San Cristóbal de las Casas

Catedral de San Cristóbal de las Casas

San Cristóbal de las Casas is in the southern Mexican region of Chiapas.

Understand

Founded by the Spanish in 1528, San Cristóbal de las Casas was the political capital of Chiapas until the end of the 19th century, when that role was transferred to Tuxtla Gutierrez. The city today however is still the cultural capital of the state, and was designated a 'Pueblo Mágico' by the Mexican government in 2003. It has retained much of its Spanish colonial character in its street plans and architecture, and has a large indigenous population made up primarily of Tzotzil- and Tzeltal-speaking Mayans.

For many visitors, San Cristóbal is associated with the Zapatista uprising and its charismatic leader Subcomandante Marcos, who suddenly seized control of the city center in January 1994 demanding justice and equal rights for the state's large and neglected indigenous population. Although the Zapatistas did manage to achieve some of their aims, most of their goals have yet to be met, and the the movement continues to simmer.

Climate

Because of its high altitude (2,200m), San Cristóbal has a more temperate climate and it is easy to forget that one is actually in the tropics. In the summer high temperatures tend to be around 25°C with lows averaging about 10-11°C, while in winter temperatures can range from 4°-20°, with lows occasionally dropping below 0°C. As in most of Mexico, most buildings do not have central heating, so visitors in winter will want to have warm clothing.

Read

Michael Spurgeon, Let the Water Hold Me Down. A fictionalized account of the Zapatista uprising, told from the standpoint of an American resident who found himself caught unawares in events leading up to the 1994 uprising.

Get in

By air

The closest airport to San Cristóbal is in Tuxtla Gutierrez, a drive of about one hour 15 minutes. The fare for a taxi is $600 MXN per taxi to San Cristóbal and $200 MXN to Tuxtla, or a shuttle service offering door-to-door service for $170 MXN to/from San Cristóbal.

By bus

The express bus system for getting around Mexico is advanced. The buses are generally comfortable and clean and there are multiple lines to choose from in a user-friendly way with professional and helpful ticket clerks at most main stations. The roads to San Cristóbal are winding and can be dizzying so some choose the option to take a bus and let a professional driver do the work. You can see the beautiful greenery of Chiapas all around you on the trip through the big bus windows, or pull the curtain to nap.

By colectivo and ómnibus

There are many other public transportation modes from Tuxtla to San Cristóbal: taxi, colectivo, autobus, and collective suburbans. The taxi drivers all know where these are located.

  Colectivos (on the Pan-American Highway, 24hrs) to/from Tuxtla Gutierrez, Ocosingo, Comitán, and Palenque all operate from depots located just south of the bus station.

From Tuxtla one can take an Ómnibus de Chiapas that leaves every 20 minutes to San Cristóbal for about $40 MXN.

Get around

If you are reasonably mobile you should be able to walk anywhere within the city without strain. Bicycles are also a good way to get around if you have a very adventurous side!

By taxi

Taxis are all over the place (a little too many of them, honestly) and easy to flag down. Rates are negotiable, and are generally $30-40 MXN; after 22:00 fares go up by $5 MXN. Ask the price before getting in to make sure that you get the going rate.

NOTE: Because of a number of assaults by drivers, solo women are strongly advised to avoid hailing taxis on the street after dark. It is best to call for one or have one called for you.

By colectivo

The main form of public transportation for locals come in the form of a van or minibus. Colectivos run fixed routes, with destinations painted on the windshield. Passengers can be picked up or dropped of any point along the route for a fare of $6 MXN. Be prepared for a cramped ride and frequent stops but hey, that's just part of the fun.

See

Templo de Santo Domingo Guzmán
Research library of Museo Na Bolom
Traditional costume at the Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya

Do

Stroll around town, enjoy the environment, lovely buildings, café, restaurants, churches and squares.

Conventional

Volunteering

After the Zapatist movement came out of the jungle in 1994 a great load of NGOs came over to San Cristóbal. Nowadays you can find lots of interesting projects in any field really. The list of NGOs working in San Cristóbal and its surroundings is quite long. san Cristobal Language School, and after the Zapatistas, the owner has been here working with and for this community..Please come and find out about our choices..

People should be aware of cultural issues in this region. While San Cristóbal has done a great job of cleaning up, there is real destitute poverty just around the corner if you scratch the surface. The native people suffer a lot so please respect them and treat them with kindness when you come into contact. Also, the Zapatista communities are sick and tired of the "hand out" mentality of a lot of NGOs. If you want to do something with the Zapatistas, do it on their terms. Ask questions, do not tell anything. They have a lot more to teach you than you do them.

Learn

Conventional

Alternative culture

Buy

Textiles for sale in front of Templo Santo Domingo
Mercado José Castillo Tielemans

Grocery stores

Eat

Caldo (a traditional hearty soup) at El Caldero
Courtyard of TierrAdentro

On and around the main square there are many sit-down restaurants. You can find cheaper food at the local street vendors and at the markets.

