The laid-back town in Mexico’s southern highlands, San Cristobal De Las Casas is the cultural hub of Southern Mexico. Take a walk along the colorful streets of San Cristobal lined with artisan shops, small cafes, and souvenir stores and you will fall in love with this quaint town!
Many travelers come here for a couple of days, but quickly fall in love with this town and stay longer. Home to many indigenous communities, San Cristobal De Las Casas is a designated Pueblo Magico, which means the town has a great significance in the country’s culture and heritage.
It doesn’t take long to see the magic of San Cristobal De Las Casas 😊
Want to explore more Pueblos Magicos in Mexico? There are 132 of them and you can easily find them in popular states like Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Oaxaca. This article provides a complete guide to the best pueblos magicos in Mexico and provides helpful tips on how to visit them.
Whether you want to sip hot chocolate, tour local museums, take countless road trips from San Cristobal De Las Casas to explore the natural scenery of Chaiaps, there are too many things to do in San Cristobal De Las Casas to pass it up.
Why you should visit San Cristobal De Las Casas
San Cristobal is also a popular stop for travelers who are looking to continue their travel to Central America. From here, you can catch a shuttle bus to many popular destinations in Guatemala such as Antigua and Panajachel.
So let me take you on a quick virtual tour of this town that has quickly become one of my favorite places in Mexico!
Best Hotels in San Cristobal De Las Casas
San Cristobal De Las Casas is known as a backpacker hub, since many people who travel across Mexico visit this city for at least a couple of days. San Cristobal De Las Casas has a good variety of hostels and medium-priced accommodations, but there are also quite a few high-end hotels in the city’s center.
To find budget friendly hotels in San Cristobal De Las Casas, check Agoda.com, the best website for great deals on hotels.
Hotel Bo is one of the most popular places to stay in San Cristobal De Las Casas that has a great location and an on-site restaurant. Another great place to saty is Hotel Alma Boutique and Spa that gets great reviews from its customers thanks to its beautiful setting, nice restaurant and bar. Casa La Ying is one of the best budget hotels in the heart of San Cristobal
A quick note on hotels in San Cristobal De Las Casas
Chiapas sits at an elevation of over 7,200 feet and it can get chilly here at night especially during winter. Many hotels in San Cristobal De Las Casas don’t have heaters, so it’s a good idea to bring some layers if you plan on spending a couple of nights here.
Renting a car for your trip to San Cristobal De Las Casas
Chiapas is a mountainous and rugged state with many remote autonomous communities. It has a well-established travel route, however, some roads can be long and challenging. While a stay in San Cristobal De Las Casas doesn’t warrant renting a car since the city can be explored on foot, some travelers rent cars to explore the surrounding areas.
Rent a car in San Cristobal De Las Casas only if you know the area and travel with at least one other person.
Is driving safe in Chiapas?
While San Cristobal De Las Casas is mostly safe for visitors, driving in Chiapas comes with some caveats. For example, part of the road between Ocosingo and San Cristobal has history of road blocks that had been put up by local communities. The state of Chiapas has a history of clashes with the government and some communities in the state don’t recognize official government of the country to this day.
If you rent a car to explore Chiapas, limit driving to day time and don’t stop in secluded areas with no traffic. Be ready for check points organized by locals where they ask drivers to pay money to be able to move forward.
Additionally, fill up your car if you plan to explore remote waterfalls, and areas away from the beaten track. Cell phone serve is sporadic in remote parts of Chiapas and you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank.
Things to do in San Cristobal De Las Casas
1. Take a free walking tour of San Cristobal De Las Casas
Like many other cities in Mexico, San Cristobal De Las Casas offers free daily walking tours of the city. Take this tour as soon you arrive in San Cristobal De Las Casas – this way you will be able to learn about the city and make a list of places that you are most interested in. Be sure to leave a gratuity to your guide, because they work hard every day to help travelers like you have the best experience in their city.
2. Explore Zocalo and Plaza De La Paz
After you are done with the tour, it’s time to take a break and take in the special atmosphere of San Cristobal De Las Casas. And there’s no better way to do it than Zocalo, the city’s main square where you can find the temple of San Nicholas, the city hall, and many other important buildings.
Nearby, Plaza De La Paz, the city’s main square is anchored by the San Cristobal Cathedral. During the daytime, this plaza is a great place to relax and people watch and on weekends, you can find hundreds of artisans selling their crafts here.
