San Cristóbal de las Casas — this charming and colorful Magic Town set in the Chiapas Highlands has so much to offer. But despite the incredible amount of things to do and see, sometimes you just want to escape the city or go on an adventure to other must-see places in Chiapas.
Luckily, the state of Chiapas, Mexico is teeming with its own diverse platter of things to do; waterfalls, indigenous villages, and cultural tours all make fun day trips from San Cristóbal de las Casas.
In this guide, I’ll be sharing my favorite day trip ideas to take while visiting San Cristóbal and the underrated state of Chiapas. I’ve lived in San Cris as a digital nomad for three months, and was fortunate enough to go on most of these day trips as well! The tours I mention below are tours I’ve done myself, or have familiarity with, and can happily recommend!
If like me, you prefer to visit these off-beat and popular destinations on your own, you can do that too. I’ve linked all my in-depth guides so you can learn more about each individual day trip and destination.
That said, here are the best day trips from San Cristóbal de las Casas in the Chiapas Highlands!
The Best Day Trips from San Cristóbal de Las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico
Note: These destinations are ranked by distance — starting with the closest days trips from San Cristóbal de las Casas to the furthest!
1. Arcotete Eco Park
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El Arcotete is a beautiful little ecological park located in the forested hills surrounding San Cristobal de las Casas.
It features a natural stone archway, inside the roof of which you can tour a cavern full of stalagmites and stalactites, and a myriad of adventure activities including zip-lining, rock climbing, and hiking. You can also go horseback riding, camping overnight in a palapa, or grill out on one of the outdoor barbecues with friends.
When the bustle of the city becomes overwhelming, Arcotete is one of the best day trips to take from San Cristobal! Read my guide to Arcotete for entry and activity costs.
Prefer to go with a guide? If so, you can book a half-day cave hiking tour that takes you on an adventurous day trip exploring underrated caverns of the Grutas del Drago and Arcotete.
2. Cerro Don Lauro
While the hikes at Arcotete are small and sweet, the best hiking day trip from San Cris will be none other than at the sacred mountain of Cerro Don Lauro. The trailhead for the mountain is but a 10-15 minute drive from the city center.
The legend behind this mountain begins with an ambitious Mayan man named — you guessed it — Don Lauro. After years of studying different ways of spiritual healing and natural medicine, he returned to Chiapas to host workshops and retreats on the mountain.
Today, this green space is used for gatherings and temazcal ceremonies, but also for adventurous activities such as rock climbing and hiking. The hike to the top of El Mirador viewpoint is a moderately challenging 30-45 minute hike uphill. Rock climbing tours can be arranged for the best vertical adventures in San Cris!
3. San Juan Chamula
San Juan Chamula is one of the indigenous Tzotzil villages located just outside of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Why is this town such a popular place to visit? It’s here, in this small unassuming town, where you can witness live chicken sacrifices and other Mayan-Catholic syncretist practices inside the famous and historic Chamula Church (the only church left in the world that does this).
Photos and videos are forbidden inside the church, but you can hire a local guide who can explain to you what you are seeing. Caution — there’s a ton of smoke from the thousands of melting candles, it’s crowded, and you should be mindful of where you’re stepping.
Chamula is famous not just for its syncretist practices, but also for the women’s traditional black wool skirts. You will often see figurines and hear the phrase “Mujeres Chamulas” while shopping around the flea markets in San Cristóbal. You’ll see many Tzotzil Mayas in San Cristóbal from both the communities of Chamula and of Zincantán.
Related: 20 Best Things to Do in San Cristóbal de Las Casas: Mexico’s Colorful Mountain Town
4. San Lorenzo Zinacantán
San Lorenzo Zinacantán is another typical Tzotzil Maya village you can visit on a day trip from San Cristobal de las Casas.
However, you won’t find a church of live chicken sacrifices here. Instead, Zincantán is known for its floriculture — flowers — and its weaving cooperatives empowering women in the community to create and sell handwoven and embroidered textiles, traditional clothing, etc., by hand and backstrap loom.
While you can visit both of these villages on your own (by taxi or shared van), you can combine the two in an all-in-one guided tour from San Cristóbal (includes transport and a guide).
Want more unique day trip experiences with locals? Then you should also check out this fun and immersive Pottery Workshop with Tzetzal Potters which takes place just an hour’s drive from San Cristóbal in the lush valley and village of Amatenango Del Valle (transport included).
5. Huitapec Ecological Reserve
The Reserva Huitapec is an ancient volcano covered in a cloud forest lying just west of San Cristóbal de las Casas — hiking through its cloud forests makes for a fun day trip activity nearby!
In Nahuatl, Huitapec means “mountain of the colíbris” (hummingbirds). As such, you can expect to see lots of wildlife here, including over 100 species of birds.
The ecological reserve is located nearby Chamula and Zincantán and is considered a sacred place by the local Tzotzil population. Please visit responsibly with this in mind!
To get there, grab a colectivo from San Cris to Chamula and ask to get dropped off at the “reserva.” The entrance fee costs $20 MXN. From the trailhead, follow the Oxyquet Trail for about 2 km (1.2 miles).
6. Chiapa de Corzo
If you love history, music, and food then take a day trip from San Cristóbal to the pueblo mágico (magic town) of Chiapa de Corzo.
In this sweet and colorful town, you can visit several iconic and historical attractions such as the 16th c. fountain of La Pila, the Marimba Museum, and the San Sébastien Church Ruins. The local food market scene is also not to miss with plenty of candies and traditional sweets and foods to try.
