the amber collection at Museo del Ámbar de Chiapas, and discover Maya medical practices at the Museo de la Medicina Maya.

Day 7

Take a regional tour of the Maya villages of San Juan Chamula, Chiapas’s largest indigenous town, and nearby Zinacantán. You’ll be back in San Cristóbal around 2 p.m., in time for a late lunch and coffee.

Day 8

Catch an early combi to Chiapa de Corzo for a tour of stunning Cañón del Sumidero, one of Chiapas’s most impressive natural wonders. Plan to eat lunch in town, and spend a few hours in the afternoon visiting the colonial structure of La Pila, the Museo de Laca (a lacquerware museum), and other sights before returning to San Cristóbal. Consider heading into Tuxtla Gutiérrez to pick up a rental car.

Day 9

Spend another day touring around San Cristóbal. With a rental car, explore outlying indigenous villages like El Romerillo or Tenejapa.

Day 10

Drive or take a bus to the friendly city of Comitán. Visit the sights around town, including two excellent museums: Museo Arqueológico de Comitán (archaeology) and Museo de Arte Hermila Domínguez de Castellanos (modern art). If you don’t have a car, arrange a tour to Lagunas de Montebello and Tenam Puente the next day.

Day 11

Visit Parque Nacional Lagunas de Montebello, a colorful array of lakes, lagoons, and ponds. Stop to admire the ruins at the Tenam Puente Archaeological Zone, returning to Comitán by late afternoon. Enjoy the evening in town, where there’s usually live music in the zócalo (central plaza).

Day 12

In the morning, visit Cascada El Chiflón, one of the highest and most powerful waterfalls in Chiapas. Make your way to Tuxtla Gutiérrez by the afternoon and rent a car, if you haven’t done so already.

Day 13

Drive to Aguacero waterfall, then backtrack slightly to view the enormous caves and sinkholes at Sima de las Cotorras. Definitely plan to be there between 4 and 5 p.m. so you can watch thousands of cotorras, or green parrots, return to their nests.

Day 14

Get up at 5:30–6 a.m. to see the parrots again, then return to Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Time permitting, consider visiting the ZOOMAT, one of the best zoos in Latin America, or drive the rim of Cañón del Sumidero before returning home.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Chiapas.

Map of the State of Chiapas, Mexico

The State of Chiapas