Top 10 Things to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

San Cristobal de las Casas is draped in colonial architecture and inhabited by a largely indigenous population.  Situated in southeastern Mexico, this well-preserved utopia presents a more genuine cultural experience.  As a result visitors can choose from an array of interesting and authentic activities.  Below please find my list of the top ten things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Top 10 Things to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. My friend Trudy poses at the Sumidero Canyon. We originally came to San Cristobal to visit her and her husband, Phillip, who moved here from Playa del Carmen.
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. My friend Trudy poses at the Sumidero Canyon. We originally came to San Cristobal to visit her and her husband, Phillip, who moved here from Playa del Carmen.
 

#1: El Sumidero Canyon – Things to do in San Cristobal del las Casas

The Sumidero Canyon was the highlight of our entire trip to San Cristobal by far.  We explored the stunning gorge on small speed boats, enjoying gorgeous glimpses of the towering cliffs above.  Then we transferred to vans and drove to the top of the canyon.  There we admired sweeping views of the valley and river below.  

We booked our half day excursion with Otisa Tours directly in their office in San Cristobal on the Real de Guadalupe.  For the equivalent of approximately $20 USD per person, the voyage included two hour roundtrip transportation, a two hour boat ride through the canyon, an hour trip up to three lookouts and a visit to the nearby town of Chiapa del Corzo.  You can read more about our canyon trip here.

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. My friend, Jim, at the Sumidero Canyon. His wife, Janet, is to his left. Both were our first friends in Playa del Carmen.
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. My friend, Jim, at the Sumidero Canyon. His wife, Janet, is to his left. Both were our first friends in Playa del Carmen.

#2: Wander the Real de Guadalupe – Things to do in San Cristobal del las Casas

Located on the corner of the Zocalo, the Real de Guadalupe is my favorite street in San Cristobal.  The quaint colonial architecture mixed with the wandering Mayan vendors makes for a colorful jaunt.  Also don’t forget to visit all the stimulating shops.  Here you can buy organic chocolate, coffee from Chiapas and hand-crafted clothing.  And if you keep walking, you’ll arrive at the magnificent Iglesia de Guadalupe perched on the hill.

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. The Iglesia de Guadalupe offers sweeping views of the city.
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. The Iglesia de Guadalupe offers sweeping views of the city.

#3: Eat at the Trattoria Italiana – Things to do in San Cristobal del las Casas

Ironically I’m recommending an Italian restaurant as part of an article about Mexico.  Nevertheless the quality of food at the Trattoria Italiana merits my recommendation.  The owner grows the produce in his home garden.  Additionally he makes and sells his own liquor. 

We enjoyed our lunch so much we went back a second time.  I recommend the grilled vegetables and seared seafood.  Then order a bottle of Montepulciano wine and finish things off with homemade limoncello.  Certainly the farm fresh quality dazzled my taste buds.   Find this culinary gem on Dr. Navarro 10, Barrio del Cerrillo.

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. The Trattoria Italiana. The Italian owner originates from Naples.
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. The Trattoria Italiana. The Italian owner originates from Naples.

#4: Eat at the Oh La La Cafe then Wander Miguel de Hidgalo – Things to do in San Cristobal del las Casas

I frequented the cafe Oh La La on a daily basis for a dose of their crisp chocolate croissant and a cup or two of their homemade chai.  Even now I can hear the crunch of the pastry and taste the rich chocolate center.  My only regret is not having explored in depth their appetizing menu.

As an added plus, the cafe sits on one of my favorite pedestrian boulevards: Miguel de Hidalgo.  Here you can discover a good selection of authentic crafts and clothing from Chiapas.  Plus the cobblestoned street and canopy of colorful mini umbrellas suspended above lends a lovely visual appeal.  

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. Allan befriends this adorable Yorkie at the Oh La La Cafe. I'm still dreaming of their chocolate croissants.
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. Allan befriends this adorable Yorkie at the Oh La La Cafe. I’m still dreaming of their chocolate croissants.

#5: Visit the Chamula Market – Things to do in San Cristobal del las Casas

Only thirty minutes outside of downtown San Cristobal, this indigenous bazaar and adjacent cathedral transports you to another planet.  Witness a rare glimpse into the life of the Mayan Tzotil tribe who run the exchange.  Although we didn’t buy anything substantial, the visual experience trumped any purchasing potential.  You can read more about our bizarre experience here.