You can also take a thrilling boat tour on the Grijalva River through the stunning Sumidero Canyon (more on that next!).
Since this town — the first in Chiapas founded by the Spanish in 1528 — is but an hour’s drive or bus ride away from San Cris, it’s a popular day trip with plenty to offer.
Tip: Find and book bus tickets online on Busbud.com for easy (and cheap — $3) bus trips between San Cristóbal and Tuxtla Gutiérrez.
7. Cañón del Sumidero (Sumidero Canyon)
All right, without a doubt, one of the best day trips from San Cristóbal de las Casas is to the impressive Cañón del Sumidero (Sumidero Canyon). This canyon features wildlife such as river crocs and spider monkeys, giant rock walls and panoramic viewpoints, wispy waterfalls, and more!
What does a tour include?
From San Cristobal de Las Casas, most tours include transport to the boat embarkment, plus transport from there to Chiapa de Corzo, and the return trip. The Sumidero Canyon National Park fee is waived as well as the cost of the boat river tour. Note: tours don’t include gratuities for the boat guide and your shuttle driver.
8. El Aguacero Waterfall
One of my favorite natural wonders in Mexico is the underrated waterfall of El Aguacero, located in the Cañón Río La Venta inside the wild Selva Ocote Biosphere Reserve.
It costs $50 MXN to visit El Aguacero. Once here, you can swim, hike, camp, rock climb, go caving, and more!
Check out our day trip excursion from San Cristóbal to El Aguacero Waterfall below!
9. El Chiflón Waterfalls
The next best — and arguably the most popular — day trip from San Cris will be a full-day adventure visiting the Cascadas El Chiflón.
You won’t believe the color of these pools and falls! 🙈 The color of the water during the dry months is a bright turquoise blue. It’s so gorgeous and makes you want to jump right in for a swim!
On a guided day trip to El Chiflón, you get approximately 2 hours to explore the five waterfalls. We feel that these inclusive trips don’t give you much time to relax, so I would recommend planning a separate excursion here if you truly have time for swimming, zip-lining, or camping by the riverside.
While the driving distance to get there isn’t all that bad (2.5 hours), it’s the 12-hour full-day tours that include visits to both El Chiflón and Montebello Lakes that tire you out, since those are a little further away. That’s the tour we opted to do and it was truly an all-day adventure. Worth it, though, especially if it’s your only option to visit both!
10. Lagos de Montebello
Speaking of the Montebello Lakes… If you are really eager to make the trip down to these colorful lakes surrounded by lush vegetation, then you should, by all means, consider a day trip here from San Cris. The drive alone from San Cris takes 3 hours, which is why the all-day tour combining both El Chiflón and the Montebello Lakes takes 12 hours total.
On your visit to the lakes, don’t miss out on the International Lake — Lago Internacional — because it’s here where you can cross the Mexican land border into Guatemala by foot (and all without a passport!).
There are also a dozen of other lakes you can visit, each with its own hue of blue/green (variations are due to differences in sediment) and activities such as canoeing, rafting, swimming, and cabin camping.
11. Agua Azul & Roberto Barrios Falls
If you haven’t stipulated by now, yes — Chiapas is chock-full of waterfalls! While they are a bit further away (4 hours), day trips to Agua Azul and nearby waterfalls of Misol-Ha and Roberto Barrios are a popular thing to do from San Cristóbal de las Casas.
I don’t entirely recommend driving yourself (at least not alone) on this road from San Cristóbal toward Palenque Ruins unless you are familiar with Mexico already. Otherwise, if you are comfortable *potenially* encountering road blocks imposed by the local Zapatista rebel group then you should read my Chiapas, Mexico Road Trip Itinerary for deets.
In any case, plenty of people both foreign and local still visit the waterfalls nearby Palenque Ruins on a day trip from San Cris. The buses take this road every day and know it well — so no need to worry!
12. Palenque Ruins
On that note, day trips to Palenque Ruins from San Cristóbal are always booking out, despite this place being one of the furthest away from San Cris.
So why is Palenque so popular?
Palenque is considered as being one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico to visit, as well as one of the most important Maya cities equal to that of Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Tikal in Guatemala. For that reason, visitors come from near and far to marvel at its exceptionally preserved structures, pyramids, and tombs from the Early Classic period (years 200-600 A.D.).
Tips for What to Take on Day Trips
Before you go, here are a few final tips and reminders to prepare for your day trip excursions.
- Wear comfy shoes: Most day trips will take between 4-6 hours, or even longer (up to 12 hours). Wearing comfy clothing and shoes can make or break your day! Get my Mexico Packing List here!
- Bring lots of water: Avoid buying single-use plastic bottles while you’re out exploring; take and fill up a reusable water bottle.
- Take small cash/change: Tips for drivers and guides are usually not included in the price of your tour. Take small bills (such as a $20 peso bill) with you to offer a little tip!
- Tell a friend: Let someone know what day trip tour you’re taking, with whom you’re going, and how to reach you.
- Download an offline map: It’s helpful to have a backup map of the local area whenever you’re traveling in case of no-wifi zones or if you get separated from your group.
I hope you found this guide helpful for planning your day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas — if you’re seeking extra recommendations for your time in San Cris, check out my San Cristóbal hotel guide and restaurant guide.
Happy and safe travels!
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