A road trip in Chiapas, Mexico is the ultimate adventure. Imagine discovering, in 2-3 weeks’ time, some of the most magical natural landscapes – from roaring waterfalls with turquoise pools to ancient Mayan cities lost in the jungle to colorful indigenous towns and colonial cities (and more!).
There are so many places to visit in Chiapas that a road trip is the best way to check them off the bucket list! With this ultimate itinerary, you will discover the best that Chiapas has to offer.
If you really want to road trip Chiapas in its entirety and have 2-3 weeks to spare, this itinerary is for you. But even if you have less time, say one week or 10 days, feel free to customize this itinerary to include the destinations in Chiapas that excite you the most.
What’s amazing about road tripping in Chiapas is that nothing is too far away, especially if you go slowly from place to place. At times, distances can seem long because of the road conditions – there are lots of topes, or speed bumps, in Mexico (even on highways) that can make even short distances feel and take much longer than usual.
So whether you have 1, 2, or 3 weeks to explore, here is the ultimate Chiapas road trip itinerary covering all the best places to visit and natural wonders to see in this diverse southern state of Mexico.
The Most Epic Road Trip Itinerary for Chiapas, Mexico
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Is It Safe to Road Trip Chiapas?
Chiapas is very safe to travel in. Still, that said, always be wary of your surroundings. Completely avoid traveling after dark, at night, and never travel alone. Keep valuables out of sight. Don’t stop on the side of the road until you reach your specific destination. Don’t appear rich or be flashy. These are general safety smarts for road tripping in Mexico, not just Chiapas.
Also, not only are some of the roads poorly maintained, some with huge holes and plenty of unnoticeable speed bumps, but there are a few roads in Chiapas that are controlled by the Zapatistas (EZLN) group that sometimes perform “road checks.” Particularly, the road from San Cristobal to Palenque.
Such checkpoints rarely ever turn sour, but you could potentially find yourself in an unpleasant situation where you are forced to give a bribe to pass or, in some rare cases, face an armed robbery. Don’t fret, though, these temporary roadblocks are just designed to collect a small payment to support the indigenous rebels’ cause.
If you can, keep small pesos $20, $50, and $100 MXN bills out of sight in a cup holder or glove box so that, if ever promoted to “pay to pass”, you don’t need to reach for your wallet and expose your valuables.
Other than this road from San Cristobal to Palenque, you should have no trouble driving around Chiapas safely.
The roads to everywhere else mentioned on this list are often frequented by travelers, both national and international. If ever in doubt, it comes in handy to ask the “safety consensus” on Facebook groups to get insight and feedback from long-time expats or locals living in the area.
Day 1: Arrive in Tuxtla Gutiérrez
The easiest way to embark on this epic Chiapas road trip is to fly into Tuxtla Gutiérrez Aiport (TGZ). From here, rent a car in Tuxtla for the cheapest rates. For your first day, I’d recommend taking it easy in Tuxtla.
There are a few things to do in the center, such as listening to a marimba concert in the Parque de la Marimba, exploring the central Plaza Cívica, and visiting other cultural attractions such as the Museo del Café (Coffee Museum) and the 16th-century Catedral de San Marcos.
Depending on what time you land, you may want to book a hotel in Tuxtla or go ahead and drive the short 25-minute journey to reach the pueblo mágico of Chiapa de Corzo.
Day 2: Sumidero Canyon & Chiapa de Corzo
Start off your Chiapas itinerary with a bang by taking a thrilling boat cruise on the Grijalva River through the immense Cañón del Sumidero. This canyon has towering cliffs over 1 km high, wildlife, and panoramic viewpoints.
The tour takes 2 hours and includes a guided explanation of the canyon and its highlights – like the cascading Christmas Tree waterfall, river crocodiles, and unique caves with rose-colored rock formations. Once you do the tour, it’s also worth driving up to the top of the canyon and stopping at its 5-6 viewpoints that offer magnificent views of the canyon and river below.
