On the outskirts of town, in an area called Arcotete, are two very different but equally memorable sights, which together make for a nice outdoor excursion.
El Arcotete is an impressive natural archway or tunnel, the last remaining segment of an ancient cave system that has otherwise eroded away. Stalactites hang from the soaring roof, and a river spreads into a gentle little pool along the bottom. (The water, oh-so-tempting especially if you walk or ride here, is clean but wickedly cold.)
The arch allegedly got its name from a French soldier named Jean Francois d’Arcotete, who leapt to his death here in despair over a love affair with a woman in San Cristóbal.
Templo Carmen Arcotete, also known as La Quinta or simply La Casita del Obispo (The Bishop’s House), is a lovely chapel perched in a picturesque river valley. The chapel, and the nearby remains of a small mansion and sawmill, date to the 1700s when they served as a private retreat for San Cristóbal’s sitting bishop. The church’s twin bell towers have narrow spiral staircases and are connected by an unusual wooden patio.
Inside, the tiny nave has a distinctive teal-blue floor. The church and home are being restored by the INAH, the national historical institute, so access may be limited until their work is completed, but it remains a charming place to visit.
Getting to Arcotete
The turnoff to Arcotete is about four kilometers from the San Cristóbal city center, on the road to Tenejapa. From there it’s a half kilometer to a second turnoff; here you can follow a dirt road to the right to reach the arch (1.5 kilometers) or continue straight on the paved road to reach the temple (1.5 kilometers). It’s an ideal trip for biking, either solo or on a tour, but also quite nice by car or public transportation.
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition