San Cristobal De Las Casas was one of our Mexico highlights!
During our travels around the Yucatan we had heard some really good things about San Cristobal and were very intrigued by the setup of the City with the nearby indigenous towns that surround it. These indigenous people still abide by their very own rules and culture that stretch back for centuries.
The city boasts a very multi cultural feel with its graffiti art, Maya heritage, religious Templos, buildings and restaurants. Many different nationalities have come together but what we truly loved most was San Cristobal is where Indigenous and ancient customs meets modern-day Mexico!
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We had originally planned to spend 4 nights in San Cristobal but ended up staying another 4, as the feel was just amazing and there were endless amounts of things to do, see and learn!!
The main street boasts a huge number of cafes, restaurants and shops that wouldn’t be out-of-place in central London or any of the major cities around the world, collectively catering to pretty much every taste.
Venturing off the main street you can find little fruit and veg stalls offering cheap local produce if you are looking to cook at your hostel, hotel or rental place.
The great colonial architecture and cobbled streets add to the essence and feel of the town. There are so many architecturally beautiful buildings around town and also a great market selling beautiful handmade textiles, jewellery and clothing right on the plaza, where you can also find the Centro Del Mundo Maya and Templo y ex Convento de Santo Domingo de Guzmán (a must see building inside and out).
Carrying on north from there towards the Medicine de Maya along the Gral. M. Utrilla there is another big market stretching for what seems like forever & selling anything from food to dvd’s to chickens. The market carries on down the side streets so keep looking if you can’t find what you want for or just ask one of the friendly locals to help!
There are many viewpoints around San Cristobal from which you can take full advantage of the beautiful views of the city. One at the Inglesia de Guadalupe to the east of the city at the end of Real de Guadelupe where an impressive set of stairs lead up to the Church. The other is at the other side of town to the west also leading up some stairs to a much more elevated view up to the church of Inglesia de San Cristobal, definitely the more beautiful view of the city of the two but both still definitely worth checking out!
San Juan Chamula & Zinacantan
The neighbouring towns of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan are inhabited by Totzil communities and located a few miles out-of-town. We took a full day tour to visit both towns and learn more about the indigenous beliefs and culture.
In San Juan Chamula we were taken to a local school on the outskirts of the town to learn a bit about the language and also the customs of the local people. Afterwards it was a short drive into the centre of town to see the San Juan’s Holy building – Templo De San Juan. The Templo is truly an unforgettable experience (please stop reading if you are heading there as we don’t want to ruin the experience! But…) upon walking in you’re greeted with a hundreds of candles flickering in a smokey mist all the way through the building. The floor all the way through was covered in pine needles with people praying and even practising ancient religious sacrifices. For us it seemed as though we were most definitely in the presence of something else whilst we were there. There was an indescribable energy & a strong smell of incense and pine needles. We would highly recommend a visit here, it was a very educational and real moving experience! We were also treated to a walk up to one of the towns religious mayors houses where we were introduced to him and his family and told all about his religious duties for the town!
Zinacantan has a slightly different feel still very much by itself with San Juan as far as culture and practices of the indigenous population there. A lot of Vegetables and fruit are grown there that are mainly exported to neighbouring countries. One of the many topics we discussed using our new-found Spanish skills with Miguel our driver. We visited a church in Zinacantan & learnt about the difference between the two towns and their customs. We also met Totzil family who invited us in for some home-made Tortillas!
Both towns were really interesting and we had an amazing insight to the Totzil and Maya customs and history. We also learnt of the modern-day struggles these communities face to keep their cultures alive.
The tour that we took we booked through our hostel, our guide Alex and driver Miguel were very knowledgeable and made us fully aware of the customs, laws and how to be respectful as guests in each of the villages.
Where we stayed
Hostel – Posada Del Abuelito Great hostel, great staff and fully deserves the rating on Hostelworld. Great chilled vibe there with a lot of quirky bits in the hostel, that all combines to make a great feel there.
We met some great people at Posada Del Abuelito most of whom we are still in contact with! The fireplace is also a great part of to the hostel with the night receptionist Pedro coming to light it for us while we spent a few nights in there with our new-found friends, sinking a few glasses of wine and talking about everyone’s adventures for the day!
Other recommendations and things we got up to –
Na Blom – Great insight into the life of Na Blom who dedicated his life’s work with the indigenous people. The museum is at his old residence with all his books, equipment, documents and inspiring information about his work. Very interesting!
Centro Del Mundo Maya – Very informative textile museum that looks into the history of the beautiful Maya clothing and how the traditional clothes differ from town to town around Chiapas & Mexico
Going out – You will not be short for places to go and sit for a coffee and watch the world go by, go out for a few drinks or enjoy some nice food. You can choose to party as we did one night at Mezcaleria Gusana Grela with great live music and dancing with true Mexican vibes! We would also definitely recommend La Lupe Cocina De Maiz y De Agave, along the main street a very nice restaurant vibe but still reasonably priced amazing Mexican food, the ‘Murte de hambre’ really does live up to its name!
Medicine De Maya – Insight into the history and present day Mayan Medicine using nature and the world around us. With a shop at the where you can buy all Maya natural medicines!
To be honest just walking around just San Cristobal itself, you will find a lot of interesting graffiti and art around the city as well as quirky little coffee shops and restaurants. It’s great place to just wander for days!
Remember to wash or disinfect your fruit and veg as most of it is grown just out of the village in the hills near San Cristobal and with poor sanitary and waste disposal (especially when there has been no rain) as not doing this could result in an unpleasant few days.
Also keep on top of washing or sanitising your hands maybe a bit more than normal as we did have a couple of days of not so good tummy’s and so did a few people in the hostel while we were staying in.
It does get quite chilly in San Cristobal at night unlike most places in Mexico so make sure you have or take jumper or sweater out with you if you head out for the day!
We loved our time there and will definitely go back one day! Everything in this post is on maps.me as well as many other places and things to see and do in San Cristobal De Las Casas!
Leaving San Cristobal
While we were there we heard reports of blocked roads leading into and out of San Cristobal due to some due to some indigenous groups setting up blockades protesting about the proposed new dam and pipeline being built through their communities.
We left San Cristobal on an early Thursday morning on a shuttle headed for the Guatemalan border…..