Chiapas is a city in the southernmost state of Mexico, which shares a boundary on the east with Guatemala, on the north with the Mexican state of Tabasco, on the west by the states of Veracruz and Oaxaca, and to the southeast by the Pacific Ocean.
The state is characterized by its rich connection with nature, both economically and in its fluid tourism sector. Chiapas’ abundant rivers, rolling hills, rugged mountainous volcanoes, and beautiful waterfalls and lagoons that attract many visitors each year are set amongst mahogany and rosewood forests from which indigenous people produce good quality furniture and beautiful wood carvings. Chiapas is also rich in oil production, producing 1/3 of the country’s crude oil.
In its effort to promote tourism, the state has identified 3 main tourist routes, which include the Maya Route (an archeological route), the Colonial Route (churches, monasteries and other colonial structures and towns), and the Coffee Route (coffee haciendas/plantations). Chiapas also offers a number of ecotourism activities such as mountain climbing, rafting, rappelling, and mountain biking, as well as guided tours into the jungle and the Tacaná Volcano.
Everything a tourist could wish for is found in and around Chiapas’ lovely cities, and if you are interested in history and archeological ruins, you’ll find Chiapas’ Mayan ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilán, and Bonampak ideal for exploring ancient civilizations!
Tuxtla Gutiérrez is Chiapas' capital and its most modern city. Visitors here can enjoy the city’s museums, its lovely main square, a botanical garden, and a 16th century cathedral.
Just north of the city is the area’s most famous natural attraction, which is the magnificent Sumidero Canyon, a deep and narrow canyon surrounded by a national park. This canyon is popular with tourists, who enjoy boat tours through it via the Grijalva River.
El Aguacero is situated near Tuxtla Gutierrez also. This beautiful waterfall forms small natural pools that are excellent for swimming and its surroundings are ideal places for picnics.
Palenque is most famous for its Mayan ruins, but the areas exotic waterfalls (like Agua Azul), cascades, rivers, caves, canyons, lagoon, and extraordinary flora and fauna are sights that anyone visiting the area will not want to miss! The Palenque Archeological Site was considered a vigorous development center for religion, civil government, and arts and crafts.
San Cristobal de las Casas is a colonial city that was at one time the capital of Chiapas. In this pretty city, tourists will find beautiful ancient architecture, such as its Del Carmen Church and the Santo Domingo Temple an Ex-Convent, where embroideries and beautiful handicrafts are made. Visitors should check out the city’s markets for stunning handcrafted souvenirs, such as colorful costume dresses, tin-wares, pottery, and wickerwork, among other items.
Also, don’t miss the city’ stunning expos of one of the state’s main minerals – amber. In the Museum of Amber, you’ll be treated to gorgeous displays of polished amber, much of which is 25 million years old!
In Chiapas you can join an exciting cultural tour through the Chamula Towns, those towns whose inhabitants are native Indians that still practice their ancestral ceremonies and keep their religious beliefs.
It is advised that you hire an expert to guide you through the Chamula regions, and day excursions are available. Visit such towns as Zinacatlan and San Juan Chamula, where you can taste a bit of the culture, meet the people, and collect handcrafted souvenirs made by the locals, such as rough-hewn sweaters, hammocks, beautifully embroidered blouses and pieces made of amber. Three other Chamula towns to visit are Larrainzar, Mitotic and Chenalho.
The colonial city of Chiapa de Corzo offers its visitors a host of interesting attractions, such as a 16th century Santo Domingo Temple, the La Fuente Colonial (the Colonial Fountain), considered the most beautiful Mudejar-style fountain in the world, a nearby archaeological zone from the Maya-Olmeca cultures and the La Angostura Dam, considered the biggest in the world.
The town of Comitan’s attractions include the beautiful San Sebastian Church, the Culture House, and the Belisario Dominguez Museum. Also nearby is the Chincultik Archeological Site, which features a ball court, three altars, a main pyramid, and a fresh-water cenote.
Ocosingo is known for its beautiful cathedral as well as its cheese production. Don’t leave town before you’ve tasted the city’s delicious cheese! The Tonina Archeological Ruins, one of the largest Mayan settlements in the area, is also nearby.
The city of Amatenango del Valle is known for being the state’s major center for ceramics, with its “barro blanco” (white clay) pottery. The most typical ceramic piece found here is a large jar called a “cantaro”, which is used to transport liquids. Visitors here can find many ornamental works of clay, as well as pieces for everyday use.
Tapachula City is an important commercial and agricultural center, but anyone visiting the area will find some interesting attractions, such as the colonial-style San Agustin Cathedral, the Buena Esperanza Temple, The Archaeological Museum, and the La Cascada Spa.
Near the city of Tonala, visitors can enjoy many water sport activities at the beaches of Paredon Bay, with its gentle waves, and Puerto Arista, with its beautiful white-sand.
Incidentally, the state’s main beaches along the coast are Puerto Arista, Boca del Cielo, Playa Linda, Playa Aventuras, Playa Azul, and Santa Brigida.
The El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve is located on the highest ridges of the Sierra Madre and is one of the most pristine, diverse, and untouched natural areas remaining in Mexico. It’s a mystical world, shrouded in a rainforest of hanging vegetation and fog. El Triunfo is seldom visited because of its extreme, remote location, but there is a base camp located several hours (hiking) into the reserve.
Plans for a trek into the reserve should be assisted by an expert from the state’s “ecotourism program” in Tuxtla Gutierrez, who will arrange everything from mules to carry your gear, skilled guides for birding, and various support people to make your trip into this extreme environment comfortable.
The La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve is located on the Pacific coastal area of Chiapas, and is an ideal refuge for a large number of plants and animals. Here you can explore the reserve’s canals, rivers, beaches, and enormous mangroves. Exploration of the reserve is by boat and foot, and visitors can join a tour group to enjoy its islands, beaches, flora and fauna. Boat rentals and guides to the reserve can be found in La Encrucijada.
Lagunas de Montebello National Park, located in the indigenous town of Tziscao, is famous for its beautiful beaches and 68 lagoons such as: Triscao, Agua Tinta, Esmeralda, and Ensueño.
Whether relaxing on Chiapas’ beautiful beaches, trekking through its jungles, or exploring its archeological sites, you’ll find that this state has much to offer its visitors!