The colonial village of San Cristobal de las Casas nestled in the grand Valley of Jovel in the state of Chiapas, and is surrounded by majestic forests of pine and oak rich with orchids, ferns and begonias is the crown jewel of the Chiapas central highlands. San Cristobal is in the center of one of Mexico's most authentically indigenous regions. Founded in 1528, San Cristobal was named after its first bishop, Bartolome de la Casas, who was a fervent supporter of the local Indian rights.
Today San Cristobal (population 120,000) is a classic Spanish Colonial town with a lively and celebrated Indigenous heart. It is a city of cobblestone lanes, red tile roofs, opulent churches and small tree-filled plazas. Long, straight streets ramble up and down several rolling hills that spread outward from the city's main plaza. It is actually a series of traditional barrios (neighborhoods) that trace their roots to the old custom of trades,
candle makers, blacksmiths, carpenters and fireworks makers giving each barrio a special magic in a colorful quilt-like quality.
Good views of the colonial city are had from two hills in the city center; Cerro San Cristobal and Cerro Guadalupe with a small Spanish colonial church waiting for those who venture to climb the hundreds of steps to reach the top. The city's cool mountain air (altitude is nearly 7,000 feet / 2,100 meters) is invigorating and refreshing.
The city has some fascinating festivals, including Semana Santa (Easter), Feria de la Primavera y de la Paz (Spring Fair), Feast of San Cristobal, and the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Ringing San Cristobal are many traditional Indigenous village where no fewer than 10 different dialects are spoken. These villages are an anthropologists delight with traditions dating to pre-conquest times. Two principle communities, Chamula and Zinacantan are easily reached and are must-sees. Their festivals and churches demand a traveler to open their eyes to new ways of seeing and dreaming.
One can use San Cristobal as a base to visit many outlying communities such as Tenejapa, Amatenago, Ocosingo and the Maya ruin of Tonina and Comitan with it's wonderful, little visited Maya ruins of Tenam Puente and Chincultik and the magnificently colorful Lagos de Montebello, a Mexican National Park. All can be easily visited in one day.
Palenque, Bonampak and Yaxchilan, the crown jewels of Maya sites, can be visited alone or with a guided tour on longer, two and three day visits. These sites are located in the selva of Chiapas, a vast track of jungle, filled with numerous varieties of trees, orchids and wildlife. Deeper in the selva one may visit the largest natural lake in Chiapas, Laguna Miramar, with it's crystalline waters, perfect climate and a mix of virgin forests, a small intimate Maya site and great swimming.
San Cristobal is a wise choice to use as a base to explore the numerous, spectacular and intimate seldom visited wonders of Chiapas as well as the colonial city itself.
Below, you'll find businesses and services available in San Cristobal de las Casas.
La Casa en el Arbol Language School