Paddling, zip-lining, rock-climbing, waterfall sighting, and exploring ancient cities. Diverse Mexican cuisine, thousands of years of history, and cultural heritage. That’s Chiapas. Dive into our detailed guide and find out what are the best activities to do in Chiapas. At the end, you’ll find a sample itinerary to enjoy your vacation easily and without hours of planning.
First, we’ll show you the must-do activities in Chiapas. Then, we’ll move on to the most beautiful waterfalls and ancient ruins. And we’ll close the list with the best cities in Chiapas.
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Adventure lovers, read on! These are the best Chiapas activities you can do:
Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas
Fancy a boat trip? And what about a boat trip to the most beautiful place in Mexico? Read our Guide to Sumidero Canyon. It's a national park in Chiapas, consisting of the Grijalva river surrounded by 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) tall cliffs. You can see it all from the deck of a boat.
The boats embark in Chiapa de Corzo, and will take you all the way through the canyon to the Chicoasén dam and back. Break out from the rut and experience the indescribable. Occasional crocodiles and jaguars will perk up your trip.
Hotel tip for Tuxtla Gutiérrez: We enjoyed our stay at Mariott Tuxtla Gutiérrez Hotel. Great location, nice personnel, gym, pool, and tasty breakfast—what else could you wish for? Prices start at 55 USD for 2 people.
Mariott Tuxtla Gutiérez Hotel: The most beautiful atrium I’ve ever seen!
Just so you know, if you book a hotel (any hotel) using our booking.com affiliate links sprinkled throughout this article, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. It keeps our blog free and shows us you love us, so thank you!
Lagunas de Montebello, Chiapas
Lagunas de Montebello is a national park with a system of crystal-clear lakes connected through underground rivers. It offers truly enchanting views: limestone rocks, special red moss, and underwater caves which can be seen clearly thanks to the purity of the water.
But what would a Chiapas activity be without adventure? Take the road less traveled and explore the lakes from a balsa raft! Your childhood dreams awakened by Row, row, row your boat will finally come true. You can rent a raft or a kayak and paddle around for approximately 600 pesos (30 US dollars).
Travel tip: Lakes don’t go without mosquitos. Bring a repellent if you don’t want to be eaten alive.
Paddling a raft in Chiapas was fun!
Even if you don’t want to paddle, the Lagoons of Montebello are still one of the top 10 best places to visit in Mexico. The admission is rather cheap, and a number of guides are waiting by the entrance. (Some of them even speak English.) I suggest taking one, because the signage in the park is really, really poor. You can also opt for a two-hour hike through the jungle. The rainforest is safe and the locals are friendly.
Travel tip: Withdraw money from an ATM in advance. It would be very hard to do so on the spot.
View from a cave in El Arcotete
It’s easy to observe rocks from the ground, but will you dare to climb them? Just a 20-minute drive from San Cristóbal, El Arcotete is a complex of caves. 40 climbing routes are at your disposal in the park, including various lengths and difficulties.
If you prefer to stay on the ground, you can choose from other activities El Arcotete has to offer: picnicking, horse riding, cave exploring… An irresistible half-day trip, isn’t it?
Waterfalls splash through Chiapas and overwhelm tourists with their beauty and force. These are three Chiapas’ most wonderful waterfalls that will ignite your wanderlust:
Karin and El Chiflón Waterfall
If your staying anywhere close to San Cristóbal, you can't miss the Cascada el Chiflón. It's a series of waterfalls, roaring and spraying you with water as you stand nearby. A path winds along the riverbank and gradually shows you the cascades, each better than the previous one.
After several smaller cascades, the path will finally lead you to Cascada Velo de Novia which is a powerful reminder of nature’s force, as it comes crashing down 80 meters (260 feet) into a turquoise-colored pool. You can test your limits and climb up to see the waterfall even from above. This trip belongs to the 10 best hikes in Mexico.
