San Cristobal de Las Casas is one of the most magical places we’ve visited. Not only the town itself but also the surrounding nature! There is always something to do and we’d love to share our favorite activities in San Cristobal, Mexico.
Why should you visit San Cristobal de las Casas?
San Cristobal de las Casas or simply San Cris is a town in the most southern state of Mexico – Chiapas. It’s one of the Pueblos Magicos, filled with culture, beautiful colonial architecture, colorful markets, and amazing people.
While visiting San Cristobal, you’ll have a chance to learn about the history and the traditions of the indigenous communities, just as much as enjoying modern cafés, craft beer, and a lot of vegetarian food. San Cris has it all.
Also, there is the best coliving space! You’ll find our beloved Co. 404 in San Cristobal de las Casas. I’ll share our review soon. Spoiler alert: We enjoyed our stay SO MUCH!
What to do in San Cristobal, Mexico
It’s clear, you have to go to San Cristobal. But what to do there? You can get inspired by our tips for activities in and around San Cristobal. Obviously, we tried to avoid tours as much as possible and will help you do the same.
1/ Free Walking Tour in San Cristobal
We didn’t like free walking tours… Before we took this free walking tour in San Cristobal! Honestly, we only had one experience in Amsterdam, which was so bad, we never wanted to try it again. But all of our friends in San Cristobal insisted we have to go for this one.
So we went with a roommate from our coliving place Co. 404 and it was great! We got an interesting insight into the local history and oh-so-many tips for great spots in the town. I really recommend going on this tour as soon as possible after your arrival.
2/ Sumidero Canyon
You can’t miss the Sumidero canyon while you’re in San Cristobal. We went on a solo day trip and all the views were just like a scene from The Lord of the Rings!
You can see the canyon both from a boat and from the viewpoints above. We’ll share a full guide for the Sumidero Canyon day trip from San Cristobal, so you don’t need to go on a tour and can enjoy each place just as long as you wish!
3/ El Chiflon Waterfalls
Another easy day trip from San Cristobal you can organize yourself is to El Chiflon waterfalls. Check out how to do a self-guided trip to El Chiflon. Some people call it a hike, but it’s really just an easy walk along the river with five beautiful waterfalls to admire along the way.
Only if you decide to visit the top waterfall as well, you’ll have a little workout to do. And do so, since almost no one goes all the way up, so it’s a beautiful quiet place. Btw. If you come at a better time of the year than we did, you can even swim in the river! Unfortunately, the rainy season already came and the water was too dangerous for us.
4/ Explore the Artisanal Market
I’m usually not a huge fan of artisanal markets in the center of a town, since they tend to be overpriced and not authentic at all. I had to make an exception and enjoyed Mercado de Artesanías in San Cristobal a lot!
Of course, even here you’ll find many stands with useless “funny” t-shirts, mass-produced jewelry, and other trinkets. But! You’ll also find genuine artists and their production here. My beloved red scarf everybody adores is from here, just like our beautiful carpet.
5/ Shop at the Mercado Municipal in San Cristobal
Are you more into the real local markets? Well, we are as well. That’s why our favorite market is Mercado Municipal. That’s the place where you can buy the cheapest, best, and most fresh fruit and vegetables in the town.
It’s important to learn how to shop here. It’s not like Europe where you would ask for half a kilo of strawberries or take two mangos. You’ll notice they have all the fruits stacked in piles – and that’s exactly what you should buy – a pile or more of anything you want. The prices are also set for those piles.
6/ Visit the Indigenous Villages Chamula and Zinacantan
You can see and feel the indigenous culture everywhere in San Cristobal, especially when you go to the main market. But if you want to really experience it, go for a day trip to the nearby indigenous villages. These both are easily manageable on one day trip.
San Juan Chamula is probably the most interesting, so if you only have time for one village, make sure it’ll be this one. The highlight is the church. Why? Because you can witness the exceptional fusion of the local Mayan beliefs and Catholicism.
When you enter the church, you’ll immediately notice that something is different from what you’re used to. The locals won’t only come to pray to the church, they hold their own rituals there. You can watch a family lighting a number of candles, drinking posh or Coca-Cola, and sacrificing a chicken. Yep, you read it correctly.
When you’re done in Chamula, it’s easy to grab a taxi to Zinacantan. In this town, you can visit a women’s weaving co-operation and even buy some of their products. Honestly, it was interesting, but we felt a bit too pushed into buying stuff.
7/ Visit the Guadalupe Church in San Cristobal
You need to climb a number of stairs to this church, but every each of them is worth it. Not really for the church itself. I mean, it’s nice, but not super special. But! The views of San Cristobal from the top of the hill are wonderful. And no worries, it’s not that many stairs.
Tip: Not enough steps yet? Visit Iglesia de San Cristóbalito as well.
8/ El Arcotete Ecopark
If you want to escape the town for a bit, go for a day trip to El Arcotete eco-park. It’s a popular place to spend weekends for the locals. We rented a palapa (a table with space for barbeque), went to the caves, and enjoyed our first zip-lining.
- The entrance: 10 MXN
- The caves: 15 MXN
- Palapa rental: 30 MXN
- Zip-lining: 100 MXN
We went by car with our friends from Co. 404 but you can also get to the park by taxi or colectivo. The colectivo should leave from the Santo Domingo church but you can also catch it at the Plaza de Guadalupes, which will make for a quicker and shorter ride.
Btw. You can also pitch a tent in the park!
9/ Sunrise Hike to Cerro de Don Lauro
Make sure to set your alarm up for an early hour one day while you’re in San Cristobal and go for a sunrise hike to the top of Don Lauro. If you stay in Co. 404, someone might even join you or some of the volunteers will organize the hike.
But no worries, it’s super easy to navigate, so you can do it yourself as well. The hike is not even an hour long, there are signs every few minutes, and you can take a taxi to the beginning and a colectivo back to the town.
The trailhead is about 10 minutes by car from the city center, so you’ll have to grab a taxi in the morning. You can tell the taxi driver you need to get to the beginning of the trail at calle Insurgentes. But when you’re coming back, it’s super easy to catch a colectivo back to the town from the same street.
When you get out of the taxi, you just need to go uphill, there are even marks, so it would be pretty hard to get lost. It should take you about 45 minutes or less to climb all the way up, but make sure to have some spare time. You don’t want to miss the beautiful sunrise.
10/ Weekend trip to Palenque
This tip will only be useful if you’re staying longer in San Cristobal. Palenque is at least a weekend trip and you don’t want to waste your precious time in San Cris. It’s not far from the border, that’s why we visited Palenque on our way from Mexico to Guatemala.
Palenque is mainly known for the famous Mayan Ruins. But the real highlights are the waterfalls Agua Azul and Misol-Ha in the area!
So this is it. These are the things we’ve done and enjoyed in San Cristobal. Also, we ate a lot, obviously. For such a small town, San Cristobal so is filled with good vegetarian food! Make sure to try as many restaurants as possible.