Chiapas is a hidden gem and bucket list adventure that offers a truly immersive and authentic travel experience for visitors looking to get off the beaten path. It’s an enchanting land with acres of pristine wilderness, over a dozen prehispanic cultures and languages, and some of the most iconic archeological sites in Mexico.
From the colonial streets of San Cristobal de las Casas to the hidden jungle ruins of Bonampak, Chiapas is the ideal destination for culture enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and history buffs.
I’m Mexican and Chiapas is one of my favorite states to visit in Mexico. I just can’t get enough of its captivating landscapes, unique cultures, and impressive ruins. I’m sharing all of my best insider tips to help you plan an unforgettable trip to Chiapas!
In this Ultimate Chiapas Travel Guide, we’re covering all of the state’s must-see destinations, the best things to do, regional foods to try, and everything else you need to know before you visit.
Ready? Vamos a Chiapas!
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Chiapas State: At a Glance
- Top Destinations: San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque
- Known For: Indigenous cultures, archeological sites, natural beauty, and outdoor recreation
- Currency: Mexican peso (MXN)
- Capital City: Tuxtla Gutierrez
- Airport: Tuxtla Gutierrez International Airport (TGZ)
- Languages: Spanish and 12 indigenous languages
🇲🇽 Check out the 60 Best Mexico Travel Tips for more insider advice from a Mexican.
Where is Chiapas, Mexico Located?
The state of Chiapas is located in Southern Mexico in North America. As Mexico’s southernmost state, Chiapas shares its eastern border with the country of Guatemala. It’s nestled between Oaxaca to the west, Tabasco to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south.
Chiapas is one of 32 states in Mexico and covers an area of approximately 74,415 square kilometers (28,732 square miles).
The capital and largest city in Chiapas is Tuxtla Gutiérrez, which is also home to the state’s only major airport.
From the pine-filled Highlands to the beaches along the Pacific, the state of Chiapas boasts a variety of geographic regions and climates. Its unique location features diverse landscapes and stunning natural beauty, including lush jungles, high-elevation mountain ranges, towering waterfalls, brilliant blue rivers, active volcanoes, deep canyons, and beautiful beaches.
Chiapas is a popular destination for backpackers crossing the border to or from Guatemala and adventure travelers seeking lesser-known natural attractions, national parks, outdoor activities, and authentic cultural experiences.
Here’s a helpful map of where Chiapas is located in Southern Mexico.
What is Chiapas Known For?
Chiapas is hands down one of the best places to visit in Mexico and the best part is that many people don’t even know it exists.
Chiapas, Mexico is an often overlooked destination known for its magical mix of breathtaking wilderness, archeological ruins, and thriving indigenous communities. Since this captivating state is off the main tourist track, visitors can enjoy a plethora of outdoor and cultural experiences unlike anywhere else in Mexico.
From the dense rainforests of the Lacandon Jungle to the miles-long gorge at Sumidero Canyon National Park to the serene alpine lakes at Lagunas de Montebello, the state is a haven for nature lovers. Opportunities for outdoor adventure abound, including rafting, hiking, caving, camping, mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding, and more.
One of the highlights of visiting Chiapas is seeing its renowned ancient Mayan ruins at impressive sites like the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Palenque, and the Bonampak and Yaxchilan ruins. Exploring these ruins nestled deep in the jungle is sure to unleash your inner Indiana Jones.
Travelers looking to learn more about the local indigenous cultures visit Chiapas to experience their traditional way of life. Communities such as the Tzotzil, Tzeltal, and Lacandon Maya survived the Spanish conquest and proudly preserve their traditions, language, and crafts.
Tourists can visit indigenous villages like San Juan Chamula to explore lively markets, witness colorful festivals, and gain a greater understanding of their rich cultural heritage and prehispanic customs.
So is Chiapas worth visiting? Absolutely! If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Mexico, Chiapas is the place for you.
With its breathtaking natural wonders, mesmerizing ancient ruins, and authentic cultural experiences, Chiapas is one of Mexico’s best states to visit.
Best Time to Visit Chiapas
The best time to visit Chiapas is during the dry season and when it’s cooler from November to April. The pleasant weather in the winter months attracts more tourists, so even though Chiapas is much less touristy than other states like Yucatan, you can still expect bigger crowds and higher prices.
It’s important to check the weather before your trip for the specific area you plan on visiting because the temperatures vary so much between the tropical, rainforest, and mountainous zones.
The weather in high-elevation locations, like San Cristóbal de las Casas (located 7,218 feet above sea level), can get especially cold in December and January. Meanwhile, jungle destinations, like Palenque and Bonampak, stay warm and humid throughout the winter.
Visitors during the low tourist season from May through October can expect lower prices, fewer people, hot weather, daily showers, and intense humidity. Bring an umbrella and be prepared for plenty of mud!