Travel tip: No window of time is too large for Chiflón. Reserve at least five hours to visit both banks of the river and see the waterfalls from both sides, and maybe even try zip-lining above the river!
Hotel tip: We stayed at Comitán and, in my opinion, the best accommodation option is the City Express Comitán. It’s basically a motel in a very good location. Super clean and convenient. Prices start at 100 USD for 2 people.
One of the rooms in City Express Comitán
Me and El Aguacero Waterfall
A hike + bathing in the river + wild waterfall = the perfect thing to do in Chiapas! Located an hour´s drive from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Cañón Río La Venta hides the El Aguacero waterfall. You’ll have to drive on a poor, bumpy road, and then climb a steep slope in the jungle to get into the canyon. But it’s worth it a hundred times.
The trip starts at the tourist center under the hill. You can grab a bite of Mexican food to gain some strength before the climb, or buy a souvenir. Which I highly recommend, by the way, as the staff is truly friendly and kind, and you’ll help them by buying something.
Then the hike is ahead of you, consisting of at least a bazillion stairs. After the hardship you come through, a beautiful scenery will open in front of you: a warm river, surrounded by walls, and leading to the waterfall. Sounds tempting? Here are other top 10 hikes in Mexico.
Travel tip: If you’re not sure whether the climb is in your power, try the street view in Google Maps. I know, it sounds weird. But it will show you the path and help you decide.
This is how you get to El Aguacero, Chiapas. You can find the trail on alltrails
Magical Agua Azul Waterfalls
If Chichén Itzá is the New Wonder of the World, then Agua Azul should be the Water Wonder of Mexico. The name of the cascades literally means Blue Water. The bright colors, banana trees and palms all around, and small islands in the middle of the river make the place look like paradise.
The path along the cascades is lined with shops, selling souvenirs as well as Mexican food and beverages.
Agua Azul loses its bright color in the rainy season
Agua Azul Waterfalls lie in a land far, far away. First, they really are like a fairy tale. Second, they’re 160 kilometers (99.4 miles) from San Cristóbal, and 214 kilometers (133 miles) from Tuxtla Gutiérrez. So consider carefully whether the cascades are worth your time or not.
Travel tip: You can swim in some of the pools below waterfalls. However, always read the signs with instructions! Invisible underwater currents could be deadly for you if you don’t obey the rules and swim where you shouldn’t. Read more about useful Mexico travel tips.
Mexico is the land of ancient gods, worships, and pyramids. These are the best ancient ruins to visit in Chiapas:
Ancient ruins in Palenque
Located in the middle of the jungle, Palenque is undoubtedly a hidden treasure among the best Mayan cities in Mexico. The numerous carvings and hieroglyphs found on the interior walls make the complex a unique archeological site.
A UNESCO site today, a rich city back in the day. Palenque was inhabited between the 3rd and 8th centuries, when it prospered as a trade center and agricultural site. In the 8th century, it was abandoned and left at the mercy of the jungle. Most of the city remains unseen till today—it’s supposed that only 10% of the ruins are discovered.
Ancient ruins in Bonampak
Bonampak is a Mayan city complex close to the border with Guatemala, best known for murals on its walls. Originally, historians thought the Maya was a peaceful culture. It was the murals in Bonampak that showed them they were wrong. The pictures clearly depict war and human sacrifice. Read more about Aztec culture in the 12 facts about Mexico article.
Murals in Bonampak
Travel tip: It’s not allowed to go to the ruins by car—you will have to pay some 75 Mexican pesos (3.75 US dollars) for a tourist van to get you there.
Ruins in Yaxchilán
The archeological site of Yaxchilán lies on a piece of Mexico surrounded by Guatemala. Literally. Look at the map.
Check the Yaxchilán route on alltrails!
The history of Yaxchilán started in the 4th century, and continued with a rather long series of wars, as local cities were fighting for power. Yaxchilán used to be the dominant center of the region, and was rivals with both Palenque and Bonampak. Thanks to its position on the curve of the river, the city was naturally protected from enemies.
