natural wonders of Chiapas are impressive to even
the most seasoned of travelers. It is blessed with
beautiful lakes, thundering waterfalls, rain forest
and pine covered mountains. The state retains
colonial and precolonial structures, and is home to
a multitude of indigenous groups speaking several
Mayan dialects. Though conquered by the Spaniards
400 years ago, the Maya remain culturally distinct
and still outnumber European descendants in much of
Throughout the Yucatan Peninsula lie the ruins of
hundreds of sites built by a civilization that began
over 3,000 years ago. As a tribute to their gods the
Maya built magnificent cities and ceremonial
centers, many of which still remain.
Chiapas, rich in culture and natural beauty,
welcomes tourists, most of whom come from Europe.
Most North Americans have not yet discovered this
part of the Mayan World which included what is now
Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the
Mexican states of Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco
Gutierrez - Capital of the State.
is a modern city, in the center of a thriving coffee
region. Delightful hours were spent at the Miguel
Alvarez del Toro Zoo, considered one of the best in
Latin America. Animals indigenous to the state live
in ample spaces which imitate their natural habitat.
Harmless animals and birds roam freely around the
park including little howler monkeys, so named for
the strange sounds they make.
Sumidero Canyon - Awesome
15 km/9 mi north of Tuxtla is a 40 km/26 mile-long
canyon with sheer cliffs that drop 1,800 meters into
the Grijalva River. For a spectacular view of the
canyon a road ascends into the mountains with five
lookout points, each with a diverse vista and the
river zigzagging far below. Equally spectacular is
the view from the Grijalva River which passes
through the canyon, flanked by unspoiled jungle and
steep cliffs rising to heights of 1200 meters. This
impressive tectonic fault is one of the greatest
marvels of nature. Boat tours start at both Caguare
and Chiapa de Corzo at a cost of $10 Cdn/person for
a two-hour trip.
Cristobal De Las Casas- Cool and RefreshingSan
Cristobal is only a two-hour drive from Tuxtla, up a
winding mountain road to an elevation of 7,200 feet.
Spanish architecture with arches, flower gardens,
narrow streets, tiled roofs and elaborate churches
is a little misleading because the town is
overwhelmingly Indian and that is the most important
reason to visit San Cristobal.
city is considered by many to be the most enchanting
place in the state. Its colonial flavor is
interwoven with the Mayan past providing an
opportunity to see people whose clothing and customs
date back hundreds of years. Each village uses its
own colors and style in making their garments. Each
culture is different with its own mysteries and
traditions. The Indians reluctantly accept the
inevitability of tourism but prefer the life they
Outside the Church of Santo Domingo, one can wander
for hours, mesmerized by the quality and quantity of
merchandise on display, at prices far below what
they would be sold for anywhere else. Craftsmen from
neighboring towns, even from Guatemala, use the area
around the church to sell their wares. Diverse
languages can be heard and though no one speaks
English, everyone responds quickly to a smile. Point
to what you like and the price is written in pesos.
Bartering is expected.
Balom was the home of archaeologist Frans Blom and
his wife Trudy who dedicated their lives to
preserving the culture and rain forest of the
Lacandon Indians. The home is now used as a
museum/research center/library/ guest house. The
extensive library of Mayan culture attracts social
scientists from around the world. For information
write: Na Balom, Av. Vicente Guerrero #33, San
Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas 29220.
small town of Tzotzil origin preserves its ancient
political, religious and social traditions. Visiting
Chamula was the highlight of my trip. Never did I
want my camera more but our guide insisted they be
left on the bus. The Mayans believe that if you take
their picture you will be taking their soul. It was
a small price to pay for having the opportunity to
visit their community.
Entering the church of St. John the Baptist was an
experience I will never forget. The interior is
candle lit and very dim. There are no pews or
clergy. The floor is covered with pine needles and a
sea of candles. Figures of saints line the walls,
covered with colorful ribbons and mirrors suspended
from their necks. The mirror symbolizes the sacred
eye that sees with great clarity. The pagan rites of
the Maya merge magically with the Catholic religion,
diverging completely from the traditions of western
musicians dressed in colorful ancient garb were
playing guitars and a piano accordion while the
community leader, the mayordomos prayed. Then they
left, single-file, but most of the worshipers
continued to pray devoutly, on their knees,
sometimes stopping to take a drink of coke which is
thought to cleanse the body when the person burps.
The church is used mostly by shamans for cleansing
and healing, using eggs, or sometimes a dead or a
live chicken to pass over the sick person while
performing the ritual. A permit is required to
enter the church. They are available at the Tourist
Office for $1.50 Cdn.
the square in front of the church, piles of
beautiful woven wool shawls, garments and vests were
stacked for sale. Little children swarmed around us,
begging us to buy purses, little dolls and woven
belts. The shawls sold for $6.00 Cdn. What a
a small community much like San Juan Chamula is only
8km/5mi away. A permit must be bought to enter the
Church of San Lorenzo. Traditions, clothing and
attitudes differ remarkably from the Chamulas.
Though dedicated to their culture, they are more
enterprising, their village is clean and everyone
seems to work. We visited a weaver’s house where the
extended family produces textiles and colorful
embroidery. Their tablecloths, place mats,
bedspreads and jackets make great gifts.
cascades of Agua Azul, 66 km south of Palenque, has
more than 500 falls crashing into turquoise pools.
Visitors are mesmerized by the beauty. The higher
you climb, the more dazzling it becomes with rivers
and brooks cutting across the green valley floor.
Misol-Ha, another waterfall about 25 km from
Palenque has a 35 meter-fall dropping into a
beautiful wide pool, safe for swimming.
archaeological zone of Palenque is considered to be
one of the most beautiful in Mexico. The ruins sit
on on a hill covered with lush vegetation, looking
over the plains below. This region has the highest
rainfall in Mexico so it was hidden by jungle for
hundreds of years. It wasn’t until 1837 that the
first scientific approach was made. Today,
exploration continues over the 15 square miles of
ruins. Only 34 structures have been opened of the
estimated 500 that exist.
hard to believe that everything here was built
without metal tools, pack animals or the wheel. In
its heyday the stone was covered with a layer of
stucco and then painted with brilliant colors and
covered with mythological and historical figures. It
must have been beautiful, surrounded by the green
Temple of Inscriptions is the tallest and most
prominent of Palenque’s buildings. The tall roof
comb that crowned it is long gone. The inscriptions
in Mayan hieroglyphs on the interior rear wall are
the reason for its name, dedicating the temple in
692 A.D. to King Pakal. Ascend the 69 steps to the
top for access to his tomb. This pyramid served as a
crypt for a revered leader as well as a temple
base.The Group of the Cross consists of four
buildings dedicated to Pakal’s son, Chan-Balum: The
Temple of the Sun, Temple 14, The Temple of the
Cross and the Temple of the Foliated Cross.
The Palace, opposite the Temple of Inscriptions, is
an unusual structure with a maze of courtyards and
rooms occupying the space of one city block. It sits
on a platform 10 meters high which has an
interesting labyrinth of underground passageways and
The nearby community of Santo Domingo de Palenque,
is a small town that bulges at the seams with the
influx of tourists interested in the ruins. Meals
and accommodation are very adequate. END
For further information
Doreen can be contacted through her