17 epic things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas (2024)

San Cristobal de las Casas is a popular colonial town in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. I’ve put together this list of the best things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, including when to go, where to stay, things to do, and essential tips.

things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas

I woke with a start. The gentle swaying of the bus must have lulled me to sleep because it was now 9 am and we were a long way from Mexico City.

The twisting mountain roads of Chiapas highlands led us through the morning mist and as I looked down towards Tuxtla, it had disappeared beneath the vapored sky.

After a long 15-hour bus ride, I clambered out, stiff and bleary-eyed while the bus crawled off through the narrow streets. We had arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas.

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Best things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas

About San Cristobal de las Casas

The fresh highland air and the bright, lively colors of San Cristobal de las Casas have drawn tourists in flocks for many years, and we arrived during the high season expecting to integrate with the crowds.

I was excited to visit San Cristóbal.

Most of all it’s so rich in indigenous culture and history, which gives the town a cultural flair.

The Tzoltzil and the Tzatzal people, who are descended from an ancient civilization, are a strong presence in and around the city. This area contains one of the largest indigenous Mayan populations in Mexico.

The city sits in a small valley surrounded by green hills, pine trees, and thick white clouds. And the views.. They are heartbreakingly beautiful.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
The road from Tuxtla to San Cristobal de las Casas

Where is San Cristobal?

San Cristobal is located in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

Weather in San Cristobal Mexico

The best time to visit San Cristobal de las Casas is from March to May. During these months, the weather is warm, with temperatures around 28°C (82°F).

One big advantage that San Cristobal de las Casas has over other parts of Mexico is the climate. I’m married to a true viking who loves freezing weather and is miserable in the hot sun.

But – since the Chiapas capital is positioned at an altitude of 2,200m, the air is always fresh and clean, and there’s a comfortable temperature (we visited in August and it was 24C in the day and quite chilly in the evenings).

It’s not like humid Palenque or tropical Cancun – we wore socks and warm sweaters every night.

  • Hottest month of the year: April (59.5°F / 15.3°C) – 81.5°F / 27.5°C
  • Coldest month of the year: January 52.7°F /11.5°C – 71.2°F / 21.8°C
  • Driest month of the year: February 54.1°F / 12.3°C – 75.6°F / 24.2°C
  • Wettest month of the year: June
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
Guide to San Cristobal de las Casas

Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas

1. Walk around town

Much of San Cristobal de las Casas has maintained its Spanish colonial style with narrow cobblestone streets and roofs covered in red clay tile.

It’s so pretty, so make sure to go for a walk! Whenever you stroll through a Mexican colonial city, you feel like every day is a sunny one – and usually they are.

Read next: 12 absolute best places to visit in Chiapas Mexico

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
The colorful San Cristobal de las Casas Chiapas Mexico

2. Visit Na Bolom Museum

Na Bolom means ‘Jaguar House’ in the Tzotzil language and was once home to Swiss anthropologist Trudy Blom and her husband, Danish archaeologist Frans Blom.

It’s a museum filled with photos, relics, and books, showcasing their life and work in Chiapas. They lived there since 1950, exploring Maya sites and protecting the Lacandón people and their jungle.

Book here – See the highlights of San Cristobal, San Juan Chamula & Zinacantan

3. Stroll in the Zocalo

Zocalo is the main square in San Cristobal, and it’s always buzzing with activity.

You can just wander around, soak in the lively atmosphere, and maybe grab a coffee or snack from one of the nearby cafes.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

4. Chamula and Zinacantan Indigenous Villages

If you’re interested in indigenous communities near San Cristobal, you should visit Chamula and Zinacantan villages.

They offer a peek into traditions that have lasted for centuries. On a day tour, you’ll see colorful textiles, and traditional rituals, and get a sense of their daily life.

Visit with a local – Customs of indigenous villages of Chiapas

5. Hike to El Arcotete

If you’re in San Cristobal, definitely plan a trip to El Arcotete.

You’ll see some beautiful natural landscapes, leading to this impressive limestone arch over a quiet river.

It’s a bit of a walk, but absolutely worth it for the views and the tranquility you’ll find there.

Book here – Tour to Grutas de Rancho Nuevo and El Arcotete Ecotourism Park

6. Try local cuisine

Mexican food is amazing, so make sure to try the local food in San Cristobal.

Go for Tamales, they’re really good and wrapped in corn husks.

Also, check out Pozol, it’s a drink made from corn and it’s pretty unique. These dishes are a great way to taste the local flavors and see what the area’s food is all about.

Things to do in San Cristobal de Las Casas - Mexican food
Also taste the tacos!

7. Visit the Amber Museum

When you’re in San Cristobal, don’t skip the Amber Museum.

