Exploring Chiapas Mexico

Chiapas MapExploring Chiapas, Mexico

Chiapas is one of the most overlooked regions in Mexico for tourists. Chiapas is the southernmost Mexican state bordering Guatemala. It is comprised of mountainous highlands, valleys, dense rainforests and jungle. The area is inhabited by Mayan archaeological sites and colonial towns from the Spanish era. The area includes amazing natural wonders and wildlife.

Waterfalls of Chiapas

The 2020 census indicates a total population in the state of Chiapas at 5.5mm. The poverty statistics for this state are some of the highest in all of Mexico. For more general information on the state of Chiapas – go HERE.

The most comfortable time to visit is the cool season from November to February. We visited the area traveling by car in December 2022 – a ten day round trip journey from Queretaro, Mexico. The round trip journey was approximately 2,300 km or 1,400 miles. Our group included 6 persons traveling together in a Ford Expedition EL. This article chronicles our journey.

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These are very robust, large file size images. They are not designed to be viewed on a mobile phone. PLEASE use a tablet, laptop or computer monitor or stream on your HDTV to enjoy the best viewing experience. I shoot with Canon DSLR photography gear including: Canon EOS 7D, Canon 24-105mm f4.oL lens, Canon 70-200mm f2.8L telephoto lens. And sometimes I use a Canon 2X extender to shoot 640mm for long distance image capture. ‘L’ lenses are Canon’s best lenses. Camera shake is the fault of yours truly.

The following is a graphic representation of our itinerary:

Day One – Queretaro to Cordoba – Dec. 19th

Photography Link #1Queretaro Centro – At Christmas time.

After a late start, we arrived in Cordoba at around 8:30pm in the evening. The driving time is (depending upon traffic) is around 6 hours. The distance from Queretaro to Cordoba is approximately 310 miles or 502 km. We stayed at Hoteles Mansour in the city center of Orizaba. The hotel was superb. We ate at Tasca Ristorante that night and it was delicious.

Chiapas Mountains

Day Two – Dec. 20thA LONG day driving! Cordoba to Tuxtla Gutierrez the capital city of the state of Chiapas via Mexico 145B. Due to construction, tolls and traffic this segment took about 8 hours for the 550 km/350 mile drive. We had a late afternoon lunch in Tuxtla Gutierrez  – that was fabulous.  From Tuxtla Gutierrez we drove to San Cristobal de las Casas (1.5 hours and 60km/40 miles). The drive is through a gorgeous, mountainous region. We arrived after dark in San Cristobal. We stayed in an AirBnB in the center of town. During the evening, we enjoyed the town and the holiday markets.

Photography Link #2 – The Mountains of Chiapas

Day Three – Dec. 21st – San Cristobal to Chiapa de Corzo – In the morning, we backtracked toward Tuxtla Gutierrez to a small Pueblo Magico named Cahuare (45 minutes) where the boat tours launch to experience the magnificent Sumidero Canyon (Cañón del Sumidero) . This is absolutely a must stop and experience. After our 4+ hour boat excursion through the canyon, we returned to Chiapa de Corzo located  located along the banks of the Grande de Chiapa River or Grijalva River, approximately 15 km from Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Phenomenal food at the riverside restaurants there!!! We wandered the town for several hours before returning to San Cristobal. We enjoyed the food and festive holiday spirit in San Cristobal during the evening.

Photography Link #2 – San Cristobal de las Casas

Photography Link #3 – Sumidero Canyon (Cañón del Sumidero) 

Sumidero Canyon

Photography Link #4 – Chiapa de Corzo

Chiapa de Corzo

Day Four – Dec. 22nd – San Cristobal to Comitan de Dominguez  (88km/55 miles south of San Cristobal). Comitan is absolutely my favorite city that we visited during this trip. The Christmas décor that the town is decked out in is simply incredible. Comitan has superb food, wonderful people, and a town square that is one of the finest in all of Mexico. We highly recommend Comitan for your next Christmas holiday travel destination. During our first day there we enjoyed shopping, restaurants and the city’s holiday fiesta atmosphere. We stayed at Hotel Nakan Secreto de Maya in Comitan for two nights. It was my favorite place to stay on this trip.

Photography Link #5 – Comitan


Day Five – Dec. 23rd –  Cascadas el Chifon and Lagos de Montebello. A nice raft paddle around the lake.