3. Take a walk on Andador Eclesiastico
The most happening street of San Cristobal De Las Casas, Calle Eclesiastico is home to many bars, restaurants, cafes, and many musicians who come here to entertain the many tourists who come here. At the end of this cobblestoned walkway, you will find the bright red Arco Del Carmen, and Carmen Temple right next to it.
One of the best-hidden gems along this street is San Agustin Plaza Food Court where you and find several cute coffee shops, cafes, and pizzerias.
4. Sip on hot chocolate (or coffee)
Chiapas boasts rich volcanic soil that produces some of the best coffee in the world. This means the state is one of the top coffee producers not only in Mexico but also in the entire world! Make sure to try this signature drink in one of San Cristobal De Las Casas cafes.
FUN FACT: When we think about some of the most famous chocolate-producing countries, Switzerland or Belgium probably come to mind. Andy. It’s Mexico that is considered the birthplace of chocolate!
5. Climb up to Iglesia San Cristobalito
Perched atop the forested hill overlooking the city, Iglesia San Cristbalito is one of the most prominent churches in San Cristobal De Las Casas. To see this church, you will need to go up a series of stairs before you can enjoy an overlook of the city. If you come here early morning, you will see that more people come to exercise and relax, as there are few visitors during this time.
After taking some photos of the church, make your way down and make a left turn. This road will take you to Iglesia de la Merced, one of the most photogenic churches in San Cristobal De Las Casas and nearby Ambar Museum.
6. Shop at Mercado Artesanias
Mercado de Artesanias in San Cristobal De Las Casas is the best place to buy local arts and crafts at affordable rates. Here you can find traditional Chapaneco textiles and clothing, shoes, and tons and tons of cute accessories such as bracelets, earrings, and necklaces made by local artisans. Shopping at this market was one of my favorite things to do in San Cristobal De Las Casas, and I recommend you check it out too!
A quick walk from Mercado de Artesanias is Mercado Municipal where you can find fresh fruits, veggies, flowers, and tons of other goods. Visiting these Mercados is a great way to get a glimpse into the local Tzotzil community – the most predominant ethnic group in the state of Chiapas.
7. Admire Santo Domingo Church
A former Dominican Monastery, Santo Domingo Church is hidden behind rows of colorful stalls at Mercado De Artesanias. To get a better look at this 16-century Baroque church, take a step back and you will notice its gorgeous ornate facade with intricate details. Unfortunately, the church is no longer open after the government closed because of earthquakes in the area, however, you can still admire a neat botanic garden in its courtyard.
8. Take a trip to San Juan Chamula
Home to the indigenous Tzotzil Maya community, San Juan Chamula is one of the popular places to visit near San Cristobal De Las Casas. The main attraction of this village is the colorful church (aka Templo de San Juan) that dominates the main square, along with a big local market where local vendors sell everything from fresh produce to clothing and household items.
Here, you can see people dress in traditional indigenous costumes and living a different way of life: San Juan Chamula has proclaimed itself an autonomous community which means Mexican police and army are not allowed to enter.
Why San Juan Chamula is worth a visit
Walk around Chamula and you will notice that religion plays an important role in the lives of its people. Chamula’s religion is unlike anything you’ve ever seen: a mix of ancient Mayna believes and Catholicism where the central figure in San Juan (or Saint John Baptist) after whom this town is named.
To experience this fascinating phenomenon, head to Templo de San Juan where you can observe people sitting on the floor as they pray to the colorful statues of saints. You will see many candles burning on the stone floor – they represent requested made to specific saints.
FUN FACT: Local people use Coca-Cola for ceremonial purposes, as they believe that burping helps to get the evil spirits out. You can see this unusual ritual inside the church as many families use it during praying rituals.
This blend of two religions represents the history of the town that had been forced to live under Spanish rule for several centuries while still practicing traditional Mayan beliefs.
You are not allowed to take pictures inside the church and can face a steep fine (up to 200 USD) if caught taking photos. Remember that mental notes are always the best. Before entering the church, you will be asked to pay a fee of 30 Mexican Pesos.
San Juan Chamula from San Cristobal De Las Casas
San Juan Chamula is about 11 miles (7 kilometers) away from San Cristobal De Las Casas.
