Chiapas, located in Southeast Mexico, is one of the country's 31 official states. The state is home to a storied and rich history that includes ancient Mayan civilizations and the Spanish conquerors.
Chiapas also has a diverse geography of plains, mountains and lush tropical forests. With so much culture and a diverse range of outdoor activities, it would be a shame not to visit Chiapas, Mexico.
To get you started planning your trip, here are six of the top things to do in Chiapas.
Top things to do in Chiapas Mexico
1. Agua Azul
Agua Azul (translates to blue water in English) is a long series of cascading turquoise waterfalls surrounded by lush green jungle. They're a Chiapas must-see and draw in many tourists every year.
These shimmering falls and streams run through a mineral-filled limestone bed that creates the beautiful bright blue colored water. It is easily one of Mexico's most incredible attractions and the natural beauty rivals that of Semuc Champey in neighboring Guatemala.
The air is humid and the temptation to swim is strong. There are shallow and calm pools to cool off in and enjoy, but you'll want to use caution as the undercurrent and rapids here have claimed lives.
2. Lagunas de Montebello
Southern Chiapas is home to some spectacular lakes that reflect bright turquoise and green colors, surrounded by scenic forests and mountains. While there are around 50 Chiapas lakes, some of which cross over into Guatemalan territory many are still not easily accessible by road. Whether you take your time exploring with your own vehicle or go on a guided tour these lakes are sure to impress.
The first four lakes in the park are the “Lakes of Colors” and these are the ones with the most stunning reflective colors. Further on, there are the “Five Lakes” which are much larger and equally as beautiful. Both collections of Lakes are important Chiapas points of interest.
There are small food stalls serving fresh Mexican food at many of the lakes. If the weather is nice swimming is permitted.
Other things to do in Montebello by the water include taking small rafts or kayaks out for adventures. Simply standing and taking in the moment as you view them is more than enough to justify the trip.
3. El Chiflon Waterfalls
Adding to the list of amazing water features in Chiapas is El Chiflon waterfalls. The park is one of the things to see in Chiapas and well-developed with a modern visitor center and facilities. From the entry of the park is a long path hugs the river all the way up to the top of the falls. While trekking along the path begins fairly easy it gets quite steep the closer you get to the top.
If you visit during the wet season as I did, the path is also very moist and damp; it can become quite slippery. Breathtaking views are to be had at the top of the falls so it is well worth the struggle to reach them.
If you're in need of an adrenaline rush there is also a zip line you can take across the gorge. Many tour guides include a 2 hour stop at El Chiflon during the Lagunas de Montebello tour. This is not enough time to hike to the top and get the full experience, you should take your time and explore it separately if able.
If you would like to go on an organized trip to El Chiflon and Montebello, this tour is a good option as it lasts all day, giving you ample time to explore both sites.
4. Palenque Ruins
Chiapas is home to at least five known Mayan sites, the biggest and most popular of which is Palenque. These ruins date back as far as 226 BC and while many large impressive temples have been excavated here, it's believed that 90% of the structures are still hidden underground, claimed by the jungle after it was abandoned.
Palenque was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason. It's not as big as Tikal or Chichen Itza but its large pyramids and towers are impressive, making them one of the best places to visit in Chiapas for architecture and history lovers.
The Temple of the Inscriptions is the largest stepped pyramid known to be built by the Maya. Palenque also has some of the nicest sculptures and carvings made by the Mayans ever found.
Unlike Chichen Itza, you're still allowed to climb the steps of these tall structures and explore their magical past.
5. Sumidero Canyon
If you're wondering where to go in Chiapas for some pure nature, Sumidero Canyon is the answer.
It's hard to imagine any canyon being able to match the grandness of the Grand Canyon, but to me, Sumidero was just as great. Sumidero Canyon isn't as big but boasts 1,000-meter tall vertical canyon walls, multiple waterfalls, and wildlife all surrounded by lush green national park forest.
A trip to this canyon can easily be made from San Cristobal. There are many cheap tour providers or you can rent a car and drive yourself.
Standard boat tours take you an hour up the river, stopping along the way to view wildlife and waterfalls before arriving at the Chicoasen Dam. Spotting crocodiles and birds along the ride is a sure thing. Afterward, you visit a small but cultured nearby town for lunch, Chiapa De Corzo.
Tips for tours:
- 7-hour tour to Sumidero Canyon and Chiapa de Corzo from San Cristobal
- 7-hour tour to Sumidero Canyon and Chiapa de Corzo from Tuxtla
- Full-day tour to Sumidero National Park from Tuxtla, including a boat tour and a visit to Chiapa de Corzo
- Full-day tour to Sumidero National Park from San Cristobal, including a boat tour and a visit to Chiapa de Corzo
6. San Cristóbal
Sitting in a valley surrounded by hills high up in the mountains is a vibrant and culturally rich city named San Cristóbal de las Casas or San Cristóbal for short. This city is one of the best places in Chiapas to use as a base for exploration and adventure around the state.
This charming city's architecture is Spanish colonial and features cobblestone streets and famous red-tiled roofs giving it a distinct look. The city has many sights to see, such as large colorful cathedrals and churches, museums, a large open-air market and many international restaurants.
Anyone interested in the local Mayan populations should check out one of the nearby towns such as San Juan Chamula. Inhabited by the Tzotzil Mayans they remain independent, growing crops and making textiles. They speak their own language and continue practicing many ancient customs to this day.
Practical tips for traveling to Chiapas in Mexico
If you want to travel to Chiapas to visit the waterfalls and other Chiapas attractions in nature, plan your trip accordingly with the seasons. During the wet rainy season (when I visited) the rivers and falls were raging with water. While it was still great, the best time to visit Chiapas for water activities is in the dry season.
And that's it! I hope these tips have answered your question of what to do in Chiapas and have put you in the mood to plan your own trip there.
Where to stay in Chiapas
How to get to Chiapas, Mexico
Traveling to Chiapas requires a few stops depending on where you'e coming from. Fly into Mexico City and take a flight onward into Palenque or Tuxtla. Alternatively, you can fly into Villahermosa and rent a car to get to your first destination. Another option is to take a long-distance bus from Mexico City. Click here to find the best flights for your trip.
More reading material
Interested in learning more about what to see in Chiapas, where to go, and what to do when visiting Chiapas? Or do you want some background information about the region before you visit? Then check out these books.
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This cool list of things to do in Chiapas was contributed by James Kelley of Escaping Abroad. James has developed an insatiable passion for travel. Read about his travels and wild adventures across the world on his adventure travel blog EscapingAbroad.com. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.