Ocosingo, a small city and municipality in the state of Chiapas known for its rain forest, Mayan ruins, "queso amarillo" (yellow cheese), and shopping, is located in the deep south of Mexico, sharing the borders of the Usumacinta River with Guatemala.
This lovely city is nestled in the Las Cañadas de Ocosingo Valley midway between San Cristóbal and Palenque, and offers visitors the traditional Main Plaza in the center of the city. The Main Plaza is surrounded by the beautiful 16th century Temple of San Jacinto, a 19th century monument to Don Miquel Hidalgo y Costillo, the Municipal Palace, restaurants and other businesses.
Due to its geographical location, Ocosingo is a great place to stay if you are a nature-lover interested in exploring the Lacandon Rainforest or a lover of ancient history wishing to tour some amazing and important ancient Mayan ruins.
Federal Highway 199, which runs between San Cristobal and Palenque, is the main road near Ocosingo that leads to some spectacular attractions. Along this route, you will see the waterfalls of Agua Azul and Misol Ha, the Lacandon Rainforest, and several archeological zones, ultimately leading to the famous Mayan archaeological site of Palenque.
Nearest to Ocosingo, are the archaeological sites of Tonina, Bonampak, and Yaxchilan:
Tonina – Mayan ruins thought to have been built by an astronomical society between 300 and 700 AD is located just outside of Ocosingo. It was built on the side of a large hill at a 2,950-foot elevation where one can often see clouds roll in above its Acropolis-like structures. Tonina translates to “Stone House” and consists of seven terraces built into a pyramid surrounded by plazas, ceremonial centers, and ball courts.
Bonampak – located inside the Lacandon Jungle near the Lacanja River, it was declared a Natural Monument in 1992. This ancient Mayan city flourished between the years of 650 and 900 AD, and is known for its murals, lintels, inscribed pillars, and masonry buildings.
Yaxchilan – also located in the jungle near the Bonampak ruins, and best reached by boat or light aircraft, it’s an amazing archeological site set in a thick tropical forest along the banks of the Usumacinta River. The ancient Mayan city was developed between the years of 350 to 810 AD, and is known for its inscribed monuments.
Within the Lacandon Rainforest, with its rich and complex ecosystem, you can explore many spectacular biospheres, such as the Lacan-Tun Reserve, the Chan-Kin, the Naha and the Metzabok Fauna and Flora Protection Area.
In this dense jungle, you will see many species of flora, like an assortment of stunning orchids, and the “Jopi”, "Canshán", and “Guapaque” trees, many reaching heights of over 60m. A variety of animals also inhabit the jungle, and tourists come here to catch sightings of such species as the howler and spider monkeys, tapirs, ocelots, jaguars, and many more. The area is also a great location for sighting a multitude of butterflies.
During your stay in Ocosingo, you won’t want to miss the markets, for which the city is also known. Taste one of the six varieties of queso amarillo, or yellow cheese, sold in large (1 kg) balls at the Fábrica de Quesos Santa Rosa, or head out a few blocks from the Main Plaza to find other exciting markets, where Mayan people from the outlying communities come to town to sell their homemade food and handcrafted goods.
Only women are allowed to sell at the Ocosingo markets, and you’ll find them dressed in colorful traditional clothing, selling anything from Mayan pottery, textiles, baskets, embroidered cotton and wool clothes to wood carvings and leather goods. At the markets, you’ll also have a chance to taste the region’s delicious cuisine, like their famous “Olla Tappa”, a fantastic stew made with Mayan spices, vegetables, almonds, and olives.
From rainforests and jungles to archeological ruins, Ocosingo is an environmental and historical gem; add to that, the city’s amazing shopping opportunities with regional handcrafted items sold to you by the hospitable Mayan people, your time in Ocosingo will be a well-spent, educational, and fun experience.