You can visit it with a guided tour where a local guide will tell you an overview of the area and tell you about the meaning of ceremonies that take place inside the church – keep in mind that some of them involve sacrificing chickens, so if you are like me, you might want to be more careful about the timing of your visit not to experience the distressing sight.
Another option is to catch a collectivo from the main market in San Cristobal. The one-way ticket costs 20 Pesos.
GOOD TO KNOW: When you walk around Chamula, you might hear crackling fireworks being set off in the hills surrounding the town. Don’t get scared: This is done for religious reasons and nothing to be afraid of.
9. Take a day trip from San Cristobal De Las Casas
If you look at the map of the state of Chiapas, you will notice that San Cristobal De Las Casas sits right in the middle of it. This means that you are within a drivable distance from some of the most gorgeous places to visit in Chiapas – and let me tell you, there are so many of them!
If are going to spend some time in San Cristobal De Las Casas, set aside a few days to tour some of the best places in Chiapas. Taking a day trip is one of the best things to do in San Cristobal De Las Casas, as it will help you to learn the history and culture of the region.
One of the most impressive Mayan ruins in Mexico, Palenque is an archaeological area near the namesake town. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palenque is a popular stop along many travelers’ itineraries, and there are a couple of ways to get here.
The easiest way to visit Palenque from San Cristobal De Las Casas is by taking a guided tour. Many tour companies offer daily tours of Palenque and also include stops at waterfalls Agua Azul and Misol-Ha.
Another way is to take a colectivo (a small shared van) from San Cristobal De Las Casas to the town of Palenque. This is a better option if you are traveling around Mexico and have more time because you will need to book a hotel in Palenque and also catch a colectivo to Palenque ruins from the main bus station in town.
El Canyon De Sumidero
One of the most impressive natural sights in Mexico, El Canyon de Sumidero is located a short drive from Tuxtla Guttierez. Designated as the national park, El Canyon De Sumidero boasts walls that rise 2,600 feet.Tours to El Canyon De Sumidero depart daily from San Cristobal De Las Casas and Tuxtla Guttierez and you can also make your reservation online to save time.
Lagunas De Montebello National Park
Straddling the border between Guatemala and Mexico, Lagunas de Montebello National Park is home to more than 50 lakes and small lagoons where colors range from cobalt blue to light turquoise. Many visitors come here with a day tour from San Cristobal, however, you don’t need a tour to visit this destination, as you can spend the night in one of the cabanas on the lake. This is a great option if you have a car and at least a couple of days, since this is a huge national park and is quite a distance away from San Cristobal.
Cascadas El Chiflon
One of the most famous iconic sights in Chiapas, El Chflon Waterfalls is one of those places that you have to visit while in San Cristobal De Las Casas. Many guided tours of Lagunas De Montebello from San Cristobal make stops in Cascadas El Chiflon, so if time is short and you want to visit both of these places, purchasing an organized tour is an excellent option.
San Lorenzo Zinacantan
Another Tzotzil village, San Lorenzo Zinacantan is known mostly for its weaving cooperatives where local artisans produce traditional clothing with flower patterns – an important player in the local economy. Visiting Zinacantan is a great trip from San Cristobal De Las Casas if you want to see weaving artisans in action and grab some colorful presents for your friends and family back home.
10. Explore the churches of San Cristobal De Las Casas
San Cristobal has many colorful churches that are worth a stop. There are almost a dozen of them here, so make sure to visit a couple of them during your visit. Going around to photograph the churches in San Cristobal is the best way to learn this city because they are located in many different neighborhoods.
- Templo De San Diego (beautiful church with white and blue colors)
- Templo De La Merced (home to Ambar museum)
- San Nicolas Temple
- Guadalupe Church (one of the most popular churches in San Cristobal with some of the best views of the city)
11. Visit museums of San Cristobal De Las Casas
As the cultural capital of Chiapas, San Cristobal De Las Casas has several museums that are worth visiting during your trip.
- The Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya – arguably the best museum in town, highlighting textile production throughout Mexico and Central America. Price: 55 Mexican Pesos
- The Museo de Ambar de Chiapas – is a small museum that provides education about amber from the state of Chiapas. Price: 25 Mexican Pesos.
- Museo De Sergio Arturo Castro Martinez – this museum is home to a collection of items that have been donated by people from local villages to Don Sergio as gratitude after he helped numerous burn victims. Burns remains common in the area because of open fires.
