8 Special Day Trips from San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico
San Cristobal de las Casas is a “Magic Pueblo,” or Pueblo Mágico located in Chiapas Mexico. This colorful and picturesque city is nestled in the mountains, surrounded by some of Mexico’s most spectacular and untouched scenery. The best part is many naturally, historical, and cultural gems are close enough to be done as day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas.
Not far from this up and coming Mexico destination, lies a lush jungle that has overtaken some of the Mayans most significant cities, find tiered waterfalls around every twisting roadway, and turquoise lakes that look as if they were stolen out of a promotional pamphlet for Europe.
Some of these day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas are long and full days, but the reward of experiencing some of Mexico’s most hidden gems are worth it.
On top of the diverse landscapes, Chiapas is home to a strong well-rooted Indigenous population. Many of the communities still practice traditions that have been passed down from the times of the Mayans. These villages produce beautiful artisanal goods and allow us a brief snapshot into a time almost forgotten. Some of the best day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas are visiting these special villages.
Here are 8 of the best day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas and a few alternative options to explore beyond the day trips.
Table of Contents
- San Cristobal de las Casas Chiapas
- How to Get to San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico
- San Cristobal de las Casas Tours vs. Independent Travel
- Easy Day Trips from San Cristobal de las Casas
- Long Day Trips from San Cristobal de las Casas
- Beyond the Day Trips | Road Trip Chiapas Mexico
- Final Thoughts | The Best Day Trips from San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas Chiapas
With so many awesome things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, this place definitely be on your Mexico bucket-list. The vibrant city is a delight to explore and is one of the four Chiapas Pueblos Magicos. From its twisting cobblestone streets, multiple inviting plazas, diverse markets, and colorful neighborhoods, San Cristobal de las Casas is definitely worth a visit!
There is an ambitious foodie culture on the rise and an extensive list of rooftop patios to enjoy a cocktail with a spectacular birds-eye city view.
The free walking tour is the best way to discover the city and the company is working with small local businesses that are doing good for the community. Wander the city and look for progressive street art. There’s a huge women’s revolution, and is birthing right here in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Sample the drink Pox, a strong sugarcane liquor that is used for ceremonial purposes. Before adventuring out on one of these day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas, make sure to delve deep into this enchanting city.
Hotels San Cristobal de las Casas
There are a wide range of hotels in San Cristobal de las Casas for every budget type.
On more of a budget and want to try something a little cheaper than these San Cristobal de las Casas hotels? These are a few of my favorite San Cristobal de las Casa hostels.
Best Hostels San Cristobal de las Casas
How to Get to San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico
San Cristobal de las Casas is a special place, but it can feel pretty isolated and far from the rest of Mexico.
One of the most popular routes to reach San Cristobal de las Casas is on a night bus from foodie haven City of Oaxaca. The bus company ADO is the most popular long distant bus company and the company of choice when traveling to San Cris. With San Cristobal’s mountain location, the ride is long on a twisting road.
Psst… Don’t miss these awesome places to visit in Oaxaca State
Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas via Bus
🚌 Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas Bus Logistics | Bus Company: ADO | Catch the buses in Oaxaca here: 5 de Mayo 1016, Barrio de Jalatlaco | Average Online Ticket Price: $550 pesos ($27.75 USD) | Duration: 12 hours | Current departure times: 21:00, 22:30 | Purchase online tickets here
Guatamala to Mexico Border Crossing
Many backpackers leave Guatamala and enter Mexico via Chiapas. A popular border crossing is in the tiny village of Tziscao, close to the Montebello Lakes National Park, which can be one of longer day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas.
San Cristobal de las Casas Tours vs. Independent Travel
One of the biggest decision is not which day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas you wish to take, but how to get there. There are many tours from San Cristobal de las Casas, but there are almost many collectivos, shared vans, taxis, or buses to reach these popular day trips without a tour.
Chiapas is Mexico’s most rugged and wild state. Almost all of the communities are territorial about their natural and historical resources. This can be intimidating if you don’t speak Spanish well, or are traveling more off-the-beaten-path.
