The Ultimate 3-Day San Cristobal de las Casas Itinerary

by Eddie Kingswell

This 3-day San Cristobal de las Casas itinerary will show you what to do in this colorful colonial town in the central highlands of Chiapas, Mexico’s rugged southern state.

Chiapas is known for its spectacular natural beauty, ancient Mayan ruins, rich indigenous culture, and beautiful towns and villages. Those traveling around southern Mexico can spend a few days here between visiting Oaxaca and on their way to Tulum, for example.

For a long time, tourists have flocked to San Cristobal de las Casas for its proximity to many of Chiapas’ treasures. But the town is also developing a reputation as a destination in its own right.

This San Cristobal de las Casas itinerary will take you around what was the original capital of Chiapas and is still the cultural center of the region. The town is recognized as a Pueblo Magico for its cultural and historical significance and old-world charm.

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During your 3 days in San Cristobal de las Casas, you’ll enjoy music, arts and culture. These are alive and well here with a range of artistic and cultural hubs celebrating everything from indigenous craft to contemporary music and film. San Cristobal also has a thriving food scene with a mix of traditional regional food, and modern international flavors from across the globe.

San Cristobal is located right in the middle of Chiapas, making it the perfect base to explore the natural and cultural attractions scattered throughout the state.

The cobbled streets of San Cristobal de las Casas

Chiapas is a wild and rugged region. The landscape is dominated by mountain ranges, lush jungles, thundering waterfalls, deep blue cenotes, deep canyons, and crystal-clear waterways. Hidden in the jungles, remnants of one of the world’s most impressive civilizations lie in wait.

Southern Mexico is also a place of rich indigenous culture with indigenous crafts, museums, and unique cultural celebrations.

This three-day San Cristobal de las Casas itinerary will allow you to take in some of the most iconic experiences the town and the surrounding area have to offer.

3-Day San Cristobal de las Casas Itinerary

San Cristobal de las Casas Itinerary: Day 1

Begin your adventure by taking to the beautiful cobblestoned streets of this colonial town. The best way to enjoy San Cristobal is on foot.

A great place to start is at the Cathedral of San Cristobal. The city’s main church is located in the central plaza. The Church, which dates back to the 1500s, is a beautiful example of baroque-style architecture. You can visit the church during opening hours between 9.00 am and 1.30 pm and between 4.30 pm and 8 pm.

The Cathedral of San Cristobal

From here it is also possible to join a free walking tour to discover more about the history and the culture of the city. English-speaking tours are offered twice daily.

Tours take you through the historic city center as well as to a few off-the-beaten-path destinations. You even have the opportunity to sample some of the local produce like coffee as part of the tour.

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Take a stroll along San Cristobal’s two main walking streets, the Real de Guadalupe and Miguel Hildago. You’ll find some of the city’s best restaurants, cafes, bars, art galleries, and boutiques along these busy and colorful streets.

Stop off at  Carajillo Expendio and grab a locally sourced coffee from one of the best cafes in the San Cristobal Centro.

Next on your San Cristobal itinerary, head to the Cerro de Guadalupe, or the hill of Guadalupe, where you’ll find a beautiful and historic church that dates back to the early 1800s.

Local markets are one of the best ways to absorb the local culture and atmosphere of a city. San Cristobal de las Casas is home to a number of markets each offering something different.

The Tianguis Artesanal is a small bazaar featuring indigenous textiles, clothing, jewelry, leather goods, pottery, and more. It is the perfect place to find a unique and authentic souvenir.

If you have a sweet tooth and want to buy some treats, try the bustling Mercado de Dulces y Artesanales, where you will find some of the best handcrafted traditional sweets from around Chiapas.

The central city market, Mercado Municipal is the best place to go for a look into the day-to-day life of locals in San Cristobal. This fresh produce market is a great place to find fresh foods from the region. You can also sample local regional dishes at the food stalls.

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San Cristobal has been developing an impressive restaurant and bar scene. With restaurants specializing in regional cuisine and an impressive selection of international restaurants. You can also find some international cuisine, such as Indian, Spanish Korean, Italian, Spanish, and many more.

San Cristobal is also home to many unique cultural experiences. Visit the Kinoki Cultural Center, a space that features an art gallery, restaurant, rooftop bar, and cinema. An artistic and cultural hub for the city, Kinoki screens local film productions and documentaries and also hosts regular events.

Another unique cultural experience to add to your San Cristobal itinerary is a visit to Steps, an NGO dedicated to preserving indigenous culture. Their regular cooking classes teach local indigenous dishes.

There are more than 20 museums in San Cristobal de las Casas offering something for everyone. The Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya focuses on traditional indigenous weaving and the history that surrounds it. The Asociación Cultural Na Bolom is a cultural center and museum and the former residence of archeologist Frans Blom and photographer Trudi Blom. The Arteria Chiapas is an art gallery featuring contemporary local and regional Mexican artists.

After hours, San Cristobal de las Casas comes alive with a great selection of bars. Café Bar Revolución is popular among tourists and locals. This central bar offers local beer, mezcal, cocktails, and live music. Another great venue to check out is La Vina de Bacco, a wine and tapas bar featuring local and international wines, served by the class with a free tapa.

Day 2: Waterfalls and Lakes

On the second of your 3 days in San Cristobal de Las Casas, it is time to head out into the wild and beautiful natural attractions that surround the city.