Go to the main public market and eat tamales for breakfast. Another local specialty is sopa de pan which you will probably not find in any restaurant catering to tourists. You will find it in the comedors in the market. That is the best food in town.

On Saturdays many houses sell tamales out their front door. Look for the red lights. On any given evening there are places where people make antojitos on the street in front of their houses. This is real local food.

At certain times of the year different exotic insects are consumed in different ways. Pay attention in the market and you might have the chance to try something really exotic.

A lunch time bargain is in the different cantinas. These are family places… order a beer and you will get a little plate of food to go with it… house choice. It's cheap and excellent, though, you might get drunk in the process.

Drink

Most all restaurants serve filtered water. The local drink here is "posh" or pox. It is a hard liquor made from cane and has been used traditionally for healing and partying. It is frequently served in ponche – a pineapple or fruit hot punch with a special bread broken into it.

Cafés and chocolaterias

Chocolate con nuez (hot chocolate with hazelnut) at Yik Café

Bars

Nightly there are many bars with music on the same street, including   Café Bar Revolución (aka El Revo, tel. +52 967 678 6664). Most of the music is performed by local musicians in the clubs and restaurants; these include   DaDa Club (tel. +52 967 631 3293), a jazz club that presents very good music, and the   El Cocodrilo Bar (in the Santa Clara Hotel on the SE corner of the Zócalo, tel. +52 967 674 5294), with nightly music.

Sleep

Courtyard of the San Cristóbal Holiday Inn

San Cristóbal is considered by some to be the backpackers hub in Chiapas. Some accommodation should be found for around 50P/5USD. There are signs on buildings advertising rooms for that amount, though they may have common bathrooms. Very nice hotels such as Hotel Real del Valle on Guadalupe just off the main square may be had for 200P/20USD.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay healthy

Most people that travel to San Cristóbal never have a need to seek medical attention. But accidents can happen and people do get sick. If you do fall ill or hurt, San Cristóbal has good doctors, dentists and hospitals who will be capable of treating you. Local English-speaking doctors can be recommended by a good hotel, and most of the higher-quality hotels that cater for foreign visitors have a doctor on call at all times. Ask at reception.

Should you simply have nausea, consider buying some Bonadoxina at the local pharmacy. As always, check with the pharmacist regarding your specific symptoms and potential allergic reactions.

Go next

Tuxtla Gutierrez airport

The standard rate for a taxi to the airport from San Cristóbal to Ángel Albino Corzo International Airport (IATA: TGZ) is around $500 MXN. Most tour agencies in town also operate shuttle services to the airport for about $200 MXN, generally one or two a day, and will pick you up at your place of stay.

Mayan villages in the surrounding mountains

Traditional kitchen in Zinacantán

There are a number of nearby Mayan villages easily accessible by public transportation or via a day tour. Some villages welcome visitors, while others do not. The closest and most accessible are San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán, and others equally fascinating and worth visiting include Tenejapa, San Andres Larrainzar, and San Pedro Chenalho. The best day to visit a Maya community is during its festivals and weekly market.

A good guide, should you choose one, will help to give you a deeper understanding of modern Maya life and some of the unusual customs you may observe. Guides can be picked up daily at 09:30 in the main plaza by the cathedral; one of the more popular and reputable outfits is Cielo y Tierra Tours. Tours generally return around 14:30 (lunch time in Mexico).

NOTE: There are no colectivos connecting Chamula direcly with Zinacantán; if you want to visit both on the same day you will need to need to return to San Cristóbal after visiting each village before proceeding onward. Also, visitors should not photograph any villagers without permission – failure to follow this rule can result in physical assault and/or loss of your camera.

El Arcotete

The Arcotete is one of San Cristóbal's best kept secrets. Similar to Rancho Nuevo but much nicer and closer to San Cristóbal, located about 5-10km from the City in the direction of Tenejapa (signs are well placed to find El Arcotete). 10 pesos per vehicle. Recently remodeled into a park offering nice walking grounds surrounded by Pine trees, picnic areas, and nice look out vantage points. A great day trip to spend a couple of hours or the whole day enjoying a picnic or a pickup soccer game. It costs 5 pesos to enter the part of (Las Grutas) The Caves. El Arcotete will provide a wonderful experience enjoying Natures work at best. Check it out for yourself.

Further afield

To get there take a van from San Cris to Tuxtla Gutierrez and ask to be left in Chiapa de Corzo. Under the bridge look for collectives or taxis direction Bochil and that will leave you close to the waterfall entrance.

Guatemala Many private shuttles to Guatemala leave early in the morning by the Zocalo. From there it is about 6 hours to cross the border.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, December 22, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.