Lagunas de Montebello: Chiapas strikingly beautiful and colorful lakes

Cinco Lagos are 162 meters deep, among the deepest lakes in Mexico (Photo: MND)

Strikingly beautiful lakes with colors ranging from turquoise to purple found in this national park in Chiapas.

The Lagunas de Montebello are located 170 kilometers to the southwest, near the border of Guatemala. This lake area is a Mexican national park and was designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2009.

On your way to the lagoons, you will find the Zapatista Center for Independent Resistance and Rebellion at a place called Tulan Ka’u, which means Caballo Fuerte, Strong Horse.

At the entrance, the word BIENVENID@S is written with the “at” symbol, a convention adopted by the Zapatistas to signify their commitment to gender equality.

Leaving the Zapatista Center behind, and after a 20-minute hike up a steep, rocky and very muddy trail, you’ll find the Cenote Bartolo.

Bartolo, like so many of the lakes in this area, is surrounded by high walls that make it look something like a crater. But, of course, this area is not volcanic. The rock here is limestone and the lakes are spots where the limestone has been eroded, giving access to the water beneath the surface.

From Bartolo, you can go on to visit a few of the famous lagunas of the area: Tziscao, La Cañada, Pojoj, Montebello, Cinco Lagos and little Lago Internacional, which Mexico shares with Guatemala. These lakes are strikingly beautiful, with colors ranging from turquoise to purple. The many hues are said to be caused by the mineral content of the water, the sediment at the bottom, the surrounding vegetation and light refraction.

As for the number of lakes in the area, the Chiapas Secretariat of Tourism says that no one really knows how many there are, but 59 is the standard number given to statistics-hungry tourists.

Apart from gazing upon the beauty of these lakes from miradores or lookout points, you can also go rafting or kayaking on some of them. One of the most popular lakes for doing this is Lago Pojoj, which has an island in the middle of it with a small orchid and bromeliad garden. “Raft” in Spanish is balsa and the amazingly buoyant rafts at Lago Pojoj are actually made of balsa wood, which is native to the area and obviously useful for something more than making model airplanes.

Other local activities include horseback riding, hiking and the simple act of crossing the border at Lago Internacional where there are no fences, sniffer dogs or guards and no one asks for or even cares about passports: a truly unique experience, especially in these days of obsession with border walls.


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