If you asked us what to visit in Mexico if you could see only one place, we wouldn’t hesitate a single second: Sumidero Canyon! It’s, without a doubt, our number one on the list of top 10 places in Mexico. And it should be for you as well! We are Jan and Karin, and in this article, we will show you Canyon Sumidero—the most beautiful place in Mexico.
What is Canyon Sumidero?
Canyon Sumidero, Sumidero Canyon, or Cañón del Sumidero. Those are all names of the breathtaking national park in the south of Mexico. And simply put, that place is the best of the best! It’s an equal experience to the Grand Canyon or Yosemite in the US. If you travel in Mexico, Sumidero Canyon is a must-visit.
Canyon Sumidero will take your breath away, I swear
The river in Sumidero Canyon is surrounded by 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) high walls. There are rapids, waterfalls, small caves, rock formations, and other things that will make you fall in love with this place. Did I just paint the picture of paradise in your head? Trust me, the reality is even better. See for yourself in the picture below. And don’t get confused: Even though it looks quite small in the pictures, the canyon is 200 meters (655 feet) wide and 13 kilometers (8 miles) long.
There are several ways to enjoy Sumidero Canyon:
- on foot
- by boat
- from above (by car)
It would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for you to decide which way is the best, I know. It was hard for us, too. But in the end, we chose the boats.
Sumidero Canyon from boats
The boats set off from Chiapa de Corzo, a small town near Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and the route takes approximately three hours. The price is pretty good—around 600 Mexican pesos (30 US dollars) per person. And it’s worth every penny.
Tip: Before getting on board, you will get a life jacket and a wristband. Keep it on even when you get off the boat. It proves that you have paid the entrance fee.
In Chiapa de Corzo, there are four piers where you can book the route:
- Malecón Pier
- Cahuaré Pier
- Belisario Dominguez Pier
- Unidad Deportiva Pier
The boats set off between 8 AM and 3 PM every day.
Hiking in Sumidero Canyon
Hiking enthusiasts won’t be disappointed. You can visit Sumidero Canyon on foot—several travel agencies and guides are offering the experience. There are half-day and full-day variants, some of which include boat routes or swimming in natural pools in the Sumidero Canyon National Park. You’ll be in seventh heaven.
You can walk alongside the riverbank and enjoy waterfalls, incredibly clean natural pools, and wildlife in the jungle. But don’t play with fire and hire a certified guide, as canyoning is fraught with danger and you could easily get hurt if you went on your own. You can book the tour online, for example at Keteka or Explore-Share.
Tip: You will probably get wet so don’t forget to bring some extra clothes.
Canyon Sumidero from above
If you want to see Sumidero Canyon from above, you can go by car. To put the plain into motion, find the road called Miradores del Cañón del Sumidero (The Views of Sumidero Canyon). It will lead you to four main views:
- Mirador La Ceiba (from here, you will see the beginning of Canyon Sumidero)
- Mirador La Coyota (this mirador is a beautiful viewpoint of the high walls and river of Sumidero Canyon)
- Mirador el Roblar (from this viewpoint, you can see Sumidero Canyon from a slightly higher point)
- Mirador el Tepehuaje (this is a beautiful watchtower with a large parking lot, making it a perfect place to take a break, eat your snack and recharge batteries)
The miradors are just a stone’s throw from the city; the road starts in Tuxtla, goes only 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) to the fourth view and then heads back.
Which way of visiting Sumidero Canyon is the best?
If you get a chance to experience all three options, jump at it! But much more likely, you’ll have to choose. Choose carefully.
I, personally, would go for the boat. It’s a unique experience incomparable to anything else, and you’ll get to enjoy a lot of great views. But if you don’t have enough time, the car might also be a good option. And if you like to play at Robinson Crusoe in the jungle… well, go on foot and try to survive!
Tip: Do you still hesitate about which one you should choose? I will tell you a little secret: Google Maps offer street views from both the road and the river, so you can have a glance and decide more easily.
