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San Cristobal de las Casas is a municipality in Chiapas, Mexico and was intially constructed back in 1528 by a man named Diego de Mazariegos.
What we now know as San Cristobal de las Casas has had multiple names throughout its time of existence, but it wasn’t until 1829 that the city’s name was changed to San Cristobal.
Nineteen years later, “de las Casas” was added to honor Bartolomé de las Casas, a Spanish priest who became the first president bishop of Chiapas.
With its Spanish colonial style architecture, delicious locally grown coffee and too many activities to mention, it’s no wonder Mexicans and foreigners alike love to visit the magical town of San Cristobal de las Casas.
Before You Go: Travel Insurance
When planning a trip to Mexico your first priority should be to make sure you make a small investment towards your health and well being by considering an affordable travel insurance policy for your trip.
Not only will this budget friendly travel insurance policy cover you if your bags are lost/stolen and if your flight is delayed/cancelled, but you’ll also be covered for all medical and injury related issues as well.
Let’s face it. No parents, family or friends want to have to cover the cost of you getting medevaced home from Mexico.
Unfortunate things do happen.
Especially when you least expect it.
Do yourself a favor and consider purchasing travel insurance coverage for your trip so you can rest assured that you’ll be taken care of in the event of a serious emergency in Mexico.
P.S. You won’t believe how reasonably priced this travel insurance is.
How to Get to San Cristobal de las Casas
When planning how to get to San Cristobal de las Casas, you have a few options (by air, by bus, or by car).
If you’re looking for direct flights to San Cristobal de las Casas from major cities in North, Central, and South America, please take note that there are none due to the fact that there is no airport in San Cristobal de las Casas.
The nearest airport to San Cristobal de las Casas is Tuxtla Gutiérrez International Airport and most flights connect through Mexico City International Airport.
There are buses available from Tuxtla Gutiérrez to San Cristobal de las Casas.
The cheapest option to get from Tuxtla Airport to San Cristobal de las Casas is to take a shared shuttle for approximately 200 MXN ($10 USD).
The journey will take approximately 1.5 hours depending on how many stops are made along the way.
Taxis from Tuxtla Airport to San Cristobal will cost approximately 700-900 MXN ($37-47 USD)
Traveling by car from Tuxtla Gutiérrez to San Cristobal de las Casas is pretty easy, too.
Take Highway 190D East in the direction of San Cristobal. The ride will take about 60-70 minutes.
If you decide to rent a car to explore Chiapas, we recommend: RentalCars.com
Where to Stay in San Cristobal de las Casas
Renting an Airbnb in San Cristobal de las Casas will be your best bet when it comes to getting the most value for your money.
There are beautiful, private homes which you can make yourself at home in and they’re usually cheaper than the cost of a hotel room.
Not to mention, many of them are very centrally located within walking distance of the center, main avenues, restaurants and more in downtown San Cristobal.
There are currently more than 300+ apartments and homes for rent in San Cristobal de las Casas that can be found on Airbnb.
Here are some recommended Airbnbs below:
Downtown House – 1 Bed / 1 Bath
Los Elefantes – 2 Bed / 1 Bath
Loft de Allende – 2 Bed / 1 Bath
Cottage Orchad Garden – 1 Bed / 1 Bath
Cirila – 2 Bed / 1 Bath
Xulem Apartment – 1 Bed / 1 Bath
La Libelula – 1 Bed / 1.5 Bath
Downtown Apartment – 2 Bed / 2 Bath
If this is your first time using Airbnb, we recommend that you read our Insider’s Guide to Saving Money on Airbnb Apartments.
If Airbnb isn’t your thing, I highly recommend that you check out some of the many hotel options available in San Cristobal de las Casas.
While hotels in San Cristobal de las Casas are generally more expensive than Airbnbs, you will have access to more amenities that Airbnbs and hostels may not have.
The best hotels in San Cristobal de las Casas include:
- Nuik B&B ( Hotels Combined / Booking.com )
- Casa Lum ( Hotels Combined / Booking.com )
- Plaza Gallery Hotel Boutique ( Hotels Combined / Booking.com )
Additional Hotel/Hostel Options:
San Cristobal de las Casas receives a lot of budget travelers from around the world.
Fortunately, the town has a lot of options when it comes to budget friendly accommodations so those who are looking for cheap accommodations will be happy to know that finding a basic, comfortable place to sleep in San Cristobal should be a fairly easy task.
Most hostels offer accommodations which include a small room with a basic bed and private/shared bathroom.
Below, you’ll find a short list of recommended hostels in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Things to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is the cultural capital of the state of Chiapas, Mexico and you’re about to find out why.
