We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Chiapas is one of our favorite states in Mexico. There are so many amazing things to do in Chiapas!
With its lush jungle, pine forests, majestic canyons, and turquoise waterfalls, it’s an adventurer’s paradise.
Natural beauty isn’t the only thing Chiapas has to offer. It’s also home to indigenous villages, colonial cities, and ancient Maya ruins.
Whether you’re paddling through the lakes at Montebello or climbing up the Palenque ruins, Chiapas has something for everyone.
So Many Reasons to Visit Chiapas
If the fact that it’s filled with natural beauty, ancient ruins, and colonial cities isn’t enough to convince you to book your trip right now, let’s get into the details.
Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico and shares its borders with Veracruz, Tabasco, Oaxaca, Guatemala, and the Pacific Ocean. Yes, it has beaches too (and sea turtles)!
It’s also the second-most biodiverse state, with mangroves, jungles, lakes, pine and oak forests, and waterfalls. It’s home to howler and spider monkeys, jaguars, deer, tapirs, toucans, boas, ocelots, wild boars, crocodiles, and armadillos (to name a few).
The chilly, pine-filled Highlands offer a temperate climate year-round with an average temperature of around 60 F. Meanwhile, the humid Lacandon jungle, has an average temperature of 78 F.
Chiapas has one of the largest indigenous populations in Mexico. It has 12 officially recognized indigenous groups: the Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Ch´ol, Tojol-ab´al, Zoque, Chuj, Kanjobal, Mam, Jacalteco, Mochó, Cakchiquel, and Lacandón. Visiting the temple at San Juan Chamula (link to post) is one of our most memorable experiences to date.
If that still isn’t enough, there are tons of adventurous things to do in Chiapas, like hiking the Tacana volcano, white water rafting, camping by the pristine Laguna Miramar, and rappelling down Sima de las Cotorras.
How to Get to Chiapas
The best way to get to Chiapas is to fly into Tuxtla or Palenque from Mexico City. Other options are to take an ADO bus after exploring a neighboring state, like Oaxaca, or to fly into Villahermosa, Tabasco and rent a car to drive around Chiapas.
11 Best Things to Do in Chiapas
Now that we’ve gone over the many reasons why you should visit Chiapas, you kind of need to know what to do once you’re there. Don’t worry, we got you covered! We spent over a month exploring this amazing state to find the best things to do in Chiapas.
Visit the Impressive Palenque Ruins
The Palenque Ruins are some of my all-time favorite ruins in Mexico. Picture this: You’re standing in front of some of the most impressive ancient temples you’ve ever seen, surrounded by lush jungle, with the sound of howler monkeys nearby.
The main temple at the Palenque ruins is one of the most iconic sights, but this archeological zone is also unique because it is part of the Palenque National Park (which is home to toucans, monkeys, and all kinds of jungle animals) and has an exceptional museum all about the ancient Maya of Palenque. Check out our Guide to Palenque town for info on where to stay, what to eat, and what to do in the heart of the jungle.
Get Lost in the Labyrinth at Yaxchilan
Exploring the Maya ruins at Yaxchilan and Bonampak in Chiapas, Mexico is a once in a lifetime Indiana Jones adventure! You can wander through an ancient warrior labyrinth at Yaxchilan and admire the best preserved Maya murals at Bonampak.
Even just getting to them is a great experience. You’ll take a boat ride on Usumacinta River along the Guatemalan border to get to Yaxchilan, then take Lacandon transport through the heart of the jungle to reach Bonampak. Even though both sites are deep in the Lacandon rainforest, they are easily reached as a day trip from Palenque.
Swim in the Misol-Ha and Agua Azul Waterfalls
Misol-Ha and Agua Azul are an easy day trip away from Palenque. Cascadas Misol-Ha features a tall waterfall that falls into a large pool that’s perfect for swimming. You can also pay 10 pesos to explore the hidden cave behind the falls with another waterfall inside. We spotted a family of spider monkeys while we were there.
Agua Azul is known for its bright-turquoise colors and it’s also great for swimming. The best time to visit the water features in Chiapas is during the dry season (November through May). During the rainy season, the turquoise colors are replaced by ragging muddy waters.
Stroll Around Colonial San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is right in the middle of the state and makes the perfect base for exploring the area. There’s so much to see and do here! We were based in San Cris for an entire month and we still didn’t get to do all we wanted to. Check out our Ultimate Guide to San Cristobal de las Casas for everything you need to know about this colorful colonial city.