Since touring the Sumidero Canyon only takes 3-4 hours total (boat tour + miradores), you should have time to spend the rest of the day exploring the magic town of Chiapa de Corzo. This town was once the political seat of the state of Chiapas and it was the first city to be founded by the Spanish in the 16th century.
There are a handful of fun things to do in Chiapa de Corzo, such as touring the Marimba Museum, eating regional specialties at the local market, and wandering its central plaza featuring its Mudejar-style Fountain La Pila and Ex-Convento de Santo Domingo.
If you wish, you can stay overnight in Chiapa de Corzo to rest or go ahead and drive 1-hour to the next destination and most beautiful colonial city (and pueblo mágico) in Chiapas – San Cristóbal de Las Casas.
Days 3-6: San Cristóbal de Las Casas & Indigenous Villages
I’m dedicating 4 days to San Cristóbal de Las Casas for this Chiapas itinerary. As you’ll soon find out, even four days won’t be enough time to truly soak up this magic town and all it has to offer. There are amazing things to do in San Cristóbal so I would highly recommend devoting this much time to exploring around, if not more.
Many backpackers actually base themselves in San Cristóbal de Las Casas and then from here, go on day trips to see the highlights of Chiapas. However, a road trip is a road trip and that means you have to keep moving. If you are keen on driving around Chiapas and exploring on your own, then make the most of San Cris while you can.
One of the most immersive (and budget-friendly) things to do here is to go on the “free” walking tour around San Cristóbal. This tour starts in the historic center and takes you around some of the city’s top highlights, explaining along the way the history and culture of San Cris. The tour also includes free organic coffee tasting, pox tasting, and an excursion to an art gallery where you could get to learn to spot the difference between real vs. fake amber (since Chiapas is famous for its amber as well as jade exports).
On top of the free walking tour, there are a handful of colorful churches to see, markets to stroll around, and museums to enjoy. Not to mention, San Cristobal has one of the best foodie scenes in the state!
Another reason why I recommend spending more days in San Cristóbal is because of all the other things to do around the city. Nearby are two unique Tzotzil Maya indigenous villages to visit, San Juan Chamula – famous for its syncretist church of Coca-Cola and chicken sacrifice and traditional style of clothing, and San Lorenzo Zinacantán – known for its women’s weaving co-ops and colorful floral textiles.
As you can see, it’s worth including a few extra days into your Chiapas road trip itinerary to accommodate San Cristobal and all the exciting things to do around here!
Days 7-8: Palenque Ruins & Waterfalls
After your mini down-time in San Cris, the next logical place to visit on a road trip across Chiapas is none other than Palenque Ruins. Again, be aware of the roadblocks on this road but don’t worry about it too much. Our friends just drove from here to Palenque and everything went just fine.
On your way to Palenque, make sure to stop at the stunning waterfalls of Agua Azul and Misol-Ha. Agua Azul is particularly incredible because of its turquoise-blue water similar to what you’d see at El Chiflón. As you near Palenque, there is another waterfall that is less-known and equally as beautiful as the other two. You will find it by typing in Roberto Barrios waterfall into Google Maps.
Then, once you’re in Palenque, take a day to explore the Mayan ruins. The town of Palenque itself is not much to marvel at, so I’d recommend only booking a hotel in Palenque for 1-2 nights before moving on to the next destination of your road trip.
Days 9-10: Yaxchilán & Bonampak
From this moment on, the real adventure begins. First up is Yaxchilán, the hidden Mayan ruins lost in the Lacandon jungle.
To get there, you first need to drive 3 hours to the town of Frontera Corozal on the border of Mexico-Guatemala. From here, you will ride on a boat for 1 hour up the Usumacinta River (dividing Mexico and Guatemala) to reach the ruins of Yaxchilán. Exciting, right?!
Then, in the afternoon, drive the remaining 1hr 15m to reach the next lost city of Bonampak, another Mayan archaeological site that features a maze of temples inside which are colorfully painted murals depicting the life of the Mayas.
