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
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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, firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
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