Is Canyon Sumidero full of dangerous animals? Oh yes, it is
Are you an animal lover? If yes, you will love Canyon Sumidero even more! Some endangered species live there, such as the hickatee (river turtle), or, which is even better, the crocodile. But don’t worry, they won’t hurt you. You can peacefully watch them from the safety of your boat and take some photos, just as we did. Or you can play a game called ”Is that a log, or a crocodile?”.
The interesting wildlife in Sumidero Canyon doesn’t end with crocodiles. You can also meet a few pumas, jaguars, spider monkeys, or for example vultures. Over 150 bird species live in the national park. Forget about zoos, they are lame. Get here.
Canyon Sumidero National Park is a tropical jungle. Besides rainforest vegetation, you’ll also spot pine-oak forests and green meadows there. The plant diversity is great: there are palms, orchids, cactuses, and other plants. The trees are pretty tall, some of them even 30 meters. All together, it creates an exotic experience.
4 attractions you shouldn’t miss
Sumidero Canyon rocks in itself but there are four attractions you shouldn’t miss to enjoy it even more.
1. Seasonal waterfalls
In Canyon Sumidero, there are several seasonal waterfalls. You don’t have any idea what it is? You’re not alone.
A seasonal waterfall is a waterfall active only during the rainy season. The most famous one in Canyon Sumidero is called Árbol de Navidad, or “a Christmas tree” in translation. Real magic happens in summer, when the water flowing down the walls causes the softer layers of the rock to fall. That creates an interesting rock formation.
I have already mentioned miradors in the part about seeing Canyon Sumidero from above. Miradors are the viewpoints, accessible by car. They offer beautiful views of the canyon and the landscape surrounding it. They are a perfect opportunity to chill out and laugh at the little people in those little boats down there.
3. The Cave of Colors
Cueva de Colores (The Cave of Colors in translation) is the most famous cave in the canyon—because it’s pink. The unusual color is caused by minerals, mainly magnesium and potassium. The cave serves as a chapel and includes the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. There is a ladder, so you can climb into the cave right from your boat. Is it awesome? Is it weird? Who knows.
4. Chicoasén Dam
The boats will take you through Canyon Sumidero to Chicoasén Dam and back. Chicoasén Dam is (as you’ve probably already guessed) a dam. A pretty large dam. It has 52,600 square kilometers (20,309 square miles) and can take over 1.5 billion cubic meters (132 billion gallons) of water. Its height of 261 meters (856 feet) makes it the tallest dam in North America and the 10th tallest dam in the world.
EXTRA TIP: Bring some coins
In Canyon Sumidero, the bathrooms are paid. It’s not a huge amount—only 5 Mexican pesos—but without coins, you won’t get in. The call of nature is strong, don’t underestimate it.
History of Canyon Sumidero, the most beautiful place in Mexico
The rocks and vertical walls in the Sumidero Canyon National Park started forming 35 million years ago—the same time the Grand Canyon was formed. The canyon was first formed by a crack, and the river caused further erosion.
The more recent history of Canyon Sumidero consists of a lot of misery. First, the civilization of Chiapa people lived there. But after the arrival and conquests of the Spanish, they committed collective suicide by jumping into the Sumidero Canyon (or at least the legends say so). Then, the French wanted to explore the canyon but drowned instead. No wonder people were afraid of this place and believed it was cursed.
Do you want to visit the nicest place in Mexico? This is how you get there
Canyon Sumidero is in Chiapas, Mexico, and the nearest city is Tuxtla Gutiérrez. There are several ways to get there.
How to get to Tuxtla
Tuxtla has its own airport, called Ángel Albino Corzo International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Ángel Albino Corzo in Spanish). You can fly there from Mexico City, Mérida, Monterrey, Cancún, Guadalajara or Tijuana.
The airport is quite far from Tuxtla so you will need an airport transfer. Probably the best type of transport from the airport in Tuxtla Gutiérrez is a taxi. The drive takes 35 minutes and costs around 250 Mexican pesos (13 US dollars). But you can also book a private VIP transfer if you like.
You can also rent a car right at the airport, as the Alamo rental has its office there. If you want to do so, find out some helpful tricks in our article about driving in Mexico.
