Chiapas is Mexico’s southern-most state, packed with interesting indigenous villages, rugged canyons, jungle-coated Maya ruins and attractive colonial towns, a great destination for both outdoor adventurers and culture lovers.
Larger than Oaxaca and with a more varied terrain, Chiapas is Mexico’s poorest state, but what it lacks in economic might, it more than makes up for in spirit. Along with elegant colonial towns, the region has retained its indigenous roots in villages such as San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. These villages populated by the Tzotzil Indians, descendants of the ancient Maya, still maintain their own governing rules and religious rituals, along with some unique customs, costumes and beliefs. These are fascinating villages to visit, culturally enriching and a chance to learn about traditional and unique handmade arts and crafts, as well as Tzotzil cooking methods and cuisine.
Other highlights of Chiapas include the UNESCO-listed Maya ruins at Palenque and the handsome colonial city of San Cristobal, which we think is a great place to sit with a coffee and watch the world go by. There is also ample opportunity to get active in the jungle forests, on the flowing rivers and in the gushing waterfalls and caves of the region and we’d recommend a boat trip through the Sumidero Canyon, which was formed by a geological fault 36 million years ago.
The varied ecosystems in Chiapas are full of flora and fauna and of note is the colourful birdlife found in the Lacandon jungle south of Palenque, where it’s possible to see toucan, white-crowned parrot, green parakeet and the recently reintroduced scarlet macaw. The
Chiapas highlands are also a great place to spot the beautiful and brightly-coloured quetzal bird.We’d also suggest looking out for local festivals with colourful parades and loud firework displays, where visitors are welcome to join the celebrations. Chiapas is rich in both culture and natural beauty and we think it makes an enriching addition to any Mexican itinerary. It is a one-hour 25-minute flight from Mexico City to the state capital Tuxtla Gutierrez.