People always ask if Chiapas is safe. Personally, I never felt unsafe while visiting Chiapas, but the state is oftentimes misunderstood and that can be intimidating. Most of the villages have their own laws, many which openly admit that the police or government officials are not welcomed there. Travelers should take caution and keep up to date on the regional Chiapas rebellion.
For the most up to date information, check in with the Facebook Page: Noticias Incómodas Chiapas
Oftentimes, it’s a lot easier and surprisingly cheaper to take a San Cristobal de las Casas tour, rather than reach the destination on your own. A perfect example of this is Sumidero Canyon, which is far cheaper and more convenient to reach with a tour from San Cristobal de las Casas.
This guide about day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas utilizes a mix of tours and public transportation tips. Look for all independent travel tips in green boxes.
Easy Day Trips from San Cristobal de las Casas
These are the most popular and easiest day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas.
- Feel small on a boat through the mind-blowing Sumidero Canyon, or Cañón del Sumidero.
- Wander through the “pueblo magico” of Chiapa de Corzo.
- Observe the ancient rituals of the Indigenous village of San Juan Chamula.
- Be invited into the homes of the artisanal weavers of Zinacantan Indigenous village and see and purchase their beautiful textiles.
- Appreciate the tranquil nature surrounding San Cristobal de las Casas in an Ecopark like El Arcotete.
Sumidero Canyon | Cañón del Sumidero
The most popular day trip from San Cristobal de las Casa is the otherworldly Sumidero Canyon National Park (Cañón del Sumidero). The canyon can be explore two ways, either by car to admire the vistas from above, or by hopping in a shared boat that speeds through the scenic gorge. If taking a tour, there’s a chance to combine both as a very long and full day trip from San Cristobal de las Casas.
It is possible to access Sumidero Canyon via public transportation; however, it is cheaper and easier to reach with an organized tour. Once you reach the canyon, you must pay for a wristband and wait for a boat to fill and depart. Hence, this is why a tour to Sumidero Canyon makes a little more sense.
Cañón del Sumidero Logistics | Average Boat Tour Price: $350 pesos ($17.50 USD) | Boat Fare Without a Tour: $270 pesos ($13.50) | Standard tours include round trip transportation to the canyon and the option to add on the viewpoints
Chiapa de Corzo
Chiapa de Corzo is a popular village close to San Cristobal de las Casas, and an alternative gateway town to reach Sumidero Canyon by boat for independent travelers. Most day trips from San Cristobal de las Casa include an hour break to explore the village after sailing through the Cañón del Sumidero.
Chiapa de Corzo is one of Chiapas pueblos magicos. The small town boasts a large and beautiful plaza, a bustling public market, and the Exconvento de Santo Domingo, which houses a small museum. There are some abandoned ruins just on the outskirt of town.
Make sure to walk all the way down 5 de Febrero to the river. This street is filled with local artisans selling typical products from the region. Look for the beautiful traditional black dresses lined with colorful flowers, available to purchase for women, children, and dolls alike.
Along the river are boats that embark to Sumidero Canyon. If you’ve already visited the gorge, grab lunch at one of many riverside restaurants, food stalls, or cafes.
San Juan Chamula
There’s a wee bit of a controversial buzz around the small Indigenous village of San Juan Chamula. The church here is famous for its unique chicken sacrifice rituals, which have put it on intrepid and curious traveler’s bucket-lists. What happens inside this church is a unique mixture of Catholicism and ancient rituals that have been passed down from times well before the Mayan Empire.
The church is dimly lit, filled with candles, and the ground covered in hay. Healers chant, chickens and people cry, all while the inscence burn. Families pray together and drink Pox chased down with Coca-Cola. The brown soda is used to help burp out evil spirits. A somber walk through the San Juan de Chamula church feels like transcending time.
Another reason to visit San Juan de Chamula is the bustling and authentic local Sunday Market. On this “Holy Day,” all of the main streets turn into a lively market place. Many of the nearby communities come into this village to do their weekly shopping all while wearing their one-of-a-kind traditional clothing.
The outfits are beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It is a must to be a spectator in the main plaza. Here, it’s possible to watch the men of the nearby villages meet in discuss regional business. Their methods are interesting and include a ceremonial parade through town.
San Juan Chamula also has a unique cemetery on the outskirts of town. The mounds of earth are lined with hundreds of crosses, all encircling a crumbling and abandoned church. Find offerings of empty bottles and flowers on top of the earthy tombs.
San Juan Chamula is one of the best and most authentic day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas.
How to Get to San Juan Chamula Chiapas
🚐 San Cristobal de las Casas to San Juan Chamula | Catch the Collectivos here: Calle Honduras 8, Barrio de Mexicanos | Cost: $18 pesos (90¢) | Duration: 30 minutes
There are multiple San Cristobal de las Casas tours that depart daily. Due to the market, Sunday is the best day to visit San Juan Chamula. Since the people here are superstitious, less chicken sacrifices are performed on Wednesdays.
Zinacantan Village | Zinacantán
Zinacantan is another Indigenous village close to San Cristobal de las Casas and San Juan Chamula. This village is known for their incredible weaving and textile abilities. The typical clothing here is very different, and all of the locals, including the men, wear bright pink and purple outfits. The distinct Zinacantan textiles are worth the trip to this small village.
To get an up close and personal experience, wander into the artisan’s homes that are producing these specific Zinacantan textiles. Women are often found weaving together using tedious techniques all done by hand. Find the items for sale in their homes, or in one of the many markets in town.
The main church also warrants a quick pit-stop. The alters are decorated with hundreds of beautiful flowers and intricate animal carvings on the alters. In the village on Sunday mornings before 9, there is an impressive flower market in the center of town.
How to Get to Zinacantan Village
🚐 San Cristobal de las Casas to Zinacantán | Catch the Collectivos here: Calle Honduras 8A, 14 de Septiembre | Cost: $22 pesos ($1) | Duration: 30 minutes
Zinacantan and San Juan Chamula can be visited as a full day trip from San Cristobal de las Casas independently or as part of a guided tour.
El Arcotete Ecopark
With San Cris snuggled so nicely into the mountains, there are plenty of options to enjoy tranquil places. The city is lined with Ecoparks and natural spaces including caves to explore and rivers to splash around in.
One of the closest and most popular day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas is El Arcotete Ecopark. This small park includes a peaceful river walk that leads to a big open cave. Here, find picnic tables, trails, and lovely scenery. For an additional fee it’s possible to explore with a park guide the cave system of El Arcotete.
El Arcotete Ecopark Logistics | Entrance Fee: 10 Pesos (50¢) | Entrance Fee for enclosed caves: 15 pesos (75¢) | Last collectivos departs from the park at 18:00 (10 pesos)
El Arcotete isn’t too far from the city and is walkable, but the best option is to take a collectivo from the city.
🚐 Collectivos to El Arcotete Ecopark | Cost: 10 Pesos (50¢) | Look for collectivos with green writing to Arcotete | Wave them down on the main road to Arcotete or across from Frontera Restaurant
Long Day Trips from San Cristobal de las Casas
Below find some of the longer day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas. Many of these popular sites are offered by San Cristobal de las Casas tour agencies. In fact, many of these sites can be combined in a full day, like El Chiflon and Lagunas de Montebello, or Palenque and Agua Azul Waterfalls.
💬 Real Talk | These long day trips from San Cristobal de las Casa are just that…. LONG. Most of the tour is spent in the car, reaching the destination. For example, Palenque as a day trip leaves at 4 a.m. and returns almost at 11:00 p.m. Also, Lagunas de Montebello is almost 7 hours in a car. To get the most of your time in Palenque, opt to sleep a night or two in Palenque. Also, Lagunas de Montebello has lots of sleeping options around Lago Tziscao.
Long Day Trips from San Cristobal de las Casas Highlights
- Gawk at the mighty El Chiflon Waterfall.
- Explore the turquoise blue lakes of Lagunas de Montebello National Park.
- Wander through the magnificent Mayan ruins of Palenque Archaeological Park.
- Discover diverse Chiapas waterfalls.
El Chiflon Waterfall
The Chiflon Waterfall is an ecotourism center that offers a hiking path which leads to the stunning Cascadas el Chiflón. Along the route it’s possible to walk down towards the river and appreciate a few smaller waterfalls. In Chiflon Ecopark there are many picnic areas that line the river, tiendas selling snacks, and simple restaurants serving fast food.
Besides wandering the trails and soaking in the tranquility, one of the more popular things to do at Chiflon is to ride the zip-line. For an additional fee, cruise above one of Chiapas best waterfall.
Climb to the top observatory deck to feel the misty water spritz upon your face. There are multiple spots to appreciate the views! Be careful, the wooden stairs are slippery.
Cascades el Chiflón Logistics | Admission Ticket: $50 pesos ($2.50 USD) | Hours: 8:00 – 17:30 | Find it here: Google Map Location
How to Get to El Chiflon Waterfall
El Chiflon is past Comitán and multiple collectivos and buses run to the city. Once there, hop on a collectivo to reach the park gate. Most travelers opt for a tour, which usually includes Chiflon Waterfalls and Montebello Lakes National Park.
Independent travelers can hop on buses serviced by the companies ADO or OCC from the Main Terminal in San Cristobal.
🚐 San Cristobal de las Casas to Comitan | Catch the Buses here: Av Insurgentes 66, Sta Lucia | Average Cost: $60 pesos ($3 USD) | Duration: 2 hours | First bus departs at 7:45, Check the most current bus schedule here | In Comitan catch the collectivos to Chiflon here: Transporte OTEZ | Cost: $30 pesos ($1.50 USD) | Duration: 50 minutes
Lagunas de Montebello | Montebello Lake National Park
Lagunas de Montebello is a National Park that boasts over 50 turquoise blue lakes with some spectacular hiking trails. If exploring as a long day trip, chances are you will only get to visit the most popular lake: Laguna de Montebello.
Lagunas de Montebello National Park Entrance Fee: $50 pesos ($2.50 USD) | Official toll booth: here | Additional Laguna Fees: Laguna Montebello: 25 pesos / Laguna Pojoj: 25 pesos | Make sure to hold onto your original National Park Entrance ticket, it’s checked frequently!
For the fees and the amount of time you get to spend at Montebello National Park, it’s best to sleep at least one night at Lago Tziscao and visit independently.
🏕️ Cabañas Miravalle Tziscao has camping options available for $80 pesos ($4 USD) per person.
Laguna de Montebello has a hiking trail that loops along the lake. For those spending more than a day trip here, it’s possible to rent a small row boat and swim. There are multiple viewpoints along the lake to stop and take pictures. The best hiking trail in the park is found at Laguna Pojoj and is the Cinco Lagos Hike. This trail winds through the forest and offers spectacular views of 5 lakes! Independent travelers should also stop at the lakes in the north of the park near the main entrance.
🚐 Travel Planning | Independent travelers can reach Laguna de Montebello from Comitan via Transporte Montebello | Find the collectivos here in Comitan: Segunda Avenida Pte. Nte. 23
Palenque Archaeological Site
Palenque Archaeological Zone is a highlight of Chiapas and should not be missed. It is one of the longest day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas, but it can be done via a rushed tour. There are buses that run to Palenque, but since they take over 9 hours, a one day trip for independent travelers is impossible.
🚌 San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque | Bus Company: OCC | Average Online Ticket Price: $382 pesos ($18.50 USD) | Duration: over 9 hours | Current departure times: 12:00, 22:15 | Purchase online tickets here
Step back in time to the Mayan ruins that make up Palenque. This site is picturesquely encircled by the lush jungle mountains. Oftentimes, in the early morning, the fog rolls in and covers the site in a mystical haze.
At the height of the Maya Empire, Palenque was one of the most influential sites in the entire Maya Empire. Shockingly, what we see today is only 5% of the once powerful city, the jungle has reclaimed and hidden the rest with unknown secrets and treasures.
Palenque Fees & Logistics | There are TWO Entrance fees | Palenque National Park Entrance Fee: $90 pesos ($4.50 USD) | *Hold onto your admissoin wristband | Palenque Archaeological Site Entrance Fee: $80 pesos ($4) | Hours: 8:30 –17:00, last admission at 16:00 | Museum included in the ticket price, opens later at 10:00 | Official Website
Palenque Archaeological site boasts different political sections and temples. One of the most important structures is the Temple of the Inscriptions. Sacred writings were found in this temple of events that happened up to 1 million years into the past and predictions into the future as far into the year of 4722.
The Palace, also known as “El Palacio” is the centerpiece of the site. Other notable temples includes the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Foliated Cross, and the Temple of the Count that is found close to the exit.
Day trippers will only have time to visit the main highlights of the Palenque ruins. Those who have more time can take an organized jungle walk, or follow a short hiking route, like Sendero Motiepá, which is found close to the main entrance of the Palenque ruins.
➜ Find the perfect place to sleep in Palenque
Agua Azul Waterfalls & Other Chiapas Waterfalls
Almost all of the tours to Palenque Archaeological Site includes a stop at least one waterfall. Usually it is Agua Azul Waterfalls, which is probably the most popular waterfall in all of Chiapas.
Cascada de Agua Azul has almost fallen victim to its own beauty. Today, many vendors have set up multiple stands selling trinkets, souvenirs, and food. The once tranquil path that twisted next to this waterfall is loud and the shops eyesores to the natural beauty.
Cascadas de Agua Azul Logistics | Community Control Fee: $50 pesos ($2.50) | Agua Azul Entrance Fee: $40 pesos ($2)
While Agua Azul is unique in its own right, Misol-ha waterfall and Robert Barrio waterfall have still maintain their natural charm.
💬 Real Talk | In my humble opinion, Agua Azul does not warrant as a stand alone full day trip from San Cris, but rather an add-on if already taking an organized tour, or if staying in Palenque for a few days.
More Than a Day Trip | Take an Unforgettable Road Trip of Chiapas
Chiapas is one of the most diverse states in Mexicos and there is so much to see. Many of the above sites can be explored through an epic Chiapas road trip! Driving through Chiapas allows for a deeper and more immersive experience. This means an opportunity to discover more off-the-beaten sites.
Chiapas road trip highlights include the longer day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas and hidden gems like:
- Chucumaltik Cenote
- Hiking the Cinco Lagos trail in Lagunas de Montebello National Park
- Las Nubes waterfall and the stunning jungle path in the Ecocenter
- Frontera Corozal and the Mayan Ruins of Yaxchilán which you must reach by boat
- Bonampak Archaeological Site
- Cascadas Las Golondrinas, another peaceful Chiapas waterfall
- Hidden waterfalls like Misol-ha and Roberto Barrios Waterfall
Keep in mind, Chiapas is governed by the local communities. Oftentimes the communities patrol sites and ask for entrance fees. There are also many police checkpoints on the route. Intermediate Spanish language skills come in more than handy.
Final Thoughts | Best Day Trips from San Cristobal de Las Casas
In conclusion, these are 8 of the best day trips from the charming mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas. While some of these day trips are short and sweet, others are quite long and cover a vast amount of territory and land travel. In my humble opinion, the longer day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas are better explored over a couple of days at a more relaxed pace for a more in-depth experience.
All of these day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas are diverse with stunning nature like canyons, caves, waterfalls, and lakes. There’s also magical villages (literally) and ancient ruins from the powerful Mayan Empire. The traditional villages that are close to San Cristobal de las Casas allow us a glimpse into the past because they still practice and weave their ancient techniques into the modern times.
Chiapas remains one of Mexico’s best kept secrets.
Have you been to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas Mexico? Did you take any of these day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas? What did you think? Which one was your favorite? Am I missing anything on this list of day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas? Let me know in the comments below!
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