- Museo Del Cacao – The museum provides a look into the history of chocolate and its use by local communities. Here you can also learn about the process of making chocolate from growing the crop to producing the delicious substance as we know it. Also on-site, you can find a small cafe.
- Museo de Los Altos de Chiapas – located inside the Ex-Convento de Santo Domingo, this museum is home to several archeological relics and exhibits documenting the conquest and spread of the Catholic religion by Spaniards.
12. Get a panoramic view of the city from Guadalupe Church
Located on the hilltop above the Barrio De Guadalupe Neighborhood, Iglesia de Guadalupe or Guadalupe Church is a quick walk from the center of San Cristobal. Be prepared though because the stairs leading to the entrance of the church are pretty steep and can take a few minutes. When you arrive at this yellow and white church, you will be rewarded with incredible views of the city below.
The church was built in 1834 and has since become one of the most iconic landmarks of San Cristobal De Las Casas, so make sure not to miss it!
The church was built in 1834 and has since become one of the most iconic landmarks of San Cristobal De Las Casas, so make sure not to miss it!
13. Eat your way around San Cristobal De Las Casas
Exploring local restaurants is one of the best things to do in San Cristobal De Las Casas, if you are a foodie.
As a vegan, I was especially surprised by all the plant-based options which is not always the case in some destinations. You can visit different restaurants in San Cristobal every night and still have a lot of options left by the time you finish your trip. To help you choose some of the best options, I put together a quick list of the best restaurants in San Cristobal.
Best restaurants in San Cristobal De Las Casas
Te Quiero Verde – one of the best vegan restaurants in San Cristobal De Las Casas, Te Quero Verde offers a wide variety of plant-based Mexican food such as tacos, quesadillas and burritos. As a vegan, I absolutely loved this place!
El Caldera – This small eatery serves up delicious warm soups which are perfect considering that Chiapas can get pretty chilly! Head there to try some signature Mexican soup (they have vegan options too) and snack on delicious tortillas, salsas, and a variety of dips.
La Frontera – A small brunch eatery that offers delicious homemade food, freshly brewed coffee, and juices. La Frontera is tucked into the backstreets of Chiapas away from the main tourist areas, and it has a nice cozy feel to it.
Veganos La Taquieria – if you are craving nothing more than vegan tacos or burritos, check out Veganos La Taquieria, a small unpretentious eatery a few blocks away from Zocalo.
La Vina De Baco – A popular restaurant well known for its selection of wines and tapas. Located along Real De Guadalupe, this restaurant has live music and a great atmosphere.
Tipica – for a taste of delicious Mexican food, check out Tipica, a vegetarian-friendly restaurant.
14. Visit Mercado Municipal
When you visit Mercado Artesanal, you might feel like it exists solely to sell things to tourists.
If you want to see a more authentic place, head to Mercado Municipal, a local market where tourists are far and few in between, and the majority of visitors are locals. This is an excellent way to learn more about traditional cooking ingredients from Chiapas and sample some of the local foods sold here. Visiting this market is one of the best things to do in San Cristobal De Las Casas, if you want a more authentic experience, as the rest of the city can feel pretty touristy at times.
15. Relax at Arcotete Eco Park
For the ultimate adventure check out El Arcotete Eco Park (or Parque Ecoturistico del Arcotete) located about 15 minutes away from Guadalaupe Church by car or colectivo. This natural park is home to a cool arch with many caverns and rivers flowing right through. It’s a popular getaway from the city with many visitors coming here to spend time in nature, zipline, and hike.
16. Learn local history at Casa Na Bolom
Translated as “House of Jaguar” from Tzotzil Casa Na Bolom is home to a cool museum that showcases the history and culture of Chiapas through textiles and historical records. This popular landmark used to be home of archeologist Frans Bolom and his wife, Gertrude Duby Bolom, who are known for their contributions to excavating Mayan ruins all over the Yucatan Peninsula and documentation of Chiapas’ Lacandon Jungle.
Today Casa Na Bolom houses a museum, a cafe and a non-profit with a mission is to protect the natural environment of Chiapas. Museum prices: 60 Mexican Pesos per person and 70 Pesos with a guided tour. The museum is open from 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Casa Na Bolom also has a hotel, so if you are looking for a quiet and cozy place to stay while in Chiapas, consider a stay at this place.
