Whether you’re staying in San Cristobal for a few days before crossing the border into Guatemala, or you have the opportunity to spend more time relaxing and exploring, we have a list of the best things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas.
One of the easiest ways to get around Mexico is to rent a car. You can explore on your own, it’s safe and insanely cheap.
San Juan Chamula Church
Located just 10 kilometers from San Cristobal, the city of Chamula is autonomous and people follow their own laws. They practice a mixture of ancient Mayan rituals mixed with Catholic beliefs and wear traditional clothing. The city itself is incredibly interesting, but its main attraction is the church of San Juan Chamula.
It may seem strange to call the church one of the best things to do in San Cristobal, but believe me, it’s worth it. From the outside, the church of San Juan Chamula is like any other church in Latin America, but inside you will be transported to another world.
Pine needles cover the floor, thousands of candles flicker, women kneel and dramatically pray to various saints. You can see how chickens are sacrificed, and you will definitely see people drinking something that looks like water, but it’s actually smallpox (local liquor).
Santo Domingo Market
The markets of San Cristobal are known for a reason. The textiles and handicrafts you will find here are among the best in the country. In addition, they usually have a good price for quality. The largest market is located south of the church of Santo Domingo, and it is worth a visit. Some of the items the region is known for are blankets, leather bags, and table sliders.
Take a walk around the city
This may sound like an excuse, but honestly, one of the best things you can do in San Cristobal is just wander through the cobbled streets and get lost in the undeniable charm of this city. Stay in one of the many craft boutiques, relax in a coffee shop with a book, take pictures of colorful buildings, look for vantage points, stumble upon some beautiful (and some not so) street art and just let the day fly by unnoticed.
Recommendations for a good stop along the way:
- Jerve Agua. This tiny shop sells delightful aguas frescoes, usually with pineapple and mint. Sometimes they end in the afternoon, so try to go early if you want a drink. They also have a small assortment of natural products and handicrafts.
- Kukulpan. This lovely coffee shop has a nice outdoor seating area and good pastries. Try Danish cheese with blackberries.
- Colectivo Mudra is a quaint little shelter with elements of art hidden and you have to knock on the door to be let in. If they open, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views, local art and a cold drink!
El Ciflon Waterfalls from San Cristobal
With stunning water pools to swim in, tree-lined paths, picnic spots and spectacular waterfalls, El Ciflon is a gem worth a visit if you have the time.
You can reach El Cieflon by excursions or by public transport. Usually the tour also includes a stop at the Montebello Lakes, and they are open daily from 8 am and return around 7 pm. Some say the lakes aren’t worth it, and they’d like to have more time at the waterfalls. For this reason, it is better to skip the tour and go to the waterfall on your own. It’s not going to be that hard.
Ruins of Palenque
The ruins may start to merge with each other, but some of them are really special. Palenque is located in the jungle near the border of Mexico and Guatemala, and because getting there is a long journey, it is much less crowded than Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan.
How to get to Palenque from San Cristobal
If you are staying in San Cristobal, you can arrange a day trip in Palenque. Remember, this is a full day starting at 4 a.m. and you’ll be back in town at 9 or 10 a.m. In addition to a two-hour stop at the ruins, you’ll also spend time at the waterfalls of Agua Azul and Misol Ha. The price for this full-day tour is 450 pesos per person and does not include meals or guide services.
If you plan to go to Guatemala or Yucatán, you can spend the night in Palenque and continue your journey the next morning. You can stay overnight in the Kin Balama Bungalow in Palenque, where there is a nice swimming pool.
Tip: Bring snacks. Stops for meals on this trip will be in restaurants with rather inflated prices.
You can also get to Palenque on your own by bus. This journey takes about 8-9 hours and does not stop at the waterfalls. A regular bus during the day costs about 324 pesos per person, and there is a night bus, which is a good option if you want to get to Palenque in the morning.
You can go with a tour to speed up the travel time and so that you can see Agua Azul.
There are mixed reviews of this canyon tour. It includes a boat trip where you’ll probably notice arachnid monkeys and crocodiles.
It’s going to be a good day in nature, but maybe it’s going to be a little boring. However, being in nature is never a bad thing, so if you have time, go for it.
Na Bolom Cultural Museum
It is also a museum of culture and a café. If you arrive in the afternoon, it can be a good way to experience the local culture and have a delicious meal!
Nightlife in San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is famous for its nightlife. Just head to Real de Guadalupe at sunset and you’ll see the people in the café go outside. Artists come and entertain with live music and dance.
Vina La Bocco
This ultra-popular wine and tapas bar is overflowing with travelers and locals every night, and it’s no wonder why. With a ton of wines to choose from for just 20 pesos (about $1) and free tapas*. With each drink you buy, you will definitely want to spend one evening, getting along with the atmosphere and cheap drinks.
* Tapas are pieces of French bread with different fillings, such as cheese and tomatoes, broccoli pasta or salami (tell your waiter if you are a vegetarian). You’ll also get a bowl of popcorn.
Tip: Come a little earlier if you want to get free tapas to your drinks. Also, they can’t split the check, so if you’re sitting with others, be sure to keep an eye on how many drinks you have.
La internacional cerveceria san Cristóbal de las casas
If you’re a fan of craft beer and the local nightlife, you should definitely check out this hidden bar. Locals and expats interact here with quality beer at a reasonable price, and the board features a small but thoughtful menu of dishes such as German-style sausages, quesadillas and hummus.
Kinokie Rooftop Bar
Go upstairs and order a beer or wine to enjoy the sunset. The view is stunning.
If you are hungry, fresh salads are big and very tasty! On a cold night, which is most nights in San Cristobal, they have ponchos to wear to keep warm, and they show movies on a rooftop screen when it gets dark enough.
Where to eat in San Cristobal de las Casas
If you are a vegetarian, you will find your happiness in San Cristobal de las Casas. Almost every neighborhood has vegan spots, so you’ll be amazed at the whole choice!
- Bek’s Vegan: This tiny shop has good options like vegetarian plates, sandwiches with delicious bread, and smoothie bowls. They serve you free chips with a dish of 4 delicious sals! And the prices are quite reasonable!
- Falafel: It’s a damn good place. The portions are large, falafel and hummus are fresh! Number 1 is traditional pita bread, and number 4 is a flatbread with falafel, hummus and salad.
- Marquesitas Stands: If you want a snack, try one of the Marquesitas booths. Essentially, it’s a crispy crepe made to order and filled with the filling of your choice. Try the combination of chocolate and cheese. A generous portion of nutella and grated cheese sounds strange, but it’s really delicious!
Where to stay in San Cristobal de las Casas
Posada de Abuelito deserves the first place among the best hostels. There are super comfortable private and dormitory rooms. There is a place for any traveler. Staff are helpful and can arrange affordable tours of the surrounding area.
In the common space there is a garden, hammocks, desks, sofas, and in general it is a very cozy place. Breakfast includes fresh coffee, eggs, hearty bread, homemade jam and a variety of fresh fruit. And then there’s the cereal and fresh pineapple juice!
If booked, another popular choice is Puerta Vieja Hostel.
If you are looking for something other than hostels, pay attention to La Tozi Galeria Hotel.