Let’s be honest: You didn’t come all the way to Chiapas to hang out in a big busy city like Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Home to a half million people, Tuxtla is a world apart from the lush forests, colonial cities, and indigenous villages most travelers associate with Mexico’s most rural state. Tuxtla’s hotels, museums, and architecture are of mostly 20th-century extraction—even the main cathedral, though quite impressive, is a modern revision of the colonial-era original.
But don’t write off Tuxtla altogether! Some of Chiapas’s top sights are just outside the city. They include Cañón del Sumidero, a long winding canyon with jaw-dropping thousand-meter walls; Sima de las Cotorras, a massive sinkhole that’s home to squawking multitudes of green parrots; and beautiful wind-wisped Aguacero waterfall.
The small town of Chiapa de Corzo has several architectural gems, including a gorgeous 16th-century fountain, and a two-week-long festival that draws crowds of visitors. Northwest of Tuxtla is the Ruta Zoque (Zoque Route), a little-traveled loop in the Chiapanecan hinterland that includes low-key towns and terrific colonial churches.
And the city itself is not without its attractions. If you’ve got kids, they’ll love Tuxtla’s great zoo and the huge convivencia infantil, or children’s park. A science museum opened in 2006 and there’s an excellent archaeological museum, albeit rather dated in style. And every night of the week you’ll find a friendly crowd and live marimba music at Parque Marimba, the city’s loveliest spot.
If your jaunt through southern Mexico has left you in need of a big-city fix, whether that means Wal-Mart or a hot shower and HBO at the Camino Real, Tuxtla Gutiérrez is your guilty pleasure. (Don’t worry, no one back home has to know.)
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition