11 Cool Things to Do in Chiapas, Mexico

There were a lot of things that we were expecting from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas: fun things to do, low prices, a colorful city in San Cristobal, and mountain views.

What we weren’t expecting was to discover a destination that appears to be designed for outdoor lovers like us.

If you love waterfalls, wildlife, and bargains, here are are the best things to do in Chiapas–and why you need to visit immediately!

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The Best Things to Do in Chiapas

Stare in wonder at El Chiflon.

Rainbow Falls at El Chiflon became our new favorite waterfall the second that we laid eyes on it.

Enormous and cascading into a beautiful turquoise pool, one of our favorite aspects of the Rainbow Falls is that rather than falling in one giant bucket of water, it falls along the cliff it runs over–the effect is beautiful.

Some of the smaller waterfalls at the park were also beautiful, and reminded me forcibly of the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia.

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Hike to El Chilfon and don’t want to head back down?

Don’t worry: as long as you didn’t go up the “wrong” (left) side like us, you can zipline most of the way back down!

Our wrong turn worked to our benefit, however–looking at where the viewing platform is on the opposite side of the waterfall, I think that we got the better view.

When we head back to this area at some point in the future, visiting El Chilfon again will be one of our first things to do in Chiapas, Mexico.

Things to do in Chiapas: El Chiflon, Chiapas, Mexico

Enjoy the beauty of the Lagos de Montebello.

I never expected to find a view that reminded me of the karst cliffs of Thailand while in Mexico–but the Lagos de Montebello fit the bill.

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These lakes are said to often be covered in mist, which held true for when we visited, but they were still beautiful (even if we didn’t feel up for the kayaking, which is one of the most popular Chiapas travel experiences there).

purple flowers in the foreground of the Lagos de Montebello, Chiapas, Mexico

Go horseback riding in the countryside.

I have always loved to ride horses and took several years of lessons as a teenager, and Chiapas is the perfect place to explore on horseback.

Our three-hour tour took us through farmland, forest, and small villages–and most notably, the Templo de San Juan (more on that below).

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Both a plus and a minus: the guides were very hands-off, and let us essentially do what we want, including trotting and cantering at will.

As an experienced rider, I adored the experience, but as many of our group members had never been on a horse before, I also found it fairly risky.

Make sure that you stay safe and know your own limits because you’ll need to set them yourself.

Things to Do in Chiapas: Chiapas, Mexico

Visit the unforgettable Templo de San Juan.

Enormous amounts of incense. Chanting in a language that was not Spanish or Latin (it’s Tzotzil, the local indigenous language).

No pews. Straw all over the floor.

Hundreds of candles burning directly onto the ground, no candle holders in sight. A chicken in a box, waiting to be sacrificed at the end of a ritual.

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No priests. Very few crucifixes. Plenty of statues of saints. One small Jesus statue off to the side of the altar.

Is this a Catholic church?

That’s what the Templo de San Juan, considers itself, but it is, without a doubt, the most unique house of worship that I’ve ever entered.

The church, which is located in the village of Chamula, strictly bans all photography inside and was vehement about enforcing it–and yet I have never wanted to take photos so badly in my life.

Things to Do in Chiapas: Templo de San Juan, Chiapas, Mexico

Climb the ruins of Palenque.

Not all of the incredible ruins in Mexico are available to climb anymore, including the famous pyramids at Chichen Itza.

That is for the best–Angkor Wat is a great example of a world-class site that is being damaged by its numerous visitors.

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That being said… it’s still incredibly fun to climb ruins, and when you find sites (usually lesser-known ones) that let you scramble over them, it’s a blast.

Palenque is a perfect example of this–the best views of the city are from sitting on top of some of its buildings.

Admiring this view was one of our favorite things to do in Chiapas!

Things to Do in Chiapas: Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Discover the colors of San Cristobal.

It’s easy to overlook the city of San Cristobal in all of the nature that surrounds it, but there are plenty of things to do in San Cristobal, and the city itself is also worthy of some attention.

San Cristobal makes a perfect base for travelerss visiting Chiapas, Mexico.

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The city is reasonably priced has plenty of transportation and tourism companies available to arrange excursions, there are tons of food and dining options.

This is where ee had our first Pad Thai since Asia–definitely not as good as on Koh Tao, but still great!

Most strikingly, San Cristobal de las Casas is so colorful, making it a joy to explore.

Things to Do in Chiapas: San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico

Climb behind beautiful Misol-Ha.

Sitting at the base of Misol-Ha is like sitting at the bottom of a cavern: there’s so much beauty above you.

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Want to explore an actual cave?

For 10 pesos, you can explore the cave situated behind Misol-Ha–just be prepared to get very wet on your way there!

Things to Do in Chiapas: Misol-Ha, Chiapas, Mexico

Take a boat ride through Sumidero Canyon.

I love canyons–they’re a great reminder of how enormous the Earth really is.

The walls of Sumidero Canyon reach over a kilometer high in some points, and there’s nothing more relaxing than enjoying a slow boat ride through it.

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… As long as you’re not scared of alligators, that is!

We spotted a couple of adults and one baby sunning themselves during our cruise through the most famous canyon in Chiapas.

Things to Do in Chiapas: Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas, Mexico

Get underground at the Grutas de Rancho Nuevo.

This striking cavern is beautiful enough for the first 350 meters–but if you want to have an unforgettable (if potentially terrifying) adventure, you can continue into the cave further than the light will follow you.

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That’s right: armed with a flashlight and helmet, you can continue a bit further into the cavern to experience absolute darkness.

If you’ve never experienced the absolute complete darkness that a cave offers before, it’s definitely a memorable experience!

interior of caves in chiapas mexico, chiapas travel guide

Visit El Arcotete Eco Park.

Whether you want to explore caves, try your hand at ziplining, or even go rock climbing or rappelling, you can find it at El Arcotete Eco Park, which is located an easy 15-20 minute ride from San Cristobal.

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Go swimming at Agua Azul.

Just like the smaller waterfalls at El Chiflon, Agua Azul gave me Croatia flashbacks–this time to Krka National Park, complete with the option to swim at the bottom of the falls.

Keep in mind that you can’t swim just anywhere: some areas are much more dangerous than others, so be sure to follow the signs!

Things to Do in Chiapas: Agua Azul, Chiapas, Mexico

How much does it cost to visit Chiapas, Mexico?

Chiapas is one of the most affordable states in Mexico for travelers hoping to backpack Mexico on a budget.

Three-hour horseback riding tour? $10 USD.

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A full-day trip to El Chiflon and Lagos de Montebello, including entrance fees? $16 USD.

Tour of the Sumidero Canyon, including transportation there and back? $15 USD.

The prices here are so low that with a moderate budget, you can easily do an excursion a day without breaking a sweat.

Things to Do in Chiapas: Agua Azul, Chiapas, Mexico

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photo of el chiflon, one of the best things to do in chiapas mexico

About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

23 thoughts on “11 Cool Things to Do in Chiapas, Mexico”

    • Oh, we’re so glad to hear that! We love you and miss you. Looking forward to calling as soon as we can get strong enough Wifi.

    • Thanks, Calle! We stayed in an Airbnb in San Cristobal de las Casas. I definitely recommend San Cristobal–it’s the perfect place for exploring Chiapas, and a great city in its own right.

  1. Hi, great post…I will be reading a lot more of your blog…I am planning a 3 week trip to Mexico in August, and 4-5 days in Chiapas (do you think it’s enough to explore Chiapas?). Are the tour prices really that cheap? I can see you’ve been there just this year? What is the best way to get there from Mexico city? Are the buses ok, or is it better to fly? Thanks, Everton

  2. Hey Everton! 4-5 days is definitely enough to get a solid taste of the area, though you’ll be leaving some things undone–all the more reason to come back later!

    Yes, the tour prices really are that cheap, at least as of January 2017.

    We took a bus from Puerto Escondido to San Cristobal, so didn’t come directly from Mexico City. ADO buses should be able to get you between the two points fairly easily (though it’s a long ride!). We had nothing but good experiences with ADO buses–they were all clean, modern, and efficient, included a/c and some even had charging stations in the seats. I don’t see any reason to fly unless you are very worried about time.

    Hope you have an awesome time!

    • That’s great Kate, thanks for the tips.
      One more thing. Do you know if the tours from San Cristobal to Palenque allow you to take your luggage? I was thinking to do a tour to Palenque, but then stay in Palenque instead of returning to San Cristobal, which means we’ll have to take the lugagges. I couldn’t find any info on this on the internet…Thanks

  3. Anytime, Everton!

    Our tour guide let us bring our luggage and didn’t even bat an eye when we asked, and I imagine most others will react similarly. We were in a sedan, and they just through our bags in the trunk. Chiapas is a pretty casual place–if you tell the tour company what you’re looking for, I’d say the odds of them turning your money away are very slim!

    • Honestly, I have no idea! We just booked from one of the many tourist agencies in town. The people in our group came from several different agencies/hotels/hostels–essentially, they just combined us into one tour. Not sure if the horseback riding team had an official company name or not.

  4. Jeremy and Kate ..I am a Scotsman who lives in Chiriqui Panama, was thinking of a trip to Chiapas and other places in Mexico ..I’m a seasoned traveller and use hostels etc

    My question is when you done the trip to Panama did you use the TICA BUS , THEY GO FROM Panama to Chiapas ..if you did how did you find it, there web site is quite good and I like the idea that you can plan some time in other countries as well ,they seem quite flexable.

    Thanks in Advance

    • Hi Donald!

      Nope, I’m not familiar with Tica Bus. We used local buses in some areas and booked shuttles through tourist agencies on the ground in others, but we booked everything as we went!

  5. Hi, thanks for your post. My husband, daughters (11 & 13) and I are spending two weeks in Chiapas in July. We’re planning on spending a few days each, in about 4 or 5 cities, and visiting many of the places you listed. I’m not sure when you were there last, but I was wondering whether the Central American migrants are impacting traffic (e.g. walking on the highways) or whether you encountered blockades? We’ll have rental car. I speak Spanish and have driven in Mexico City and other cities in Mexico, but I’m a little anxious about the state of the roads (narrow? pot-hole ridden?). It seems to make more sense for us to rent a car (cost and flexibility) vs. taking a bus everywhere. Did you make it to Frontera Corozal or Yaxchilan? Thanks!

    • Hi Norma! We were in Chiapas in early 2017, so I’m not sure if there are any incredibly recent issues, but I suspect the odds of running into an issue with travelers on foot/blockades in Chiapas is minimal. I’d recommend asking a local before you arrive (maybe at your hotel or your Airbnb host?) and seeing if they know of anything recent.

      Best I can remember, the roads weren’t incredibly well maintained (LOTS of speed bumps, and yes narrow in places), and there weren’t street lights everywhere, so things got very, very dark on the road. If you’re used to driving in Mexico I wouldn’t rule out driving as a possibility, but just go in with caution.

      We didn’t make it to Frontera Corozal or Yaxchilan on our last trip, but maybe next time! We’d love to return to Chiapas.

    • It’s probably too late for your own trip, I was back in Chiapas around 2008, Commandante Zero was running for president in a balaclava. There were blockades of a sort, Mostly stop and searches on the buses. But the agents kept well away from me, in a way that was almost awkward. Near the border, taxi cab drivers fought over taking north, because the minute the immigration agents see a white person in the taxi, they’ll leave it alone. Many local Mestizo Mexicans HATE immigrants from Guatemala and further south. I had a conversation in Spanish with a local man who complained that the “Indios guatemaltecos” didn’t know Spanish (many only speak dialects of Mayan and other indigenous people) and didn’t want to learn, they were only there to take their jobs! Sound familiar? When migrants on the trains go through towns in Guatemala, children throw candies, when they pass the border, children throw rocks at them. You will not run into immigrants on the roads, because they rightfully fear the locals and the federales. It gets much worse, I was naive and thought Mestizos could not be racist against the indigenous people. I was very wrong. Maybe things have changed, but I doubt it. Be prepared to encounter barefoot children offering to shine your shoes. Heartbreaking.

  6. Hi,

    Thanks for this informative blog post! Do you remember the tour company you used for the horseback riding to the indigenous villages & San Juan Chamula church?

    • Hi Tess,

      Not only do I not remember, but I’m also pretty sure I never got a name in the first place! We booked it through an agency in town (not sure which one), but like in many places around the world, our actual tour group was composed of people who had booked at different places around town.

      I have no doubt you’ll be able to find plenty of agencies in town offering the tour. We definitely recommend taking it! 🙂


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