Some Mexican cities exponentially attract tourists. It is the case of San Cristóbal de las Casas. When the Republic is perceived as a sunny destination with warm temperatures, San Cris is a good place for tourists looking for a little coolness. It is also a destination that digital nomads love. Find out what to do in San Cristóbal de las Casas?
In this blog post, I share with you 9 activities you can’t miss in San Cristóbal de las Casas.
More useful information:
- How to get to San Cristóbal de las Casas?
- How to move around in San Cristóbal de las Casas?
- When to visit San Cristóbal de las Casas?
- Is it safe to visit San Cristóbal de las Casas?
- Being a digital nomad in San Cristóbal de las Casas
- Travel responsibly in San Cristóbal de las Casas
- My expenses in San Cristóbal de las Casas
San Cristóbal de las Casas IN A FEW WORDS
Situated at more than 2100 meters, San Cristóbal de las Casas is surrounded by mountains in Los Altos de Chiapas area. Founded in 1528, it became quickly a place for meetings and exchanges for the indigenous from the villages around. The city has kept this function nowadays.
During the colonial time, the city was part of Guatemala, but during the Independence War, they asked to be a part of the Mexican Republic. Several times, it has been declared as the capital of the Chiapas states. Nonetheless, today, it is Tuxtla Gutierrez that has this title.
Nowadays, San Cristóbal is a destination appreciated by the tourists who come to use it as their base to visit the surroundings. When the city is a great place for travelers, life for local people is not easy at all.
Indeed, San Cris is located in one of the poorest states of México. When the inhabitants, especially the indigenous communities, have difficulties to live correctly, the American and European companies monopolize the local resources.
Then, a big part of the population doesn’t have access to water, but Coca-Cola doesn’t have this problem. The famous brand makes the situation even worst. With very low prices and a lack of potable water, they push, in an indirect way, the consumption of this drink, which leads to one of the higher rates of diabetes in the country.
What to do in San Cristóbal de las Casas?
If the tourists are so many, to visit this place is for the beauty of these streets, but especially to be able to visit all the close nature spots. Let’s see, what to do in San Cristóbal de las Casas?
1. What to do in San Cristóbal de las Casas? discover the churches
San Cris, as the inhabitants call it, has many many churches.
This baroque-style colonial building attracts the looks of all the tourists who cross the square thanks to its vibrant yellow color.
Iglesia de Guadalupe
You will have to climb many stairs to get to this square. Located on a hill, this church is the perfect place to enjoy a nice view of the city.
Iglesia El Cerrito
Another church that is on a hill and from where you can have an amazing view of San Cris.
2. What to do in San Cristóbal de las Casas?: do the grocerY AT the Mercado Viejo
The Mercado Viejo of San Cristóbal is a unique place where your five senses will be on alert: colorful fruit stands, smells of meat exposed in the open air, rushes in the alleys, calls by the sellers, and flavors of recent-made tortillas.
Inside and outside, the market is always full. It is chaotic and a little overwhelming, but it is an incredible place to observe the local life. The majority of the sellers are from the indigenous community who go to the city to sell their products. Then, it is the perfect opportunity to support the local economy.
3. Wander in the city center
The city center is gorgeous, but, for me, it is too touristy. The local shops are disappearing slowly and let the places to more prominent companies. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is really nice while you wander there.
From the car-free and cobbled streets, some beautiful buildings pop up from time to time. The colonial city is well-preserved and really beautiful to enjoy!
4. Visit the museums
In San Cristóbal de las Casas, indigenous people are a big part of the city life. Often badly treated by the established powers, they were deprived of their rights for centuries. This field of injustices gave birth to the Zapatista movement, the EZLN.
It is also a city that attracts artists of many kinds that exhibit in the numerous galleries of the city center. The soil of this area is rich in jade and amber. It may seem that these facts have nothing in common, but, actually, they all create a favorable field for cultural and artistic expression that permits tourists to discover many museums, cultural centers, and shops. Here are three fascinating museums.
The house of the archeologist Frans Blom and the photographer Trudy Blom was converted into a cultural center where to learn about the autochthonous cultures and, especially, about the Lacandones who live in the Lacandon jungle.
Museo del Ambar
It is located in a building from the 16th century and is an amazing place to learn more about the amber and admire beautiful jewels. There is also a video that helps tourists to recognize the fake amber that many people sell in the city center to avoid this trap.
Museo Mesoamericano del Jade
It is a museum quite special where you will learn about this stone that was very important for the ancient populations of Mesoamerica.
5. Cross the Cañón del Sumidero
One of the must-do excursions, if you visit San Cristóbal de las Casas, is the Cañón del Sumidero. If you have a car, you can go alone. If not, it is going to be quite complicated to go on your own.
But no worries! Many agencies organize 1-day excursions to explore this beautiful place. You will admire the canyon from the top, and you also will cross it on a boat. A unique experience!
6. Refresh yourself in the Cascadas del Chiflón
Another spot you can’t miss: the Cascadas del Chiflón! Agencies also give you the possibility to visit this unique natural place, but you can go alone. I recommend you to do so actually to really have time to admire this beautiful spot and charge your batteries.
The Chiflón is perfectly fitted out for the majority to be able to visit it. Even people like me who are not sportive at all can access it with no problem. However, to see the two last cascades, you will need to do more effort, I didn’t do it.
7. Travel in time AT ToniNA
The ruins of Tonina are less touristy, but they offer an incredible show. Only a few agencies propose the tour to visit them, and going there alone can be quite complicated. Nonetheless, if you like adventure, it is totally worth it!
8. Wander in Chiapa de Corzo
Chiapa de Corzo is a small, calm city whose main attraction is its square with the famous fountain, the Fuente Mudéjar. This pueblo mágico is a great destination to discover an authentic and sunny city. It is also the oldest city in the state.
9. Visit indigenous villages
It is impossible to stay in San Cristóbal de las Casas without visiting the indigenous villages that are around to learn more about their traditions and lifestyles. It is possible to join tours that mainly take you to San Juan Chamula and Zinecatan.
I recommend you go by yourself to really feel the atmosphere, walk further the touristy zones and participate in the local economy.
San Juan de Chamula
The church is the main attraction of the village. On the left side, you will find the place where to buy the ticket you need to enter this temple that seems to be located in a different time and place. I won’t tell you more, but be sure to be open-minded when you visit this place.
This village is famous for its textiles. The women fully participate in the local economy by working in cooperatives. While they sew blankets and traditional clothes, the men are in charge of selling flowers in the specialized market.
Just a few words: curiosity is a great quality, but don’t forget to be respectful of the communities you visit. Don’t treat them like animals in a zoo because you consider them exotic, don’t take pictures of them without asking their permission, don’t take photos with the kids, nor give them money, always treat them as your peers, and respect their beliefs.
How to get to San Cristóbal de las Casas?
As always, cars and buses are the main options. Tuxtla, the capital of the state that is 45 km away, has an airport.
How to get to San Cristóbal de las Casas from Ciudad de México?
As always in Mexico, it is possible to go to San Cristóbal de las Casas from Ciudad de México. However, the ride is long, very long. It is better to take a plane to Tuxtla Gutiérrez.
How to get to San Cristóbal de las Casas from Puerto Escondido?
Several ADO buses travel there several times a day. It is better to choose the night bus. Like that, the ride seems shorter. If you feel sick on the bus, do not forget to take a pill before boarding.
How to get to San Cristóbal de las Casas from Oaxaca?
From Oaxaca, it is possible to take an ADO bus. If you can, travel by night because the ride is also long.
How to get to San Cristóbal de las Casas from Tuxtla Gutierrez?
In Tuxtla Gutierrez, you can take a colectivo to reach San Cristóbal de las Casas. They are very regular.
How to move around in San Cristóbal de las Casas?
The center of San Cristóbal de las Casas is quite small. Even if you stay outside the touristy center, you won’t have problems walking around.
Like in any place in México, you can move through the city using the colectivos, which are kind of minibuses. To know where the stops are, it is better to ask local people.
If you are at the ADO bus station or in a quite touristy place, you will always find some taxis waiting. However, it is better to have the phone numbers of the companies in your contacts to call them. Be patient, because they don’t answer very often.
When to visit San Cristóbal de las Casas?
I recommend you visit San Cristóbal de las Casas from November to April when it is not raining too much.
It is indispensable to bring winter clothes because San Cris is quite cold. Moreover, the houses don’t frequently have heat.
Is it safe to visit San Cristóbal de las Casas?
No place is 100 % safe, but I never felt insecure in the street of San Cris. I always walk there, even late at night.
The roads are, maybe, the place where problems can occur. Indeed, the indigenous populations can block them. They ask for a few pesos to open them. These exchanges are rarely violent, but it is better to pay to avoid any concerns.
Being a digital nomad in San Cristóbal de las Casas
For the digital nomads who need to have a community, San Cris is a small paradise. Cute coffee places with Wi-Fi, trendy coworkings, well-decorated colivings, restaurants with occidental food, European-style art galleries, and small prices, everything to attract the digital nomads.
Personally, it is not something I look for. If you are like me and like meeting local people to experience a lifestyle different from the one you have at home, the Westernization of the city will quickly bother you. Same thing with the constant racism against the indigenous population.
However, the city is very nice to spend a few weeks or months as a digital nomad. Moreover, the Wi-Fi is very good.
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Travel responsibly in San Cristóbal de las Casas
Like in many destinations, the presence of Western people has a direct influence on local life, and many small local businesses tend to disappear. It is also the case with the traditions of the indigenous populations, since their kids aspire to live the city life.
Contaminated water is another problem. Tourists are well aware of it, since they are told since their arrival not to drink tap water. The trash, especially plastics, overflow the waterways of the city. Anyway, water access is not a right that everyone has in the area. When a great part of the local population doesn’t have access to it, Coca-Cola doesn’t have this concern.
As a traveler, there are many things to do to travel responsibly in San Cristóbal de las Casas:
- Avoid the restaurants and shops chains.
- Do not buy Coca-Cola products.
- Put your trash in the garbage.
- Use water consciously.
- Buy from indigenous communities.
Obviously, there are many other things you can do. These are only a few examples.
My expenses in San Cristóbal de las Casas
I spent almost 4 weeks in San Cristóbal before coming back to Oaxaca. Here, I share with you my expenses during a long stay. It is important to keep in mind:
- I rent an Airbnb room to have a real immersion.
- I cooked a lot, especially since I had a supermarket and a market very close.
- I move 100 % by walking in the city and by public transportation when I was out of it.
- I went on three day trips, one with a local agency.
💲food: €170,38 (€116,60 for restaurants/bars, and €53,78 for the groceries)
I hope that if you were wondering what to do in San Cristóbal de las Casas, I answered your question. If you have some questions, let them in the comments. To help other travelers, you can share my blog post on Pinterest.