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San Cristobal de las Casas


Arco de el Carmen in San Cristobal de las Casas
© Suzanne Barbezat

San Cristobal:

San Cristobal de Las Casas is one of Mexico's charming colonial cities. Listed as one of the Pueblos Magicos (Magical Towns) by Mexico's Secretary of Tourism, it has tranquil cobblestone streets flanked by houses with red tile roofs and yards full of flowers. Here you can discover colonial architecture and vibrant indigenous culture as well as a thriving art scene. Located at an altitude of 6890 feet (2100 meters) above sea level, San Cristobal has a temperate climate, with warm sunny days and chilly nights most of the year. During the winter months temperatures can drop considerably, so pack accordingly.

History of San Cristobal:

Diego de Mazariegos founded San Cristobal as the Spanish regional base in 1528. The city is named after Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, first bishop of Chiapas and the most prominent Spanish defender of indigenous people in colonial times. San Cristobal was the state capital of Chiapas from 1824 to 1892, and underwent many name changes - it is sometimes still referred to by its original name "Jovel."

The city was relatively isolated until tourism began to influence its economy in the 1970s. On January 1, 1994, San Cristobal came into the spotlight during the uprising of the Zapatistas, a previously unknown guerrilla group, who demanded the improvement of the poor living standards of the indigenous people. At present the city is tranquil and safe to visit, although the Zapatistas maintain a presence in outlying villages.

What to do in San Cristobal:

  • Appreciate San Cristobal's colonial architecture
  • Purchase local handicrafts
  • Learn about Maya culture at the Na Bolom museum, and the Maya Medicine Museum
  • Learn Spanish at one of the city's numerous Spanish schools

Day trips from San Cristobal:

Possibilities for day trips include the Sumidero Canyon, villages around San Cristobal such as San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan, as well as the lake region of Lagunas de Montebello. Tours can easily be booked through local agencies. Day trips are also offered to Palenque archaeological site, passing through Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfall, but if time allows, I recommend spending a night or two in Palenque to allow sufficient time to visit the site.

Restaurants in San Cristobal:

San Cristóbal caters to a wide range of budgets and tastes: you'll find Mexican, international and vegetarian cuisine on offer. Some favorites include:
  • El Mercadito, 11 Avenida Diego Dugelay
  • La Casa del Pan, 55 Real de Guadalupe
  • El Edén, the restaurant of Hotel Paraíso, 19 Calle 5 de Febrero

Accommodations in San Cristobal:

The Casa Na Bolom is a recommended place to stay, with 16 rooms decorated with artwork, textiles and photographs from the indigenous villages of Chiapas. Hotel Posada Media Luna (get rates) is a popular choice for budget travelers, and those with more to spend on accommodations might like Hotel Tierra y Cielo (get rates). Find a hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas: compare hotel rates.

Getting there:

The nearest commercial airport is in Tuxtla Gutierrez, about an hour's drive from San Cristobal. Find flights to Tuxtla Gutierrez: compare airfares. Bus companies that run in the area include OCC and ADO.

Photos of San Cristobal de las Casas:

Enjoy our gallery of photos of San Cristobal.
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