From museums to art galleries, artisan markets, and ecotourism spots, there’s something for everyone in San Cristobal.
Below, you’ll find a list of 18 recommended things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Sumidero Canyon is located just one hour away from San Cristobal by car and is situated inside Parque Nacional Cañón del Sumidero, a national park in Chiapas, Mexico that covers almost 22,000 hectares of land.
It is home to diverse flora and fauna and several endangered species including ocelots, river crocodiles, and spider monkeys to name a few.
You can plan an entire day of hiking, a few hours of boating down the river, or simply enjoying the scenery in one of Chiapas’ most beautiful natural wonders.
Chiapa de Corzo
Chiapa de Corzo is an archaeological site in a town which is just a one hour drive from San Cristobal de las Casas.
Here, you can find pre-Columbian Mesoamerica ruins from around 700 to 500 BC.
Aside from visiting the ruins, you can also take a tour inside the Museo de la Laca and Santo Domingo Monastery, a 16th-century structure, go on a boat ride at the Embarcadero Chiapa de Corzo (highly recommended), or see the Colonial Fountain, an artistic monument and the first fountain in the state of Chiapas.
Palenque Archeological Site
Approximately 5 hours north of San Cristobal de las Casas by car is the Archeological Site known as Palenque — a pre-Hispanic Mayan city-state that dates back to 226 BC and flourished until AD 799.
Mayan temples and ruins still remain in Lakamham (the ancient name of the site) including the Temple of Inscriptions, the Temple of the Cross Complex, and the Temple of the Skull.
While Palenque is quite far from San Cristobal, I highly recommend you make a visit to the ruins if you have time to spare in Chiapas.
Below, you’ll find a link to a tour from San Cristobal to Palenque Ruins.
Agua Azul Waterfalls
The Agua Azul Waterfalls, also known as the Cascadas de Agua Azul, are a series of waterfalls found in Tumbalá, Chiapas, a town located about 3 hours and 45 minutes away from San Cristobal de las Casas.
The beautiful turquoise water that you see at these waterfalls originates from the beautiful Xanil River.
There are certain areas at the Agua Azul Waterfalls where you can take a dip and cool off on a hot summer day.
The Cascada de Misol-Há, or simply Misol-Há, is yet another incredible waterfall in Chiapas that is well worth a visit.
Located in the municipality of Salto de Agua, these waterfalls are approximately 4 hours and 15 minutes away from San Cristobal de las Casas and just an hour away from Agua Azul Waterfalls.
The impressive 115-foot waterfall cascades down into a circular pool that’s surrounded by a luscious green forest.
San Juan de Chamula
San Juan de Chamula is a short 20-minute drive from San Cristobal de las Casas and a must visit for those wanting to experience what it’s like to visit an indigenous and autonomous town in the state of Chiapas.
The town is home to 80,000+ indigenous locals who speak in a language known as Tzotzil.
There isn’t too much to see in San Juan de Chamula, but there is one highlight that you simply cannot miss — a visit to the church located in the main square known as the Iglesia de San Juan.
Inside, you can witness how the tradition of the town still lives on along with spiritual, voodoo-like rituals which are performed by the locals.
❌ Note: Please note that photography is prohibited inside of the church and the locals take this rule very seriously. There are reports of travelers having their phones and cameras destroyed on sight if you’re seen taking photos inside of this church. Please remember that you’re in an autonomous town which is run by the locals. This is not the place to push boundaries. Simply be respectful to the locals and their rules and you’ll have an amazing time.
In San Lorenzo Zinacantán, 99% of the population are indigenous Tzotzil Maya people who speak their native language and have cultural ties to other Mayan tribes in the Chiapas Highlands region.
You can reach Zinacantán in less than 25 minutes and it’s recommended to visit both San Juan de Chamula and Zinacantán in the same day as they are located very close to each other.
Sima de las Cotorras
About two and a half hours west of San Cristobal de las Casas lies a natural oddity that tourists and adventure seekers recommend visiting.
The Sima de las Cotorras is a sinkhole located inside the El Ocote Biosphere Reserve.
According to geologists, the sinkhole formed from the erosion of limestone that mostly make up the landscape.
Two bodies of water, the La Venta River and the underground El Paraíso river caused the limestone to erode over time.
Aside from the sinkhole, this area is also of archaeological, biological, and ecological interest.
Chiapas is a mountainous region in Mexico, which makes it a great spot for mountain biking.
There are several areas in and around San Cristobal de las Casas for those who enjoy riding and exploring new destinations by bike.
You can find bicycle rental shops as well as tour companies which offer mountain biking tours in San Cristobal de las Casas and they will provide you with the bikes and all the necessary gear.
If mountain biking isn’t your cup of tea, you could always opt for a horseback riding tour.
