When visiting Chiapas, you’re often struck with the choice between visiting archeological sites or natural environments. Sumidero Canyon is epic and the Palenque ruins are a must-see. But what if you want to climb temples and follow it up with a swim in teal lakes?
Here is where Lagos de Colon fits the bill perfectly. The Lagartero archeological site is full of unique temples that appear to be melting in the hot sun. And they are surrounded by teal-colored lakes that are absolutely perfect for a nice swim. Best of all: the locals in the area are basically the only ones who visit this relatively undiscovered site.
Say goodbye to the usual tourist spots and head to Lagos de Colon and Lagartero Archeological Ruins in Chiapas, Mexico for a true Off Path adventure.
Getting to Lagos de Colon
The lakes are in the southern part of Chiapas, Mexico near the border of Guatemala. Which probably sounds like a complete hassle to some of you. But believe it or not, a three-hour drive from San Cristobal will get you there. Like we said in our post about El Chiflon Waterfalls, we recommend staying in the city of Comitan for at least a couple of nights when visiting Chiapas. That way you are two hours closer to a lot of great sites in southern Chiapas – including this one.
From San Cristobal de las Casas, make your way south to Comitan using an ADO bus or a colectivo across the street from the bus station. Then once in Comitan, walk two blocks north of the ADO station on Blvd. Domingez (190) until you see a lot of colectivos. Find the ones with the sign for Comalapa, then ask the driver to drop you off at Lagos de Colon.
This one-hour long ride will leave you on the side of the highway near Lagos de Colon, where you can grab a taxi to complete the last 15 minutes – it is a bit too long (and hot) to walk. The colectivo from Comitan is $50 pesos ($2.50 USD) and the taxi for the last few miles is $25 pesos per person if you wait for a group of four to fill a taxi. Or $100 pesos to take the entire taxi with four or fewer people on your own.
The taxi passes through a few very small communities. A couple fruits stands, restaurants, and small stores are along the side. But it’s mainly an agricultural area. Fields with rows of crops that are growing even in the height of winter. After all, it’s only 200 meters above sea level and much further south than Cancun. The soil seems to be ripe for planting as this whole area was thriving with abundant vegetation.
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Entrance to Lagos de Colon
Pulling up to the main area, guards at the entrance collect the $25 peso entrance fee and give you a wristband to prove you’ve paid. You then cross a small bridge.
For us, this was when we knew it was going to be a great day. The water looked incredible. It’s a mesmerizing blue color with hints of green around the edges, causing it to be turquoise or teal in many areas. And you can see right to the bottom, covered in white limestone rocks and almost-petrified fallen trees. Very little moss or mud. Just a few lily pads hiding in the steady pools.
Hop out of the car and the first thing you see is a large restaurant. We had some great fajitas here (approx $100 pesos) and a few beers ($20 pesos each – cheaper than we were used to). But don’t feel like you need to stop. Plenty of options are down the trail that leads around the lakes.
Just behind the restaurant is the biggest lake that’s meant for swimming and picnicking. Trees and small, concrete palapas line the entire edge. Kayaks and small boats are available for renting ($80-150 pesos per hour). Or you can just hop in and go for a swim.
Take the path around the right side following the signs for cascadas to see the waterfalls. You’ll likely pass by some kids climbing a tree and jumping into one of the deep parts of the lake. I can still hear their laughs of enjoyment ringing in my ears.
On the 10-minute walk toward the falls, there are numerous cabanas for overnight stays. Some looked surprisingly comfortable. Here, you will see restaurants serving the local fish. They keep them alive and swimming in small pools out front.
Eventually you’ll reach the waterfalls. They drop off to the right side from the main trail and cascade over a drop of approximately 10 ft (3 m). Just a handful of steps down and you’ll be quickly at the bottom, where the pools are at. We saw families hanging out in the pools, which are sort of like oversized hot tubs (minus the extreme heat). The shoreline is full of trees with their root systems squirming through the limestone ground.
Melting Pyramids at Lagartero Archeological Site
After taking in the falls, we ventured over to the archeological ruin site, Lagartero. It is located about 1.3 miles (2km) away. We enjoyed the 20-minute walk over, which goes through a small town built around a central soccer field, then through another area with many cabanas and picnic areas. Then you go through another agricultural area, where we saw papayas, bananas, wheat, and more.
If you prefer, a taxi will drive you from the restaurant at Lagos de Colon straight over to Lagartero for $30 pesos.
The ruin site has an office to greet you with a small museum inside. The security guard will ask you to sign in and place any backpacks you have in storage.
Lagartero isn’t the biggest ruin site around (like Monte Alban), but it’s got the whole deal. A small area thought to be the housing of the high priests, a large ball court, and four pyramids surrounding a courtyard. You can climb one of the four pyramids – which has newly-constructed steps since the fragile limestone would break apart after repeated use. The steps are tiny, probably only 4-5” (25-30cm) deep. Best to make your way right and left in a zigzag pattern to go up and down so that more of your foot is on a solid surface.
The view from the top is great. Looking out over the courtyard, above the trees, and to a river flowing into the nearby Lagos de Colon. In the mornings, parrots, deer, and other wildlife flocks to the area.
One of the unique aspects of these ruins is their appearance. The corners of each layer has either began to erode off or the weight is sinking into the island itself. They look like butter melting in the hot sun. When we first saw the pictures, we laughed because they look like poorly Photoshopped images. But sometimes reality can show you what you once thought was only possible through a computer. (Yes, that line is supposed to motivate you to see this stuff in person!)
Returning from Lagos de Colon
Eventually we made our way back to the main lake area and jumped in for a swim in the cool waters. There are quite a few very small fish in this lake. They will peck away at the dead skin on your feet which is a very strange feeling, but apparently people pay a lot of money for this treatment in spas.
We then dried off, grabbed one of the taxis heading back to the highway which wait by the restaurant, and hopped on a colectivo heading to Comitan. The same exact method to get there can be used in reverse to get home. Just make sure you leave by around 5 pm, when the colectivos stop passing by.
Visiting Lagos de Colon was a great surprise. Not part of our original itinerary, but they should be on yours. Blue waters, waterfalls, ruins, and restaurants all in one spot. Hard to think of a better way to pass the time.
Here are some other fun activities to check out in Chiapas:
What off-the-path swimming holes have you found on your travels? Let us know in the comments below.