The best way to experience the natural wonders around San Cristobal is to rent a car and self-drive. However, if you prefer to take a tour there are plenty of private and group tours available from San Cristobal.

Two hours south of San Cristobal is the town of Comitan, the jumping-off point to discover impressive waterfalls, beautiful lakes, and ancient ruins.

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El Chiflón is one of Mexico’s most incredible waterfalls. Notable for the gorgeous blue water, the lush jungle surroundings and impressive falls.

It cost 50 pesos to access the falls via one of the two independent ecotourism companies that operate on opposite sides of the river

El Chiflon is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Mexico an can’t be out of your San Cristobal itinerary

You’ll have to walk 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) to reach the falls. This walk takes you past a series of incredible falls that increase in size as you progress. The final waterfall is the awe-inspiring bridal veil falls.

There are a handful of traditional restaurants for snacks and meals, and picnic tables where you can enjoy a picnic.

You will best experience El Chiflón on days with cooler temperatures, when there are fewer tourists and the early morning light is still filtering through the jungle.

From El Chiflón, the next place on your San Cristobal itinerary is the Lagunas de Montebello. Montebello Lakes are a series of 59 different lakes, famous for their striking and varied colors. Found within a pristine national park, the lakes are set amongst unspoiled forests.

Here you can explore the lakes by kayak or hiking the trails. You can swim or enjoy a picnic by the lake shore. It is also possible to camp overnight within the national park.

Entry to the national park costs 36 pesos, and entry to the lakes a further 25 pesos.

The final stop on day 2 of your San Cristobal de las Casas itinerary is a visit to the ruins of Tenam Puente. Smaller than some of the ruins found in Chiapas, the Tenam Puente ruins are still impressive. Notable for their beauty, they are hidden amongst the forest which has started to reclaim them.

The ruins are not as busy as some and it is great to explore them without hordes of tourists.

Access to the ruins costs 40 pesos per person. This also gives you access to a small museum which offers further insight into the history of this important place.

If you have more time in the area, there are a range of other attractions near Comitan. You could visit the thunderous waterfalls of Las Nubes, explore the magical Lagos de Colon, or relax by the deep, blue waters of Chucumaltik Cenote.

Day 3 of San Cristobal de las Casas Itinerary

On the last of your 3 days in San Cristobal de las Casas, it’s time to head toward Chiapas’ capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

Outside the city, you will find the Sumidero Canyon. The canyon has been carved out over thirty-five million years by the Grijalva River which flows through the deep limestone walls. The great gorge with walls as high as 1000 meters.

The majestic Sumidero Canyon

You can walk, run, cycle or drive along the Calle Al Sumidero, a road that winds its way up to the top of the canyon, past five lookouts. Each provides better and better views of the canyon below.

At the fifth and final lookout, atop the canyon, enjoy spectacular views of the canyon and the surrounding national park.

From the Sumidero Canyon head to Chiapas de Corzo, a tiny town on the outskirts of Tuxtla Gutiérrez known for its cultural and historical significance.

Its important position along the Grijalva River has made it an important place since pre-Hispanic times. Since then it has become an essential stop for tourists visiting Chiapas.

The traditional architecture and colorful streets of the small village tell the long history of the town.

Beginning from the town center (or Zocolo), explore the many treasures of Chiapa de Corzo. The La Pila fountain is a Moorish-style structure built in 1562. The nearby kapok tree, known as La Pochota has stood for hundreds of years and is thought to be the tree around which the Spanish built the town around in 1528.

There is a great selection of traditional restaurants in Chiapa. Try the famous Jardines de Chiapa which is renowned for its bustling atmosphere as much as its delicious regional cuisine. Choose to sample their famous lunchtime buffet or order a la carte.

If you are looking for a more low-key meal, try the tacos and gorditas at Restaurant Don Rafita, a favorite amongst locals looking for a delicious, quick, and cheap lunch on the go.

The best time to visit Chiapas de Corzo is in January when the town comes alive for the Fiesta Grande de Enero. One of Mexico’s most unique festivals, the Fiesta Grande is a UNESCO-listed event of cultural significance. Between the fourth and twenty-third of January, there are parades, celebrations, religious observances, historical reenactments, special foods, fireworks, and most importantly, the masked and brightly colored dancers known as Parachicos.

The final activity today takes you back to the Sumidero Canyon, but this time by exploring the canyon from below along the Grijalva River.

Beginning from Chiapa de Corzo, a two-hour return boat ride travels up the river through the massive gorge. You will get to experience the canyon from a totally new angle and may even spot crocodiles basking on the banks, or spider monkeys hiding in the trees.

Boat trips are available from 9 am, though they only leave once the boat is filled, which can take hours. The boat trip costs 230 pesos per person.

3-Day San Cristobal de las Casas Itinerary: Conclusion

San Cristobal de las Casas is one of the most unique and authentic places to visit in Mexico. It has something for everyone, whether you are a history buff, nature enthusiast, or prefer the creature comforts of an increasingly modern and sophisticated town.

Three days in San Cristobal de las Casas will give you enough time to scratch the surface of this beautiful town and the stunning natural wonders that surround it. However, there is so much to do and see in San Cristobal and around it that you could easily spend a few weeks here.


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