San Cristobal de las Casas: A Perfect Mexican Town

Posted on July 29, 2013


DSCN2316San Cristobal de las Casas may just be the perfect picturesque Mexican town. It had been recommended by a few people and didn’t disappoint. Small, easy to walk around with colourful little houses and a fun spirit – it felt wonderfully Mexican.
Accommodation was pretty booked out when we went in July. We tried Bela’s B&B which had rave reviews but they were full so ended up at Posada Sancris. It’s cheap at US$30 per night, a short walk from the centre of town (5 mins) and had lovely hosts. It wasn’t the best place I have ever stayed but it did the job well for us.
DSCN2311The town has two main tourist drags, both pedestrian but it’s good to get off them and wander around to get the feel of the city. It’s perfectly safe and we met some friendly people along the way. Look our for the churches on the hills as they can give you nice views over the town (if you can cope with the steps up!).
If we’d have had longer we would have got immersed at El Puente  on the main Calle Guadeloupe which is is host to a cafe, Spanish language School and gives information about all sorts of other classes and pastimes.
IMG_4236In the few days that we were there we managed to drink juices and coffee at many cafes and visit a few restaurants. But the best food we had was on day trips to smaller villages and towns, usually at the back of the small markets in little taquerias for M$3-10. My favourite may have been the Huaraches.
We spent a fun night at Revolucion watching live music and ending up tasting (more) Mezcal. It draws in a fun crown where tourists and locals mixed well. Also on Calle de Guadeloupe the cosy La Vina de Bacco offers a vast selection of wine and tapas, perfect at the end of a long day trip.
The top three restaurants seem to be:

TierrAdentro has tables in a wide inside courtyard-feel space. On the night we were there we ate rich chicken mole and taco soup.

El Punto – the most popular pizza joint in town

Casa del Pan at El Puente which is one of the few, if not only, vegetarian place in town
Outside of the town, in near proximity are a fair few places to see and things to do.
DSCN2479DSCN2451Without doing much (read: enough) reading up we joined a group going to Canon del Sumidero. The cost is around M$300 for transport and a two hour boat ride plus a visit to a nearby town of Chiapa de Corzo. We were pleasantly surprised by the canon, and taken aback by the abundance of wildlife including several 7 foot plus crocodiles, vultures, pelicans and monkeys. The canon itself is spectacular and some of the waterfalls made us think we ere in the film Avatar.
Another day our hosts took us to Chamula (also available on a half day pony trek at a cost of M$300). My Spanish is a little rusty but from what I gathered the church was built in the 15th century something but later burnt down later. The townspeople were angry that the Saints inside the church let this happen and therefore chopped off their hands as punishment. At the time there were five Saints but now there are many more – the new additions with hands and all. Offerings are made by candles on the floor: white for children, yellow for youth, free for nature and many other colours/meanings. Offerings are also made of fizzy drinks, eggs and in extreme circumstances live chickens are sacrificed (and then eaten by the family). Each family has a Shaman that decides what offerings to make and when candles need to be given to specific saints. After visiting the church we spent a good hour in the market, mainly eating tacos from different stands. Delicious.
DSCN2357The town is unique in that it is run almost as a country. It has it’s own police force and is very traditional. Photos are mainly prohibited so be sure to ask before you start clicking. taking photos inside the church, or of people without gaining prior permission can get you arrested.
DSCN2374In the same afternoon we visited Zinacantan, a town whose population is almost pure indigenous Maya. We met with a typical family that sells the wevings that were made on premises and were treated to tacos home made over an open fire. Going with our hosts gave us a real insight into local lives that we wouldn’t have got with a tour group – highly recommended.
Outside of San Cristobal there are also day trips to Laguna Montebello and Canon de la Venta if you have  abit more time and are happy to be out from 8am to 8pm. If we had had more time we would have hunted out local spots such as Rancho Nuevo and Arcotete, both recommendations from people in the town.