A Journey into San Cristobel De La Casas- Mexico's most cultural city in the Chiapas state
Updated: May 21, 2020
Part of a trip across Mexico, 4 girls headed for a journey into San Cristobel De La Casas, Mexico's most cultural city in the Chiapas state to see what it had to offer.
Walking into Hotel Mansion Del Valle, was like walking into a Mexican soap opera where Alejandro would come and kidnap Guadeloupe and fight off the guards that stood on the corners of the entrance and the stairs. Why on earth do they need guards?! The answer to that is still unknown. The hotel was a colonial style building, the entrance and hallways had cute painted doors with borders of colourful flowers and a courtyard where dinner was held every night.
San Cristobal de la Casas was a very special place. The weather dropped from a high 28ºC in Merida were we were the day before to a 6ºC in San Cristobal. We had to sprint to the closest shop to buy a thick woolly poncho, to save ourselves from getting sick. The change of weather and the type of cold was the one that pierces through the bones. We were surely unprepared. We did not realize we were in a town nestled in a beautiful valley 2,200 meters above sea-level. The rooms had no heaters, they needed to be requested.
Before heading out of the room, a sign on the bedside table explained the hotel was not responsible for any bites from fleas or tic that maybe infested in the woolly clothes that are bought from nearby markets. This will sure make buying a little difficult as everything was more or less woolen, and they all looked like they were made in the same place. It was all about luck whether we would end up with nits and ticks or not. At this point, we were too cold to care.
San Cristobal was incredible, from its cobbled stone streets, wrought Iron balconies, flowers, bursts of colours as local indigenous people passed by selling ornaments and felt made items. We had no expectations for SC, and even after all the travelling, we still wanted to get out and get our bearings.
Tourists from all corners of the world were heard around us. We sat in Santo Nahual, an authentic Mexican restaurant located on Miguel Hidalgo to have our first proper meal of the day. The food was good enough to tantalize out taste buds. Good enough that we said we would end our last night there too.
The indigenous people of San Cristobel De La Casas came from two groups the Tzotzil and the Tzeltal. They stood out as they dressed in black sheep clothing to keep warm. They walked around selling clothes, handmade felt hanging ornaments, necklaces, as much as they were able to carry on both arms. Whether it was a 5 year old or an 80 years old, they all worked to make a living. While sitting in a cafe, we had little children just stand in front of us wanting us to buy from them. It was a simple no, and they were gone.
We found ourselves having breakfast and catching sunshine at the Frontera Café that served amazing coffee from the Chiapas region. We were also a little naughty as we found a little Pox bar (Posh) an alcoholic drink made with different flavours with the base being sugar cane, wheat and corn. You wouldn’t find this type anywhere else but that particular Pox bar at the Frontera Café. Some say it’s the best they’ve ever tried.
My favourite part about San Cristobal De La Casas was getting lost and finding myself in the daily Santo Domingo craft market that surrounded the gorgeously carved exterior of the church and former convent of Santo Domingo. Often getting lost from the girls and keeping the convent front door as our meeting point.
The market was so overwhelming and the beating heart of the city. So much to see, with plenty of stalls selling local made crafts. From cotton bedspreads, clothes, jewellery, amber, shoes, you name it! This was one of Chiapas and Yucatan regions best markets. What costs $20 in the Chiapas region would cost over $150 in the Quintana Roo region, with no place for haggling. So whatever we didn't end up buying there, we were sure to regret later!
Every street in San Cristobel was more colourful than the other.The coloured buildings that had so much charm. The endless incredible street art that filled almost every corner. Then there were the Churches that can be spotted from any hilltop, and in most squares.
San Cristobel De La Casas is an artist's piece of heaven. Walls were filled with unique street art, each piece picture telling a different story
The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Cristobel De La Casas stood out the most as its located quite central and boasts different shades of yellow. The Santo Domingo church as well mentioned earlier, and the beautifully blue and white Iglesia de Santa Lucia.
There are also 2 viewpoints opposite direction from each other that have the Mirador De La Escuela Sol Maya and the other is the Iglesia de Guadalupe. Both views are worth climbing the stairs for, and worth watching the sunset and seeing over San Cristobal de La Casas.
Our evenings were spent mainly in Real De Guadeloupe and Calle Miguel Hidalgo, both extremely vibrant and we were lucky to experience a festive parade that danced through Calle Miguel Hidalgo.
A lady wore a Spanish flamenco dress, few men wore coloured long ponchos, hand woven masks, straw hair wigs, as they danced through playing the Maraca.
Did I mention they had a real baby donkey with them?
The music filled the air as a band dressed in tuxedos played the Tuba, Brass, and percussion. We then realized that was completely different to the traditional dance as a man was proposing to his fiance. We were witnessing two entirely different parades at the same time, one traditional, and one romantic.
Getting around the city is easy and we often stumbled upon unique shops that made unique handicrafts. One place in particular was a Mayan Jewellery boutique. They create a piece of jewellery made from brass and silver based on your date of birth in the Mayan calendar highlighting what animal your characteristics represent. I apparently have the same characteristics of the coyote! I'm still not too sure what that means.
We randomly stumbled on a cactus garden, a falafel restaurant (of all the places in the world), random coloured courtyards, and amazingly colourful restaurants and bars.
San Cristobel was a great base for full day trips, and a great place in its own right to spend a few days before departing to the next municipality or state or even day tours.
There are plenty of things to do which include Sumidero canyon, Lagunas de Montebello National Park, El Chiflon Waterfalls, as well as my favourite, the village of San Juan de Chamula. We booked some of the tours with our hotel and some through local tour offices we had found on our walkabouts in town. Every day entertained us and introduced us to a side of Mexico we never knew existed.
The essence of Mexico can only be experienced.
It was definitely sad leaving San Cristobel, but after 10 days spent travelling around 4 Mexican states and seeing 7 municipalities, it was time to have a beach break.
We flew 2 hours 20 minutes to Cancun on VivaAerobus and took a 2 hour taxi to Tullum. We could not wait to be in sunny weather again with our feet in the sand.
If you're looking for things to do in the Chiapas state, check out our other blogs:
Visiting Zincantan Village- Textiles and pox
San Juan Chamula Church- where sacrifices take place and soul fragments maybe taken away
Lagunas de Montebello National Park take a wooden raft out to explore this beauty
Sumidero Canyon- one of Chiapas biggest highlights to visit from San Cristobel De La Casas