Today, the site contains numerous ruins of temples, palaces, and terraces, and is best known for its sculpture structures. Yaxchilán is strewn with carved lintels, altars, and bas-relief carvings which all narrate the story of the city.
The trip to Yaxchilán is a slightly difficult one, as the ruins are surrounded only by rainforest and no roads. So first, you need to get to Frontera Corozal and pay 30 pesos (1.5 US dollars) for the entrance to the town. Boats set off from Frontera Corozal and will take you to Yaxchilán, where they will wait two hours for you to get you back again. The price is around 1,300 pesos (65 US dollars) per boat—the more people go, the less you pay per person. When you get to Yaxchilán, you will pay additional 90 pesos (4.5 US dollars) for the entrance to the ruins.
Note that the accommodation options in Frontera Corozal are quite modest. Hotel Nueva Alianza is by far the best option.
Busy streets, restaurants, cafés, cathedrals, and other tourist attractions. If you’re keen to dive into the hustle of a city, here are three Chiapas cities you shouldn’t miss:
Walking through the beautiful streets in San Cristóbal
San Cristóbal de las Casas is one of the most promoted cities in Mexico, being on the list of the Magical Towns. In the city, it’s impossible not to stumble upon a café or a restaurant every two minutes. San Cristóbal is alive—not only with good food, but also with culture and history.
But if you ask me—San Cristóbal may be one of the best cities in Chiapas, but it’s definitely not one of the best cities in Mexico. If you have the option, it’s much better to visit Puebla or Oaxaca instead. They’re bigger, more interesting, and less crowded.
Hotel tips: I’d recommend spending the night in San Cristóbal’s Hotel Bo. Its cool design (inside and out!) is complemented by its wonderful staff and a great on-site restaurant that serves Mexican and international dishes. Prices start at USD 230 for 2 people.
Luxurious Hotel Bo, San Cristóbal de Las Casas
A view of Tuxtla Gutiérrez city
A two-day stay in Tuxtla is a perfect mix of museums in the city, and nature nearby. First, you can visit the awesome Canyon Sumidero and Aguacero Waterfalls, both sites within an hour’s drive from Tuxtla. Then, you can clear your head and rest a bit in Tuxtla’s museums, such as the Museum of Coffee, the Museum of Marimba, or Faustino Miranda Botanical Garden.
Tuxtla Gutiérrez is a good place for your vacation especially thanks to its location, and the international airport 30 minutes by car from the city center. Here are the 16 things you need to know about driving in Mexico.
The Comitán Church
Comitán, the fourth largest city in Chiapas, is the place to stay if you want to explore the attractions near the border with Guatemala. Like Tuxtla, the city is interesting especially thanks to the tourist sites nearby.
You won’t stay hungry in Comitán, as it’s full of nice restaurants serving true Mexican food. We visited Ta Bonitio, and were really satisfied.
Do you want to see all I mentioned in this article? For your own sake, I hope you have a ton of time. This is a sample itinerary for your trip to Chiapas (you’ll find a shorter version below). You might also find this article about traveling in Mexico during COVID-19 or our 33 Mexico travel tips useful.
Day 1: Tuxtla Gutiérrez + El Aguacero
Day 2: Canyon Sumidero + San Cristóbal + El Arcotete
Day 3: Lagunas de Montebello
Day 4: Yaxchilán + Bonampak + Palenque
Day 5: Agua Azul + Chiflón
Day 6: Departure
Maybe you’ve noticed that the drives sometimes take 5+ hours. And maybe you don’t like that. In that case, we have a shorter version of the itinerary for you, without the tedious distances:
Day 1: Tuxtla Gutiérrez + El Aguacero
Day 2: Canyon Sumidero + San Cristóbal + El Arcotete + Comitán
Day 3: Lagunas de Montebello + Chiflón + Departure
This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission if you make bookings through my links, at no additional cost to you. This helps keep this blog free, thank you!
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