Experience the Temple in San Juan Chamula
A few rays of light shine through the misty haze, the pine needles below your feet soften your steps, and a chicken clucks a few feet away. No, it’s not early morning on the farm. It’s the interior of the San Juan Bautista temple in Chamula. This unique worship site provides a hearty dose of culture shock that will rattle your senses and blow your mind.
A day trip to the indigenous towns of San Juan Chamula and San Lorenzo Zinacantan, known as Chamula and Zinacantan, is one of the best things to do when visiting San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico.
Both towns are testaments to how the Tzotzil people have managed to retain many aspects of their pre-hispanic culture despite centuries of colonization and evangelization. Visiting Chamula and Zinacantan is a cultural experience not be missed!
Take a Boat Ride through Sumidero Canyon
Located just outside of the historical town of Chiapa de Corzo, Cañon del Sumidero, or Sumidero Canyon, is a premier example of mother nature’s beauty. Near-vertical walls rise more than 2,500 feet (800 meters) overhead.
A wide river slowly snakes along the valley below. Monkeys, crocodiles, and birds of all sorts can be spotted in the numerous jungle patches along the shoreline. If you enjoy witnessing amazing natural wonders, you’ll love taking a Sumidero Canyon boat trip.
Dance to Marimba in Comitan de Dominguez
Comitan de Dominguez is an excellent place to visit to get a feel for authentic Mexico. It’s much less touristy than the popular San Cristobal and only about 2 hours away by bus. We were there during Christmas and the entire town was in festive mode. Here are the 7 Best Things to Do in Comitan.
Climb the Tenam Puente Ruins
Tenam Puente is an archeological ruin site located just outside of the city Comitan. Its name literally translates to “defensive bridge,” and it served as a major trade hub for nearly 1,000 years. The significance of this site continues to this day with the local people continuing to make annual an annual pilgrimage.
Take a few hours away from the main tourist crowds and make your way out to Tenam Puente ruins. Climb the pyramids, connect with the past and current people, and enjoy the beautiful scenery all around it.
Float on a Balsa at Lagunas de Montebello
This amazingly scenic area in Mexico is part of the Parque Nacional Lagunas de Montebello (Montebello Lagoons National Park) in Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico. The national park sits on the border with Guatemala and is home to almost 60 pristine lakes, pine and oak trees, and orchids.
Lagunas de Montebello is – without a doubt – one of the most beautiful places in Mexico. It also offers tons of activities including swimming, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, and taking a raft to a cenote. Here’s everything you need to know to visit the Lagunas de Montebello, Chiapas.
Get Covered in Mist at El Chiflon Waterfalls
Chiapas is full of environmental gems. But Cascadas El Chiflon might top them all. Five giant waterfalls and countless swimming pools full of turquoise water are tucked away inside an incredible valley, connected by a great hiking trail. The main waterfall is nearly 400 ft (120 m) high and will shower you in its mist.
This amazing place has caused our love for Chiapas to grow tenfold. I’m sure that when you visit, the same will happen to you. Hike to the top, zip line back down, and then go for a swim at this one of a kind site: El Chiflon Waterfalls.
See the Melting Ruins at El Lagartero
I left this one until the end because if you’ve gotten this far you deserve to find out about this secret locals spot! The pyramids at El Lagartero are unlike any others because they are slowly sinking into the soft ground of the island they’re on, which makes them look like they’re melting in the hot sun. The best part about them is that you can end your visit with a cooling swim.
The Lagartero ruins are part of the absolutely stunning Lagos de Colon. They’re a chain of cenote-type bright aqua lakes connected by rivers and waterfalls that are only frequented by locals. There are tons of food stands with water-side picnic areas for rent, and even cabins. 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.
Popular Day Tours in Chiapas
Chiapas has lush jungle, pine tree forests, colonial cities, indigenous Maya villages, and more water than you can imagine. Waterfalls, lakes, lagoons, rivers, everywhere.
Oh, and the Pacific Ocean. You’ll never run out of things to do in Chiapas!
Plan Your Trip to Chiapas, Mexico
Experience life as a local by staying at an Airbnb (use this link to get $40 off) or book a hotel on Booking.com. Read our guide on how to book the best accommodations for more tips.
Pack Your Bags
Wondering what to pack? Check out our Ultimate Packing List.
Grab a Guidebook
Download Lonely Planet Mexico on your Kindle.
Are you planning a trip to Chiapas? Let us know if you have any questions. If you’ve already visited, please add a comment below with your favorite thing to do.