After only 2 days in Oaxaca, we reached the time to fly east to San Cristobal de Las Casas.
Nested in the middle of the mountains, San Cristobal de las Casas is well known for its typical Mexican vibe, and for being a good stop on the way to visit Palenque, an old Mayan city.
We initially planned to fly to San Cristobal, bus to Palenque, and then night bus to Bacalar from there. However, when we looked into it a bit more we saw that bus routes had been diverted because of some safety issues in Chiapas (the state) between San Cristobal and Palenque, and also from Palenque to Bacalar.
With this new information, we chose to fly to Bacalar and take a day tour to Palenque instead. This way, at least if the bus was held up we wouldn’t have ALL of our belongings with us. It wasn’t the quickest option, but it was the safest.
After a couple of flights (Oaxaca – Mexico city – Tuxtla), we arrived at Tuxtla airport, close to San Cristobal. From there we took a collectivo which dropped us off on the edge of the old city center for 400 pesos. This took a little over an hour.
Our accommodation was a small well located hostel, where we booked a private room. Considering this was one of our cheapest accommodation bookings so far, it proved to be excellent value for money.
We decided to take the rest of the afternoon to visit San Cristobal de Las Casas, in sadly very average weather.
As we were starving, we started by having a late lunch at a restaurant nearby, El Tacoleto, where we enjoyed delicious tacos.
We then went on to visit the small colourful streets and climbed up the stairs in front of the Iglesia de San Cristobal de las Casas, from which we enjoyed quite a good view over the city.
San Cristobal is a very cute town, but oddly more touristic than Oaxaca.
As it started to rain heavily, we headed back to our hotel for an early night in preparation for our earliest wake up so far.
A 3.45am alarm rudely awoke us so that we could take our tour to the ruins.
As Palenque is located over 200km from San Cristobal, numerous hours of driving were on the cards for the day ahead.
The tour bus picked us up at 4.20 am, before driving about 4h30 to our first stop, Agua Azul.
Agua Azul is a waterfall (comprised of multiple), located in the middle of a national park in Chiapas.
It was beautiful, and you can walk up towards the top of the cascade and swim around if you want. As I was full of a cold that day, we decided it was best not to.
Our next stop for the day, about another hour drive away, was Mizol Ha. Another waterfall, this time it was one large one. Pretty impressive. We opted against swimming again, for the same reason. It was beautiful, and a great little lunch stop before heading to Palenque, our last stop.
Another 50 min drive saw us reaching Palenque, the famous old Mayan city.
When we arrived at the site, a guide got into our tour bus and offered people to participate to his guided tour for an hour. Unfortunately as it was all in Spanish we had to pass, but luckily we met another guide, English speaking this time, who gave us a great price for his English tour of the city. We paid 100 pesos each with another Australian girl to learn more about the city (around AUD $7).
His tour was super interesting. He explained that the city was abandoned by the Mayas, but no one quite knows why.
He showed us the different temples and buildings, and explained how the citizens used to live in these times, with the parties, the sacrifices to the gods etc. We really enjoyed it. Thanks Rudy!
By that point, the temperature got absolutely unbearable so we decided to hide in the shade for a moment. It wasn’t so much the temperature that was the issue, but more the combination of temperature and extremely high humidity levels that made walking around way harder than it should have been. Afterall, this place is in the middle of a jungle, which is why it took so long for the Spanish to find it!
Palenque was awesome and the whole day, even though extremely full on (we got back to our hotel at 10.30pm, after driving around for over 12 hours), it was very much worth it. It’s definitely something to see.
Another highlight was that we got to see both sunrise and sunset on the drive, above the clouds with green valleys spanning as far as the eye could see, it was pretty awesome. Driving through the tiny villages was also really interesting, as we got to see how the real Mexican people live in the countryside. We only got stopped and charged an unofficial toll once, and they were kids!
- San Cristobal de las Casas deserves more than an afternoon of sightseeing. There are a few tours you can take from there which seemed pretty cool. 2/3 days seem to be a good length of time to see the main sites around the town.
- Palenque is also a must see. The old town is huge though and also requires a couple of days to see everything. You can stay overnight in the main town nearby. Keep in mind that the nearest airport is over 6h30 away though.