🧤 Visiting San Cristobal in the winter? Pack lots of layers, a puffy jacket, a warm hat, wool socks, and gloves. The first time I visited in December, I made the huge mistake of not bringing enough warm layers and I was freezing. Thankfully, our beautiful colonial-style hotel had a fireplace in the room that kept us nice and toasty at night.
What to Do in Chiapas
The under-the-radar Mexican state of Chiapas is an adventure traveler’s dream destination. It offers the perfect blend of breathtaking wilderness, cultural experiences, and less-visited attractions.
Those looking for a more tranquil Chiapas vacation can spend the day exploring the iconic Palenque archeological ruins, immersing themselves in indigenous culture in the town of San Juan Chamula, or simply wandering the streets of Comitan de Dominguez.
Whether you’re admiring the stunning landscapes, climbing ancient ruins, savoring the regional cuisine, or learning about the local traditions, Chiapas has something for everyone.
Top Things to Do in Chiapas
Take a look at the bucket list experiences below or check out this Best Things to Do in Chiapas article.
Although not as well known as the ones above, here are a few more less-visited, yet worthwhile activities in Chiapas:
- Explore the Caves at El Arcotete Ecotourism Park
- See the Melting Ruins and Teal Lakes at Lagos de Colon
- Tenam Bridge Ruins: Exploring Off The Beaten Path
- Las Nubes Waterfalls and Las Guacamayas Eco-Retreat Tour
Booking guided day tours in Chiapas is a great way to explore the major sights without having to deal with booking transportation, figuring out entrance fees, or finding your own way around.
Plus, you’ll learn much more about the area and history from the knowledgeable tour guides.
Where to Stay in Chiapas
From the lively plaza in Comitán to the colorful streets of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas has a handful of picturesque cities and destinations to explore when visiting this incredible state.
Although Tuxtla Gutierrez is the Chiapas capital, it’s a busy metropolis that doesn’t appeal to most travelers. But since it has the state’s only major airport, the majority of visitors arrive in Chiapas through Tuxtla.
Some spend a night or two at a hotel in Tuxtla before moving on to the more charming town of San Cristobal de las Casas.
If you’re planning on renting a car in Mexico for your trip to Chiapas, the city of Tuxtla is the place to book it. Tuxtla has the cheapest car rental deals in the state and you can pick up your rental at the airport.
San Cristobal de las Casas
The enchanting town of San Cristobal de las Casas is the cultural gem of Chiapas and the best place to stay. It’s a high-elevation colonial town surrounded by pine forests and scattered with smoking chimneys.
Known simply as “San Cris” or “San Cristobal” by locals, it’s the perfect home base for exploring the state’s best attractions like Chiapa de Corzo, Sumidero Canyon, Zinacantan, and San Juan Chamula. You can even take a full-day tour to see the Palenque ruins and Misol-Ha waterfall from San Cris.
Since it’s a major tourist hub, there’s a variety of accommodations in San Cristobal. They range from budget backpacker hostels to stunning boutique hotels with traditional colonial architecture.
It’s also an extremely walkable city. Visitors can spend the days wandering the cobblestone streets, taking in the crisp mountain air, and dining at some of the top restaurants in Chiapas.
This haven in the middle of the jungle is the ideal place to stay for exploring northern Chiapas and its natural wonders. Adventure seekers will love heading out on a jungle excursion to see the hidden ruins of Bonampak and Yaxchilan (a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!), while waterfall chasers will enjoy swimming in the serene pools underneath Agua Azul Waterfalls and Misol-Ha Waterfall.
Palenque accommodations range from budget cabins surrounded by lush vegetation and monkeys to high-end hotels with gorgeous manicured gardens and pools.
Comitan de Dominguez
Comitan de Dominguez is a small, yet lively and authentic Mexican town, located only 2 hours south of San Cristobal. It’s a hidden treasure full of local culture, unique architecture, interesting history, and delicious food.
Visitors looking to get away from San Cristobal’s rapidly-growing tourist scene should head to Comitan for a few days. Wander around the local market, try the unique cuisine, visit the many museums, and enjoy an afternoon marimba concert at the picturesque plaza.
Comitan is the underrated gateway to many of the must-see attractions in southern Chiapas. From here, you can take day trips to Montebello Lakes, El Chiflon Waterfalls, Colon Lakes, and the Tenam Puente Ruins.
Ranging from low-priced posadas to colonial-style hotels, accommodations in Comitan offer great value and are cheaper than in San Cristobal.
What to Eat in Chiapas
The traditional cuisine in Chiapas features prehispanic flavors with a strong Spanish influence. The region’s cuisine is influenced by indigenous ingredients blended with traditional colonial-era dishes from Spain, resulting in a unique culinary experience.
Explore the local markets, grab a bite at a street food stall, sip on an authentic agua fresca, or dine at one of the many delicious restaurants to immerse yourself in Chiapas’ gastronomic delights.