17. Unplug at Huitepec Ecological Reserve
Located in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Huitepec Ecological Reserve is home to Cerro Huitepec, an extinct volcano that can be visited on a half-day trip from San Cristobal De Las Casas. Translated as “mountains of colibries” from the indigenous language Nahuatl, Cerro Huitepec is a stratovolcano which means you will not see a crater when you come here. Local indigenous communities still bring offerings to Cerro Huitepec as they consider it a sacred mountain.
The main attraction of this area is the cloud forest, and hiking around the volcano feels a lot more like hiking the mountain. The northeastern side of the mountain was designated as a reserve in 1986 to prevent logging in the area. As you walk through this scenic reserve, you can hear many birds who call this place home. The entrance fee to the preserve is 20 Mexican Pesos. No camping is allowed.
To get to Huitepec Ecological Reserve from San Cristobal De Las Casas, take a bus to San Juan Chamula and ask to make a stop at the reserve. These collectivos depart from the main market in San Cristobal De Las Casas in front of Santo Domingo Church and cost less than 10-15 Mexican Pesos.
Frequently asked questions about San Cristobal De Las Casas
How to get to San Cristobal De Las Casas?
San Cristobal De Las Casas is the most popular city with travelers in Chiapas.
Most visitors arrive in San Cristobal De Las Casas via Tuxtla Guttierez, the capital of Chiapas that has an international airport with connections from major destinations in Mexico City such as Cancun, Oaxaca de Juarez, and Mexico City. No international flights serve Tuxtla Guttierez as of right now.
The distance between Tuxtla Guttierez and San Cristobal De Las Casas is 45 km (28 miles).
However, you can also arrive in San Cristobal by bus from many cities across Mexico. Both Tuxtla Guttierez and San Cristobal De Las Casas have bus terminals that provide connections to many destinations across the country. For example, if you are traveling from Chiapas to Oaxaca (or the other way around), you can catch a bus from the main bus station in San Cristobal.
Best time to visit San Cristobal De Las Casas
Chiapas is a beautiful destination year-round, however, the city’s location in the mountains is a factor that you should take into consideration when planning your visit here. The wet season in San Cristobal De Las Casas lasts from June through October and is considered a low season since many tourists skip this destination due to the frequent rains.
This, however, could be a great opportunity for a savvy traveler, if you want to save on tours and hotels in San Cristobal, as they are generally cheaper during this time. In addition, precipitation tends to be sporadic, with most of the rain taking place in the afternoon and lasting only for a couple of hours (sometimes even less).
The dry season in San Cristobal De Las Casas
The dry season in San Cristobal lasts from November through mid-May and is the busiest time in the area when scores of domestic and international tourists visit the region. In addition, temperatures begin to drop during this time, as the cold front moves in, and it’s not uncommon to see temperatures drop in the 40’s at night during winter months.
The best time to visit Chiapas is in November. The rain is gone, the weather is mild and (typically) sunny, and it’s not too busy yet. I visited San Cristobal in November and had a great time on my trip!
Is San Cristobal De Las Casas safe for visiting?
Safety is one of the top questions that I often get from fellow travelers when I recommend San Cristobal De Las Casas. San Cristobal De Las Casas has avoided the drug violence that has been plaguing some other parts of Mexico. However, the state of Chiapas has a history of anti-government movements and local militia have blocked some roads around the state as a form of protest in the past.
Although San Cristobal is generally safe, make sure to always keep your guard up, especially while walking around busy areas with a lot of foot traffic. To be on the safe side, consider buying insurance for your trip to Mexico. World Nomads is a great option that will protect you in the event of stolen or lost luggage, hospital visits, and missed flights, among other things.
Is San Cristobal worth visiting?
Yes! San Cristobal De Las Casas is a charming town in Mexico’s southern highlands and a perfect base for adventures in the state of Chiapas. You can stay in San Cristobal for a few weeks while exploring the surrounding areas that are full of wonderful nature. Home to several indigenous groups, San Cristobal is also the largest culture hub of the region and makes for an incredible educational trip.
How many days to I need in San Cristobal De Las Casas?
Plan to spend no less than 3 days in San Cristobal De Las Casas. The city offers many museums and points of interest, in addition to several natural landmarks in the area that require additional time.
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