San Cristobal is for many a welcome departure from the the hot dusty hectic cities many travellers will have come from. It’s still well on the traveller trail and whilst thoroughly pleasant is perhaps at odds with itself.
San Cristobal itself is gorgeous with cobblestoned streets, pastel buildings, bunting, winding alleys and two hill-top churches as way-points. The place is a cultural haven and for better or worse has been shaped by the resultant tourist influx. The indigenous surrounding villages and their cultural are a draw card for most, many locals here speak both spanish and tzotzil and even signage is occasionally in both. The place is multicultural in the extreme a mix of indigenous, colonial and recent immigrants. The place has become something of a hippy haven for wealthy young foreigners to chase ideals, though it will take a lot more for san cristobal to lose its magic atmosphere. Thoroughly charming throughout even with the distractions, this is a worthy stop for any traveller.
One of the big highlights here is Canon Sumidero, a boat trip leads you up a massive ancient canyon, fog pouring over the sides of the cliffs high above and the whole area enveloped in a dream-like haze. One can expect to see crocodiles, monkeys, a cave and a ‘christmas tree’. Prior to travelling along it we had heard that there was a lot of rubbish but we saw near enough none.
Other highlight include the aforementioned villages which we omit after hearing from a few that trips there are essentially exploitainment. The markets (if you’re after a hammock this is the place), cathedrals and just wandering the streets themselves. This is the sort of place that has a way of surprising you from stumbling across a protest march to street performances to a food aid station.
Puerta Vieja (Calle Diego de Mazariegos #23, Barrio de La Merced, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas; Mexico ).
120 pesos/pp for a 16 bed dorm. There are external lockers so the dorms are fairly spacious for the amount of people. This hostel has one the best breakfasts – pancakes with fresh fruit, quesadillas, tortas, options changed regularly. The bathrooms were clean and the hot water was actually hot. Although we didn’t use the services, there was the option to book tours in house which may be attractive for solo travellers. NB: these were more expensive.
Getting there from Puerto Escondido:
• There are two main bus stations in Puerto Escondido and an airport slightly further afield.
∼ ETN Turistar Bus Station – Av. Oaxaca S/N, Fracc. Playas, 71980 Puerto Escondido, Oax., México.
∼ ADO Bus Terminal – ADO Bus Terminal, Centro, Puerto Escondido, Oax., México.
• If heading south like us, make your way to the ADO bus terminal (663 pesos per person, 13 hours). You’ll notice the address above is very close to the supermarket mentioned below. The terminal is small – toilets, waiting area and vending machine – but pleasant enough for a short wait.
• Buses to San Cristobal de las Casas generally leave twice a day. Check out http://www.ado.com.mx/ado/index.jsp for up to date booking times and prices. Bring a jersey or blanket for this trip as the aircon is uncomfortably low.
• Buses in San Cristobal de las casas arrive at Av Insurgentes, Sta Lucia, 29250 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis., México.
• From the bus station take the main exit and turn right out onto Ave. Insurgentes. Follow this road 800m (about 5-10mins walk) until you reach Parque Central. You will pass a few hostels, there is also a number in surrounding streets off the square.
Getting Away to Palenque:
• Buses for Palenque depart San Cristobal from Av Insurgentes, Sta Lucia, 29250 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis., México. In 2015 second class buses were 122 pesos
• Alternatively, take one of the collectivos (100 pesos) that leave from the main road (Carr. Internacional) next to the main bus terminal
• Both these options pass the beautiful Agua Azul and Misol Ha (20km from Palenque). It is possible to arrange a drop off here but make sure you arrange this with your transport operator before purchasing a ticket. Basic lodgings are available.
• Food: 1-3 blocks down Av Insurgentes from the square, there is a bakery on your right. This bakry happens to sell the most scrumptious cream filled donuts imaginable. In the mid to late afternoon follow the school kids and order what they’re getting.
• Supermarket: we felt no need to go to a supermarket in San Cristobal de las Casas. Instead get everything you need at the market – on the right of Gral. M. Utrilla, opposite Republica Dominicana.
• Market: Gral. M. Utrilla (runs off Plaza de la Paz), opposite Republica Dominicana.