Here are just a few of the best Chiapas foods and regional specialties to try:
- Sopa de Chipilin: a comforting soup made with a native herb called chipilín, chicken broth, and vegetables such as corn or squash
- Chalupas: tiny fried tortillas topped with beans, shredded pork, shredded beets, carrots, and a sprinkle of local aged cheese
- Asado coleto: San Cristóbal style pork ribs
- Pan coleto: San Cristóbal style sweet bread
- Tamales de momo: corn tamales made with a sacred local herb and wrapped in banana leaves
- Pox: popular local liquor made from corn and wheat (pronounced pohsh)
- Pozol: a prehispanic drink made from fermented masa (corn dough) mixed with water and sometimes flavored with cacao or peanuts
🌮 For a hands-on culinary adventure, book this Chiapas cooking class. You’ll visit a local market, learn about traditional Chiapaneco ingredients, and prepare regional San Cristobal de las Casas specialties.
How to Get to Chiapas, Mexico
The best way to get to Chiapas is to find a cheap flight to the Tuxtla Gutierrez Airport (TGZ), also called Ángel Albino Corzo International Airport.
There are no direct flights from the US to Chiapas. You need to catch a connecting domestic flight to Tuxtla Gutiérrez from an international airport in Mexico, like Mexico City or Cancun.
From the Tuxtla Airport, reserve a private airport transfer or book a rental car for the 1-hour drive to San Cristobal de las Casas (the most popular place to stay in Chiapas). Budget travelers can catch the ADO bus from Tuxtla to San Cristobal instead.
Insider Tip: There used to be a small airport in the city of Palenque but it is currently closed. The fastest way to get to the Palenque ruins is to fly into Villahermosa in the state of Tabasco. Then, rent a car and drive 2 hours to Palenque.
Getting Around in Chiapas
There are several ways to get around the state of Chiapas: rent a car in Mexico, hop on the first-class buses, or book guided day tours.
Within the Chiapas cities, you can take taxis (there are no Ubers), hire a private driver for the day, or just walk around.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can travel like the locals on colectivos. These shared transport vans are common throughout Mexico and travel along major highways and roads. They’re inexpensive but take much longer due to frequent stops to pick up passengers along the way.
Renting a car in Mexico is one of the best ways to explore the state at your own pace, immerse yourself in the local culture, and get even more off the beaten path.
For the best car rental prices in Chiapas, we recommend using Discover Cars. They search through dozens of rental car offers from reputable companies, like Hertz and Alamo, to find you the best deal possible. When you reserve a car through Discover Cars, you get no hidden fees, a 24-hour price guarantee, 24/7 customer support, and free cancellations.
🚗 Read this Renting a Car in Mexico article for everything you need to know before you book, including essential insurance info and driving tips from a local.
Many tourists rely on Mexico’s robust and reliable system of first-class ADO passenger buses to get from one destination to another.
As the country’s largest bus company, ADO buses offer a safe, convenient, comfortable, and affordable way to travel around Chiapas for everyone from budget backpackers to solo female travelers.
The easiest way to buy ADO bus tickets online in English is with Bookaway. It’s an online booking platform that lets you compare bus routes and schedules in English with prices in USD.
Popular ADO Bus Routes in Chiapas
Outside of the major tourist destinations, most of Chiapas is extremely rural and lacks tourist infrastructure, including hotels.
That’s why so many visitors prefer to explore the state’s top attractions on guided tours. Booking Chiapas tours with transportation included is a hassle-free and relatively inexpensive way to safely reach the remote areas where many of the top things to do are located.
We recommend using Viator or Get Your Guide to book Chiapas tours online. Reserving your tours online with a reliable tour booking platform makes it easy to access their 24/7 customer support and free cancellation options.
Is Chiapas Safe to Visit?
Regarding Chiapas, Mexico safety, it is widely considered a safe place for tourists to visit. Especially when traveling to Chiapas’ top tourist destinations such as San Cristobal de las Casas, San Juan Chamula, Palenque, and Comitan de Dominguez.
Many people wonder about Chiapas safety because of the state’s Zapatista political uprisings a few decades ago. But nowadays, Chiapas is actually the third safest state in Mexico!
We spent over a month traveling throughout Chiapas and never had a single issue. We ran into welcoming smiles and friendly people everywhere we went.
We followed all of our usual tried-and-tested Mexico safety tips, like staying vigilant, not being flashy, and only walking in well-lit areas at night.
✅ Check out these 60 Best Mexico Travel Tips for insider tips from a local on everything from safety to tipping.
Chiapas Travel Insurance
Of course, you don’t want to think about everything that can go wrong on your Chiapas trip, but it’s always best to be prepared.
Mexico travel insurance policies vary, but they may cover things like lost luggage, trip cancellation, travel delays, and emergency medical care.
Having travel insurance coverage can give you peace of mind and help you travel confidently on your trip to Chiapas.
These are the companies we recommend for Mexico travel insurance:
- Safety Wing offers general travel and medical incident insurance for Mexico, including coverage for digital nomads.
- TravelInsurance.com makes it easy to compare and buy travel insurance from reputable insurers for the best prices.
Chiapas Travel FAQ
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