San Cristobal de las Casas

San Cristobal de las Casas Travel Guide

San Cristóbal de las Casas Travel Guide by CC user doctoraw on Flickr

San Cristóbal de las Casas Travel Guide by CC user doctoraw on Flickr

Introduction

San Cristobal de las Casas is a place in Mexico that is unlike any other, as its high altitude gives it a chill that will send the beach crowd scurrying for the nearest heater after dark. Indeed, this is the sort of destination where you will be curling up in front of a fireplace after the sun sets, rather than having drinks on the beach.

However, during the day, exploring the cobblestone streets of this charming city while the scent of pine wafts on the breeze is something that cannot be described in words, but needs to be experienced in person to be appreciated.

Pair that with a culture that is as authentic as one can get in the entire country, and you have a destination that should be high on your Mexican itinerary.

Cultural Attractions

San Cristobal de las Casas, Santo Domingo church by CC user azwegers on Flickr

Of all the attractions that one can find in San Cristobal de las Casas, the churches that can be found within its borders are well worth your attention. The one that you want to check out for certain is the Templo de Santo Domingo.

While the structure has been the subject of renovation work over the past few years, the architectural brilliance of this baroque structure will still shine through on your visit here, as its intricately carved facades will have you admiring the brilliance of the artists that worked on this structure.

One attraction that you shouldn’t miss while in this church is the Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya. Located on the upper level, There are over 500 samples of Mayan stitch work, including 1000 year old tapestry that was woven from tree bark.

The second church you should check out is the Iglesia De Guadalupe, which is located at the east end of the street that bears its name, Real Guadalupe. From the top of the stairs that grant access to the front of this church, you can have excellent views of the town from which you just came.

While the structure itself may not be overly impressive to architecture snobs, the solace that can be found within may be a relief to you if the noise levels of this part of the country are starting to get to you, as can be the case around religious holidays in this part of Mexico ( you will learn to hate firecrackers once you hear them going off incessantly at 4 a.m.)

Not all people that have moved to Chiapas have let the din of everyday life here get to them, as was evidenced by the European immigrants that created the estate where Casa Na Bolom now stands.

Franz and Gertrude Blom, a Danish couple that moved to San Cristobal de las Casas in the 1950s, loved the jungle and the Mayan culture that they found upon moving to this new part of Mexico.

Using the inheritance money that they got from Gertrude’s mother’s upon her death, they purchased an old monastery on the outskirts of town, and created a cultural centre where locals and visitors alike could experience the culture of the Maya.

Though this couple passed away many years ago, their mission continues with the efforts of locals that share the knowledge of the local indigenous people with any that choose to experience it for themselves. In addition to the museum exhibits, there is also a restaurant on site, where one can try local specialties.

If that attraction has gotten you more interested in learning about the culture of the local Chiapan people, then a visit to the Museo de Trajes Regionales will satisfy this thirst for knowledge.

Containing over a hundred costumes, dresses, pieces of jewelry, and other items that the locals used to dress up for special occasions, it will help you understand the everyday lives of the people of the Mexican state a little bit more.

Other Attractions

El Chiflón by CC user comefilm on Flickr

While San Cristobal de las Casas is not exactly a tropical place being at 7000 feet above sea level, there are a number of plants that thrive in the high altitude tropical rainforest that can be found around town.

The Botanical Garden that goes by the name of Orquideas Moxviquil will educate you on this subject, as it contains over 3000 species of flora, including 400 species of orchid. In addition to this, there are plenty of hiking trails that radiate out from this garden, giving those that are looking to experience nature and opportunity to do so.

If you are looking to find some of the finest waterfalls that can be found in southern Mexico, one needn’t look any further than El Chiflón. Located a few hours south of the city, this breathtaking display of water and wind driven foam will only be rivaled by the aquamarine waters that pool at the base of these falls.

If you arrive here during the months of February to July, you will want to pack your bathing suit, as the waters here are refreshing and beautiful. However, arriving here during rainy season provides only amazing views of the raw power of nature, but the result of that is that the river waters beneath the falls turn into a dangerous torrent of rushing water, making it too dangerous to swim in.

The increasing popularity of San Cristobal de las Casas has blessed it with an abundance of amazing restaurants and nightlife. As you walk around during the day, make a note of places that you want to visit later in the trip or later that evening.

As far as recommendations go, TierrAdentro is a great cafe that is run by the Zapatistas; while that might sound scary, a lot has changed since their insurrection in 1994, when they faced off against the government in a bid to secure Chiapas its independence from Mexico.

While they failed in the end, they marshalled their resources to fuel a movement to help improve the standard of living of everyday people in this state, and to advocate for social justice on their behalf. The profits from this place go towards funding their operations, which are constructive rather than the more militant actions they had taken in previous years.