You’ll see a bunch of amber pieces, some with ancient insects trapped inside. They also explain how amber is formed and used.

8. Take a Spanish class

If you want to learn some Spanish, head to San Cris Language School.

They have classes for all levels, and it’s pretty affordable, starting at about 200 pesos an hour.

It’s a cool way to pick up some Spanish while you’re in town and meet other travelers too. They’re flexible with timings, so you can easily fit classes into your travel plans.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

9. Go out on Real de Guadalupe

If you’re looking for nightlife in San Cristobal, Real de Guadalupe is the place to go.

This street is full of bars and live music spots. La Viña de Bacco is great for wine lovers, and Revolucion Bar has a really energetic vibe.

Just wander down Real de Guadalupe and pick a place that seems fun.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

10. Visit El Chiflon waterfalls

A full-day trip to El Chiflon waterfalls is a great day trip from San Cristobal.

You’ll start early and get back by evening.

The waterfalls are impressive, especially the main one that looks like angel wings. There are hiking paths through the rainforest and 52 crystal-clear lakes where you can swim.

Pre-book your tour – Chiflon Waterfalls & Montebello Day Tour

Things to do in San Cristobal de Las Casas - El Chiflon waterfalls

11. Explore the Museo del Cacao

The Museo del Cacao in San Cristobal is all about chocolate.

It’s a small museum where you’ll learn how chocolate is made, from bean to bar, and they even show you traditional ways of making it.

Plus, you get to taste different types of chocolate!

12. Shop at the markets

Chiapas state used to be a part of Guatemala which is largely inhabited by the Mayan people. They still wear traditional dresses, and they’re very colorful. The indigenous people of Chiapas are also known for their fantastic weaving skills so you can find colorful blankets, scarves, and clothing for sale all over the city.

San Cristobal de las Casas is a great marketplace. Not just food markets, but also art and textile markets. My favorite market was the one next to Iglesia Ex-Convento Santo Domingo where there were all sorts of handmade clothes and shoes.

If you’re curious about local cooking, the Mercado Municipal Market is a great place to learn about the spices and ingredients. Just wander around the stalls, but maybe skip the meat section if you’re not into that.

Things to do in San Cristobal de Las Casas - Market

13. Explore San Cristóbal de las Casas Cathedral

As we walked around town, I couldn’t help but notice how religious San Cristobal de las Casas was, despite belonging to the least Catholic state in Mexico.

There are churches on just about every other street corner.

My favorite church was San Cristóbal de las Casas Cathedral from 1528, which overlooks the main plaza in the center of town. Its striking yellow hue looks especially amazing at sunset.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
San Cristóbal de las Casas Cathedral
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
San Cristobal Chiapas

14. Explore the Guadalupe Church

Another beautiful church (if you don’t mind the many stairs), is the Guadalupe Church. You’ll be rewarded with an epic view at the top.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

15. Day trip to Sumidero Canyon

Just a 45-minute drive away is the impressive Sumidero Canyon. I say impressive because the cliff walls in this canyon are a whopping 1 km high. And they are massive!

A small motorboat will take you on a 2-hour ride through this impressive canyon where you’ll spot crocodiles, birds, and a very unique waterfall (you’ll see it from below and get up close).

It’s one of the easiest day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas.

Book here – Sumidero Canyon and Chiapa de Corzo Magical Town

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

16. Visit Palenque jungle ruins

If you like mystical temples, you’ll LOVE Palenque! These ancient Mayan ruins are set deep in the jungle and date back to 226 BC.

Climb the main temples to get a birds-eye view or explore the nearby temples that have been swallowed up by the jungle.

It takes 4,5 hours to get to Palenque so you might consider staying overnight. But if you’re short on time, you can join an organized day tour from San Cristobal.

The tour lasts all day (the minibus leaves at 5 am and returns at 10 pm), but it includes a stop at Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls. If you ask me, it’s worth it!

Book here – Palenque, Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

17. Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls

Misol-Ha and Agua Azul are two separate waterfalls that are often visited in combination with Palenque.

At the 35m high Misol-Ha waterfall, you can walk in the caves behind the stream. Agua Azul is a series of waterfalls and bright blue pools (hence the name, which in English means Blue Water).

The best part? You can swim in both waterfalls!

Book here – Palenque, Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
The mighty Misol-Ha

FAQ – Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas

Is it worth visiting San Cristobal de las Casas?

Yes! Visiting San Cristobal de las Casas is worth it. It’s a city full of culture, history, and beautiful architecture.

Plus, there’s great food, vibrant markets, and unique local crafts. The surrounding nature and indigenous villages add even more to the experience.

How long should I spend in San Cristobal de las Casas?