You can take a bus into Tuxtla—from Mexico City, Cancún, Merida, and some other cities. Because Tuxtla Gutiérrez is the capital of Chiapas, there are a lot of bus routes going there.
It’s fast and comfortable, as several highways lead to Tuxtla. But I recommend rather going by plane and renting a car locally, instead of driving as far as from Mexico City or similar distance. Unless you like long tedious rides for some strange reason.
How to get to Sumidero Canyon National Park
Do you want to travel by car and see Canyon Sumidero from above? The road starts in Tuxtla in the quarter called La Esperanza. The name of the road is Al Sumidero and you can’t miss it.
Prefer going by boat? You will probably start in Chiapa de Corzo. To get there from Tuxtla or the airport, take a cab. There are lots of them and they are cheap. You can also go in your car, but you can have quite a rough time trying to find a good parking space in Chiapa de Corzo. Another option is a bus from Tuxtla Gutiérrez to Chiapa de Corzo—the bus service is pretty regular.
If you want to hike in Canyon Sumidero, the starting point will depend on your guide or travel agency. But the most common practice is for the guide to pick you up in Tuxtla Gutiérrez.
What’s the best time to visit Canyon Sumidero?
However surprising it might sound, the best time to visit Canyon Sumidero is the rainy season (between June and October). There is more water in the river and all the vegetation is greener (and I don’t mean greener like on the other side of the fence, I meanliterally greener). Moreover, water creates remarkable attractions such as seasonal waterfalls. Your jaw will drop when you see that.
Warning: It might be a really bad idea to visit Canyon Sumidero on Tuesday. All miradors are closed.
But however amazing summer could be, you can visit Sumidero Canyon even in winter—the temperature rarely goes below 15 °C (60 °F). Moreover, there is the Fiesta Grande festival held every January.
Fiesta Grande in Chiapa de Corzo
Every January, the Fiesta Grande festival takes place in Chiapa de Corzo. It celebrates local saints and is included in the UNESCO list. There are dancers in traditional wooden masks, musicians and fireworks. And food. Tons of food.
Where can you buy souvenirs in Sumidero Canyon?
It would be a pity to forget the nicest place in Mexico. Fortunately, there are some great souvenirs you can buy—you know, T-shirts and similar stuff. A lot of souvenir sellers lurk around and look for tourists at the embark point of the boats in Chiapa de Corzo. Some of them are children, forced to sell instead of going to school. Don’t buy anything from them and find adult sellers instead.
There used to be souvenirs in the Ecological Park, but currently, it’s closed because of economical problems (as of May 2021).
3 good restaurants near Canyon Sumidero
What is a trip without good food! Check these three places where you can eat before or after your visit to Canyon Sumidero:
1. La Mansion (in Tuxtla Guriérrez)
Do you want true Mexican cuisine or a juicy steak? Try La Mansion in Tuxtla. It’s a first-class experience and I fully recommend the place. The food is delicious and the staff excellent.
2. Árbol de la Vida (in Chiapa de Corzo)
Árbol de la Vida is a restaurant that belongs to Hotel La Ceiba, but luckily, it is not exclusively for hotel guests. There is a quiet terrace full of plants and colors. The staff doesn’t speak English but the menu is translated, which is really good if you’re not a Spanish speaker.
3. Otilia (in Tuxtla Gutiérrez)
The quality of food in Otilia is above standard. The restaurant offers mostly local food but has an interesting fusion approach. You can either eat in or go for a takeaway, which is a nice option if you don’t have enough time.
BIG SURPRISE: The best travel destination in Mexico (Canyon Sumidero) is free from foreign tourists!
When I was doing my research about where to travel in Mexico, I found very few mentions of Canyon Sumidero. It only came up after many hours of digging. However, the fact that it took so long to find could only mean one thing: it’s hard to find for everyone, therefore, there won’t be many international tourists. It’s the most beautiful place in Mexico, and still—you will meet only locals there. Good news both for you and your photos, right?
Funny experience: It was so unusual for the Mexicans to see Europeans in Canyon Sumidero, that they took photos of us.