El Rancho Evergreen Guest Ranch and Explorando Chiapas allow you to explore the beautiful mountains and valleys surrounding San Cristobal delas Casas.
Adrenaline junkies will likely opt for a day of ziplining at the Mammoth Caves Park Tour, and rightfully so.
They also offer rappelling and trekking tours of San Cristobal delas Casas if you’re looking for more adventures to take part in.
Montebello Lakes & Chiflon Waterfalls
Montebello National Park is a slice of paradise in Chiapas, Mexico.
You can spend a day in nature with a full-day tour of Montebello lakes and El Chiflon (highly recommended).
Activities include a bamboo raft ride, hiking, swimming, and exploring caves with a small group of people and an expert guide.
Grutas de Rancho Nuevo
Grutas de Rancho Nuevo is a local nature reserve located just twenty minutes outside of downtown San Cristobal de las Casas.
Here, you’ll find amazing caves to explore, woodlands with trails that you can walk along and play areas where children can have fun.
There are also guided tours available here for those who want a more immersive experience.
Temples and Churches
San Cristobal de las Casas was once a Spanish colony, which explains why the city has many temples and churches.
During your visit, here are some of the holy places you should check out:
- Santo Domingo Church
- San Cristobal de las Casas Cathedral
- Guadalupe Church
Mexican coffee is popular around the world, and you can have a taste of authentic Mexican coffee right in downtown San Cristobal de las Casas.
Coffee lovers who visit San Cristobal should visit the following coffee farms:
- Café Maya Vinic
- Frontera Artisan Food and Coffee
- Carajillo Café
Roberto Barrios Waterfalls
About 5 hours north of San Cristobal de las Casas, you will find the breathtaking Roberto Barrios Waterfalls in Palenque.
These are some of my favorite waterfalls in all of Chiapas.
Spend the day hiking along the edge of the river and stopping off to swim in the variety of waterfalls and natural pools along the way.
Free Walking Tour
If you want to get to know the city of San Cristobal more intimately, I recommend taking a Free Walking Tour in San Cristobal de las Casas.
You’ll be taken to some of the best spots in the city, including restaurants, cafés, galleries, and stores.
As the name suggests, the tour is free, but tourists are encouraged to give the guide a voluntary tip at the end of the day.
The Artisan Market is a vibrant and colorful marketplace in San Cristobal de las Casas where textile makers, local artists, and entrepreneurs gather to sell bags, clothes, blankets, accessories, and other souvenirs that you can take home with you after your trip.
Museums in San Cristobal
- Amber Museum
- Mayan Medicine Museum
- Casa Na Bolom
- Mayan Textiles Repository
- Museo Mesoamericano del Jade
Getting Around San Cristobal de las Casas
When you arrive in San Cristobal de las Casas, there are a few ways to get around the city and to the nearby towns that were mentioned on the list above.
Renting a car is an option but honestly in my opinion the best way to explore the surrounding area of San Cristobal is to hire a private driver or a taxi driver.
You can also choose to join a group tour that will organize your transportation for you.
My personal recommendation when it comes to hiring a private driver in San Cristobal de las Casas is to reach out to a local by the name of Mario — I hired him to take me to Zinacantán, San Juan de Chamula, Sumidero Canyon and El Chiflon.
You can reach him via telphone or via text at: +52 1 967 706 5962.
Mario speaks English, Spanish and Italian.
You have a few options if you want to take the bus to get around San Cristobal de las Casas.
Urbano buses have routes to residential neighborhoods in the city.
Two bus companies (Omnibus Cristobal Colon and AEXA Bus Company) have routes that will take you to other nearby towns in Chiapas.
Colectivo is Mexico’s public shuttle service. It has several stops in Chiapas including San Cristobal de las Casas.
Best Time to Visit San Cristobal de las Casas
By now, you’re probably wondering when is the best time to visit San Cristobal de las Casas? See below for more information.
Throughout the year, San Cristobal de las Casas weather is mostly warm and sunny with low to moderate precipitation, except for the colder months during winter.
The average temperature peaks at around 80°F in April and reaches a low of about 73°F around January, June, and November.
In order to avoid crowds, the best time to visit San Cristobal de las Casas is between April and the first week of July, between August and October, or in November when the city is less crowded.
San Cristobal de las Casas is a spectacular destination and one of the most beautiful towns in the state of Chiapas.
If you find yourself in the state of Chiapas, I highly recommend you use San Cristobal as your base and take day trips to all of the nearby activities and natural wonders.
If you find this San Cristobal de las Casas travel guide useful, please share it with your family and friends. Also, feel free to leave a comment below with your questions and I’ll respond to you as soon as possible.
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