The Montebello Lakes (Lagos de Montebello), inside the vast, 6000-acre Lagunas de Montebello National Park in Chiapas, are a stunning natural wonder set right along the border of Mexico and Guatemala.
Any traveler who is fascinated with the beauty of this world can’t miss out on visiting the Montebello Lakes, especially on an epic Chiapas road trip.
That’s right! Exploring the sparkly blue lakes is one of the best things to do in Chiapas. Even though you can’t visit all 59 of the lakes, there are almost a dozen that you can visit and shouldn’t miss out on!
Whether you are planning to go on a day trip or spend a couple of nights in a cabaña there, here is everything you need to plan and prepare for your trip to the incredible Montebello Lakes.
Visiting the Montebello Lakes in Chiapas, Mexico
How to Get to the Lagos de Montebello
Most people visiting the Lagos de Montebello do so on a day trip from San Cristóbal de Las Casas, one of the most charming and colorful highlands towns in Chiapas.
To drive there yourself, make sure to first rent a car at Tuxtla Gutiérrez airport to snag the best rental rates. It only takes 1-hour to drive from Tuxtla to San Cristobal.
From there, exit onto the Hwy 190 out of San Cris and follow the Carr. Internacional/San Cristóbal de las Casas – Comitán de Domínguez route until you reach Trinataria. Here, slight onto Hwy 307 toward Lagos de Montebello/La Trinataria-Palenque.
If you want to go by public transport, buses from San Cristobal to Comitán run daily. From Comitán, you can hop on a colectivo for $50 pesos to finally reach Lake Tziscao inside the park.
Should You Go with a Tour or On Your Own?
However, I do not personally recommend visiting both places on a day trip tour from San Cristobal. The trip is way too rushed and we felt completely exhausted by it.
If I had the chance to do it over again, I would definitely go without a tour and stay overnight at either El Chiflón or inside the Lagunas de Montebello National Park. You can camp or rent cabins at both. Another option would be to book a hotel or Airbnb in nearby Comítan.
That way, you have plenty of time to visit all the lakes and have extra time to swim, take pictures, hike, and rent a raft at one of the lakes.
If you go on your own, entrance into the Montebello Lakes National Park costs around $60 pesos per person total. That includes fees from both the government and the public land (ejido).
Tours to Montebello Lakes will cost around $350-400 pesos per person. You will depart from San Cristobal around 7-8 AM and first visit El Chiflon before touring the lakes. All in all, the tour lasts for about 12 hours. So, an all-day adventure.
All that said, here are the prettiest spots to visit at Montebello Lakes!
Best Lakes to Visit at Lagunas de Montebello National Park
International Lake (Lago Internacional)
Lago Internacional is probably the most interesting of the Montebello Lakes. That’s because it is literally split in two with one half inside official Mexican territory and the other half inside Guatemalan territory.
What’s even cooler is that you can actually cross the border by foot without having to go through immigration or show your passport, ha!
The lake itself isn’t all that huge, but there is a cool “Bienvenidos a Guatemala” welcome sign, a bustling and colorful local market, and a few shops and cabins nearby on Lake Tziscao which you can rent out.
At the “border crossing,” you can see the white statues marking the horizon, dividing the land into two. Just over the hill, where the tiny statues become even tinier, lies Guatemala.
Note: If you are visiting on a guided tour, you will only have approx. 25 minutes to visit Lago Internacional. The area isn’t that big, but the time goes by fast.
Lagunas de Colores
The Lagunas de Colores (Colored Lakes) are a series of lakes with wildly different colors, despite all being connected.
Each one has its own shape and color and can be visited by driving and hiking to each. They are:
- Agua Tinta
- Bosque Azul (Blue Forest)
However, you can only really see the difference if you visit each one, or if you launch your drone up (which isn’t allowed in most locations unless you have a permit – we asked).
So why are the lakes different shades of colors if they’re all connected? Thanks to the diversity of the soil, vegetation, and how the light refracts on each, the colors may vary from dark blues to vivid bright greens.
These lakes, unlike many of the others inside Lagos de Montebello National Park, are managed by the government rather than the local Tziscao communities.
Lago Tziscao is one of the largest and deepest of the Montebello Lakes, with a depth of nearly 150 ft or 45 m. It is one of the first that you may visit as well, whether on a tour or on your own since you can’t miss it!
Tziscao lake also has cabaña rentals, rafts for rent, and dining options at one of its lookouts (although for $100 pesos per plate, it’s a bit pricey and not even tasty).
Cinco Lagos (Five Lakes)
Cinco Lagos gets its name from the five brightly-colored and interconnected lakes that truly create a picturesque setting.
On sunny days, you can truly see the various shades of blue and green pop out from the hills. The lookout from the road is one of the best views inside Montebello Lakes Park.
But you can also get up close and see the colors even better from the seat of a kayak. There are many local guides who, for $150 pesos, will take you out on the handmade log rafts.
Lake Pojoj is another must-see if nothing but to wade out into the middle of the lake to explore the mini island that boasts a beautiful orchid.
Other than renting a raft or kayaking, there isn’t much to do at Pojoj besides marveling at the natural setting. The only disruption you may have is when all the local boat guides are yelling to get everyone on board.
We stayed behind, and once the rafts left the shore, peace returned to the area and we were able to just enjoy the still quietness of the lake and forest views.
There are bathrooms here and a few roadside stalls in the parking lot with locals selling coffee and other little homemade snacks. Bring small change!
Other Things to See Nearby Montebello Lakes
Chincultik Mayan Ruins: also inside the lake’s protected Biosphere Reserve lie two hidden Mayan ruins sites called Chincultik. Here, you can explore the lost city, which is still partially hidden by vegetation, and get a panoramic view of the lakes from atop the Acropolis pyramid. The archaeological site is open from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM and is closed on Sundays.
Grutas San Rafael del Arco: a series of limestone caves and a cenote that you can visit by hiking or on horseback. There is not much in the way of signage, so you’ll have to do a little exploring to find these caves.
Las Nubes: About 1 hr 45 mins drive east of the Montebello Lakes National Park lies a beautiful series of waterfalls set in the Lacandon jungle called Las Nubes, or The Clouds. This is a popular waterfall to visit in Chiapas. As such, you will find a developed Ecotourist Center, hotel, and restaurant on-site.
Responsible Tips & What to Know Before You Go
1. Pack out all trash you pack in: The lakes are becoming more polluted and muddier with each passing year and rainy season when waste runs off into the lakes. Already about a dozen of lakes have dried up from lower rainfall, mismanagement of human waste, soil erosion, and deforestation. It’s imperative that we protect this area by reducing our impact wherever and whenever possible.
2. Apply eco-friendly sunscreen and repellent, and bring a hat: With over 6,000 acres of pine forest and lakes, you can expect a few mosquitos. Bring and wear biodegradable repellent as well as eco-friendly sunscreen. Avoid swimming in the lake after applying any chemical-packed sunscreens or lotions (that’s why you should wear eco only!).
3. Wear layers for temperature changes: The weather inside the park can change suddenly, especially when it becomes overcast. Although it will be hot and warm on most days, it can become chilly in the mornings/evenings when the sun isn’t out and the wind off the lakes is cool.
I hope this guide to the Montebello Lakes in Chiapas in southern Mexico helps plan your trip to this stunning destination.
Please remember to travel responsibly and mindfully, as you are visiting a fragile ecosystem and local communities that have their own regulations and customs.
If you have any questions or suggestions, drop them in the comments below!
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