I recommend spending around 3 to 4 days in San Cristobal de las Casas.

It gives you enough time to explore the city, try the food, visit the markets, and maybe take a day trip to nearby attractions.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

What is San Cristóbal de las Casas known for?

San Cristóbal de las Casas is the cultural heart of Chiapas. It’s a key place for Maya and other indigenous groups.

Famous spots include the Cathedral, Santo Domingo Church with its big crafts market, and Casa Na Bolom museum. Plus, it’s nestled in a beautiful valley with pine forests.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
San Cristobal is the capital of Chiapas
San Cristobal de las Casas safety

Is San Cristóbal de las Casas safe?

San Cristóbal de las Casas is generally a safe place, especially compared to bigger cities like Tuxtla Gutiérrez or Mexico City.

There’s a bit of pickpocketing risk, but it’s safe to explore day and night.

I do recommend avoiding the northern city areas late at night or the outskirts without a local guide. And if you’re driving, especially from Palenque or the Yucatan Peninsula, avoid the Ocosingo-San Cristóbal road.

It has lots of speed bumps and sometimes roadblocks, where locals might ask for a toll. Always pay these tolls without resisting.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
San Cristobal Chiapas Mexico

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San Cristobal in Chiapas state sits in a small valley surrounded by green hills, pine trees and thick white clouds. And the views - they are heart-breakingly beautiful. Here's a quick guide to San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.

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  1. Wow, those colours are so extremely vibrant. It exudes joy and happiness just to see them. And such magnificent scenery. Would love so much to go on any of those day trips. 🙂

  2. Wow love the vibrant nature, a great way to get across the spirit of Mexico. Your latest posts on the country have certainly bumped it up on your travel list!

  3. Wow! Never heard of San Cristobal de las Casas but after your post, it is for sure on my Mexico-wish-list 😉 I’m completely in love with all these kind of small colorful colonial-styled villages around Latin America. And the surrounding nature of San Cristobal de las Casas just adds on an extra plus. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Great idea, Becci 🙂 It was one of the highlights of my Mexico trip since it’s so different than the typical beach or big city destinations.

  4. Just came back from a week in Oaxaca and was amazed. Now people are urging our next trip to be in Chiapas and Palenque. We are 60 years old and seasoned travelers. Is Chiapas safe if we take standard international precautions? It would appear you didn’t have any major issues or concerns.

    1. Hi Steve,
      Yes, Chiapas is safe if you take standard precautions. We never felt unsafe or vulnerable in San Cristobal or Palenque – quite the opposite actually! Palenque is very humid in contrast to San Cristobal though, so be prepared if you’re traveling in the hot season.

      I hope you go. It’s such a beautiful area of Mexico.

  5. Hi! We are going next week. You mentioned socks and sweaters at night. What did you wear during the day?

  6. I am seriously contemplating a move to San Cristobal. I will be making a ‘test drive’ trip from san the san Francisco area I thought it was a small village, two small to meet my cultural needs because they don’t have an orchestra or theater etc.. I was told yesterday by someone who lives there that it’s a very cosmopolitan city with a lot going on. Did you find that to be true? And any other tips about moving there would be greatly appreciated, Robin

    1. Hi Robin,

      Moving to San Cristobal sounds like an exciting step if you decide to go for it.

      I unfortunately only spent a week there and didn’t explore the cultural scene, so I don’t feel fit to advise in your decision. However, I can tell you that I really liked the city and that it seemed very authentic as opposed to many other touristy Mexican cities. My best advice would be to visit yourself for a period of time and get a sense of the town. Then it’ll be much easier to determine what to do.

      Best of luck.

    1. Hi Luqita, I would pack warm clothes. Jacket, fluffy socks, warm sweaters and maybe even a scarf. Better have too much clothes and then not need it than the opposite.

  7. Le filtre bleu fait peut être “joli” mais seuls des béotiens peuvent les admirer tellement la modification est grossière et
    dénature la réalité des couleurs!
    Heureusement la prise de vue est très bonne.
    Sans rancune
    Meilleures salutations
    Jean REMY

  8. Hi Miriam, great post and great pics! 🙂 Your blog looks great!!!!! Myself and my gf are planning on going in August as you did I think? If so did it rain much un august when you were there? When i look on the internet it sats aug and sep are the rainiest months? Was the rain very bad, should we look at other options? Or is it just one big downpour everyday? And the rest of the day is fine? Any info would be massively appreciated!!!! Keep up the good work!!!!

    1. Hi Paul, thanks so much. We actually didn’t get any rain. You might be unlucky, of course. But the chances of rain every day from morning to evening is quite unlikely. Bring a rain poncho or rain jacket and I’m sure you will be fine.

      Have a great trip 🙂

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