Cascadas Chifon

Photography Link #6 – Cascadas el Chifon

Photography Link #7 – Lagos de Montebello

Lagos de Montebello

Day Six – Dec. 24th – Cascadas de Agua Azul – We stayed in an AirBnB in Ocosingo on Dec. 24th and the 25th. Others in our party visited area archeological sites during the days.


Photography Link #8 – Cascadas de Agua Azul

Day Seven & Eight – Dec. 26th – Dec. 28th – Palenque, MX – Maya Hotel. The hotel – see traveler reviews at Trip Advisor – Well, the lounge, restaurant, staff, location and food were superb. They actually have an authentic wood fired brick oven used to create fabulous pizzas (after 4-5 pm)!

Palenque Monkeys

Photography Link #9 – Maya Hotel – Pelenque

However, this place requires immediate, substantial, remedial, investment for the dilapidated structures and safety hazards that are evident and plentiful throughout the property. It was VERY humid (December – the least humid time of the year) and our bedding was moist every night. Walkways were slippery with jungle slime. Lighting of guest walkways was wholly insufficient. Hey – you’re in the jungle – Be careful!

Near the hotel, there is a nature/wildlife park (Aluxes) we enjoyed for several hours during the day. It is an absolute MUST VISIT. One evening at sunset (TURN UP YOUR VOLUME before clicking the following link), the monkeys in the surrounding jungle began to holler – and I mean holler – echoing throughout the jungle area adjacent to the hotel. It was LOUD and definitely haunting (We loved it!). The next morning – we enjoyed the wild Macaws that were resting in the tops of the palm trees around the property. Others in our group enjoyed visiting some nearby archeological sites.

Photography Link #10 – Pelenque – Wildlife

Pelenque Wildlife

Photography Link #11 – The People of Chiapas – Portraits

People Portraits – con permiso

Day Nine – Dec. 28th – Palenque to Orizaba – A LONG day driving – 10+ hours, lots of traffic and tolls (630 km/400 miles). Never again – That’s just too long in a darn car with five other people. Stopped in Villahermosa for lunch and a leg stretch. Not impressed with Villahermosa.

Photography Link #12 – Orizaba

Day Ten – Dec. 29th – Drive – Orizaba to Queretaro. OMG – So many tollbooths and mucho traffico!


If I had to enjoy this journey again, I would plan 14+ days for the trip. To spend the Christmas holidays in Comitan is a bucket list item for any family (and children), group or couple. I would also like to spend 4 entire days in the Palenque area. Having lived most my life in the Pacific Northwest and having spent 10+years exploring the wilderness areas therein (including the Rocky Mountains), I have experienced the joy of many, many incredible natural wonders. However, the Chiapas region of Mexico possesses unique and captivating displays of the same.  It is a destination I would like to return to and employ the services of local guides who are equipped to take us on hikes in the jungle areas – off the beaten path.

For driving and safety considerations in Chiapas – please (Scroll down to Driving in Chiapas – Safety Advice) consult this article.

Remember Photography/Videography and Other Considerations: There are legal restrictions regarding the use of tripods to photograph certain archeological sites in this region. Some sites require the payment of a fee and almost all require hiring a local guide. Video restrictions may also apply – this includes your cell phone or other handheld photo/video capture/capable devices. Please be kind and courteous. Behave like a grateful guest – as that is exactly what you are. Be aware of local people you desire to photograph. Honestly, you should always ask their permission first – especially in small villages in the State of Chiapas, and particularly in and around San Cristobal de las Casas.

Taking Photos – Considerations

For taking photos of children – parents need to consent and/or consent by adult family members who are present. Numerous smaller villages (and street vendors/artisanal shops) actually have restrictions on photography. Look for signs denoting the same. These signs may or may not be bilingual. There are indigenous languages spoken throughout Chiapas. Traditional Spanish language skills may not be helpful to you in these encounters. Any questions about etiquette, ask a local resident/guide/restaurateur or hotelier.

Swimming is not allowed in many locales that seem to invite the same (especially pristine lakes and turquoise river waters).

The biodiversity (flora and fauna) in the state of Chiapas is mesmerizing.  However, wild animals are just that – wild. Some are carnivores and reptiles abound (some poisonous). Some obviously pose dangers to humans while the vast majority would prefer you do not disturb them. You are intruding into their home. Behave accordingly. Again, consult your guide or knowledgeable locals. There is a shortage of certain medications in Mexico. You are even more vulnerable to this reality when traveling in this southernmost state of Mexico.


Any questions,  just send me an email.

Put Chiapas on your travel bucket list.


About The Author:

Bill Dahl

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