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. At the Chamula Market, the gentleman directly on my right offered me a free shot of the Mayan liquor, Pox.
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. At the Chamula Market, the gentleman directly on my right offered me a free shot of the Mayan liquor, Pox.

#6 – Stroll the Route of the 6 Churches – Things to do in San Cristobal del las Casas

Colonial churches and temples dot every corner of the San Cristobal de las Casas landscape.  Six in particular should not be missed: the Cathedral, Iglesia de Guadalupe, Iglesia de San Francisco, Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Iglesia de Santa Lucia and Templo de San Nicolas.  In addition, the route transverses some of the more alluring sections of the city, providing added sensory stimulation.

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. The Cathedral and Zocalo. Just before taking this photo my tripod tipped over cracking my camera! Luckily the camera still works.
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. The Cathedral and Zocalo. Just before taking this photo my tripod tipped over cracking my camera! Luckily the camera still works.

#7: Shop at Karmelitas then Hit the Santo Domingo Market – Things to do in San Cristobal del las Casas

Unfortunately Karmelitas exclusively sells women’s clothing.  Otherwise I would have bought in abundance their unique handmade attire.  From embroidered shoes, bags and shirts, this boutique makes me wish they sold men’s apparel. 

Regardless I did buy a gorgeous travel bag and ceremonial Hupil.  You’ll find Karmelitas on Av. General M. Utrillo, #31 in Centro, +52 967-166-2831, esteves_fer20@hotmail.com.  Prices are on par considering the quality and value.  Often it takes three months to craft one piece.

Once you are dazzled by these wonderful wears, head a few blocks over to the Santo Domingo Market where you can enjoy over 100 stalls of handicrafts made by local Mayans.  In fact Allan and I spent over an hour perusing the copious collection.  Ultimately we acquired some good gifts like colorful fabric belts and bracelets.

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. Hand stitched dress and shoes from Karmelitas. I were female I would totally wear this!
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. Hand stitched dress and shoes from Karmelitas. If I were female I would totally wear this!

#8: Night Market on the Zocalo – Things to do in San Cristobal del las Casas

On the Zocalo at roughly 6pm the native Mayans lay out on tarps their selection of native handicrafts.  Barter over a wide selection of shirts, bracelets, belts, hats and other assorted regional clothing items. Prices are affordable while the assortment stimulates.

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. Shopping at the night market on the zocalo. Visiting every night became a ritual before we headed out for dinner.
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. Shopping at the night market on the zocalo. Visiting every night became a ritual before we headed out for dinner.

#9: Visit the Mercado Viejo – Things to do in San Cristobal del las Casas

For a more authentic flavor of the indigenous population, stop by the Mercardo Viejo (old market) in the morning.  Located on Av Belisario Dominquez, here you brush shoulders with the Mayans as they buy and sell fresh fruit, vegetables and other food and floral items.  Experience a taste of life as a native while soaking in the bright colors and absorbing the cultural intricacies like barefoot vendors nursing babes.

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. Vendors in the Mercado Viejo selling fruit. Taking photographs in the bazaar is difficult since many are camera shy. We wound up taking candid shots on the sly.
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. Vendors in the Mercado Viejo selling fruit. Taking photographs in the bazaar is difficult since many are camera shy. We wound up taking candid shots on the sly.

#10 Thing to Do in San Cristobal: Buy Pottery in Amatenango del Valle

Amantenango del Valle specializes in hand-fired avian and jaguar pottery painted in acrylics.  You can find this highland village situated roughly an hour outside of San Cristobal on the way to Palenque.  As you pull into town, crafts flow out onto the sidewalk as the actual artists double as street side vendors.  If you buy here expect to pay a fraction of what it would cost elsewhere.  Plus the drive is both scenic and interesting.

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. Pottery in Amantenango del Valle. For example the 2 large roosters might cost only the equivalent of $25 USD for the pair.
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. Pottery in Amantenango del Valle. For example the 2 large roosters might cost only the equivalent of $25 USD for the pair.

 


READ MORE ABOUT CHIAPAS, MEXICO 

20 Photos of Chiapas, Mexico that Will Compel You to Pack Up and Go

Cruising Through the Sumidero Canyon in Chiapas

The Sunday Market in San Juan de Chamula in Chiapas: An Exotic Exploration of the Indigenous

My 5 Favorite Things to Do in Palenque, Mexico

The Magical City of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

Purchasing Authentic Mexican Pottery in the Town of Amantenango del Valle

 

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Matt Weatherbee
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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