If it’s your first time in Chiapas, you’ll need five to seven days to cover the region’s dizzying trifecta of craftsmanship, nature, and archaeology—and have enough hang time in dreamy San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the state’s third-largest (and arguably most beautiful) city. Plan to spend the first three or four nights in the San Cristóbal highlands, where you can take half- and full-day trips to visit weavers, ceramists, and markets. You can also witness ceremonies in the Indigenous municipalities of Zinacantán, Chamula, and Tenejapa.
San Cristóbal’s historic center, meanwhile, offers abundant shopping, eating, and cultural experiences. It can also be a base for day trips to national parks and natural attractions like El Chiflón waterfall, where the main cascade drops 393 feet. It’s hard to wrap your head around the region’s extreme microclimates: on the same day you might need a puffer jacket in the morning as you set out from the San Cristóbal highlands and end up sweating through a tank top in the afternoon as you hike through the waterfall mist in El Arcotete National Park. You’ll also want to make pilgrimages to the spectacular archaeological sites of Toniná and Palenque.
Though I had fantasies of renting a car and crisscrossing the region on my own, I quickly realized there was too much ground to cover.
Even if you speak Spanish and trust your navigational skills, you will want the political, cultural, and historic context a skilled guide can offer.
Which is why I enlisted the tour operator Journey Mexico, both for the deep knowledge of their seasoned local guides and for their help with logistics. Here’s my suggested itinerary, broken down into regions.