Since visiting both ruins will take a full day to do, I’d recommend staying nearby Bonampak in an eco-hotel or lodge in Lacanjá. There are several options with reviews from past adventure travelers.
Days 11-12: Las Nubes & Lagos de Montebello
To continue your adventures in the mystic Lacandon jungle, take highway 303 all the way around the border’s edge from Bonampak to arrive at the next stop on your Chiapaneco road trip – the Las Nubes Waterfalls and Lagos de Montebello.
Coming from Bonampak, you will reach Las Nubes Waterfalls (“The Clouds”) before you reach the Lagos de Montebello. Las Nubes is optional on this road trip, since you will be seeing El Chiflón Waterfalls next (after this pitstop) and between the two, I prefer the latter. Nonetheless, if you have spare time then you should consider stopping for a couple of hours to see Las Nubes and its wispy, cloud-like falls.
Alternatively, you could drive straight to the next stop on this road trip itinerary to reach the Montebello Lakes. There are 59 natural lakes inside the park but only 10 are accessible to the public. Five of them are controlled by the government, and the other five by the local Tsizcao communities.
The Lagunas de Montebello, on sunny days, are stunning to see with brightly-colored shades of blue and green. The best ones to visit are:
- Lago Pojoj: Rent a wooden raft to reach a picturesque island in the middle of the lake that houses an orchid.
- Lago Tziscao: A beautiful large lake where you can swim and camp.
- Montebello Lake: The largest of the public lakes.
- Lagunas de Colores: A series of lakes featuring different shades of colors.
- Cinco Lagos: A picturesque setting of five lakes all connected to each other.
- Lago Internacional: “International Lake” where you can actually cross the border and step foot into Guatemala without needing a passport!
Since there is so much to do inside the Lagos de Montebello National Park, I’d recommend booking one night in a lakeside cabin. The park is huge and the lakes aren’t all next to each other too, so it’s worth taking the time to visit each one and enjoy the scenic views before moving on.
Days 13-14: El Chiflón Waterfalls & Comitán
La Quinceñera Waterfall at El Chiflón
The next – or for some itineraries, the final – stop on this ultimate Chiapas road trip is the El Chiflón Waterfalls located about 30 minutes west of the pueblo mágico of Comitán.
Comitán is an underrated place to visit, so before you just pass through, make sure to spend at least a day there to soak in the Comiteca culture.
The city of Comitán de Domínguez has a rich culture and history worth experiencing. It is referred to as the “cradle of independence” and is the touristic heart of the Los Llanos region in Chiapas.
Once you’re finished sightseeing in Comitán, hop back in your car and drive to the Cascadas El Chiflón where you can marvel at the roaring Velo de Novia waterfall, swim in the turquoise blue pools, zip line, camp, or go hiking to all five waterfalls inside the park.
El Chiflón is considered one of the natural gems of Chiapas, making it a must-stop on your road trip itinerary!
Alternatively, if you want more time to enjoy the city and nearby natural gems (lakes + waterfalls), then you may also want to consider booking a hotel in Comitán and using it as a temporary base from which to explore the area.
After you visit El Chiflón, you have a choice between ending your Chiapas road trip and returning back to San Cristóbal and Tuxtla, or, extending it by driving further south to the Pacific coast where you will discover more highlights of Chiapas.
If you decide to continue this road trip loop around Chiapas, you will discover, in addition, the Coffee Route, coastal towns, and the El Arco del Tiempo.
The choice is yours!
If you want to FULLY road trip around the state of Chiapas, then read on! Here are the next best places to see and things to do on an ultimate Chiapas road trip adventure.
Days 15-16: Tapachula & Coffee Route
Tapachula is located in the lower southern coastal region of Soconusco, Chiapas. It is known as the “Pearl of Soconusco” and is rich in natural and ethnic diversity. From the heart of the city, in the lively Parque Hidalgo, you can see the majestic Tacaná volcano marking the horizon.
There is plenty of things to do and see here. In addition to historical and cultural museums, cozy restaurants, and sprawling plazas, Tapachula is the gateway of the Ruta del Café and thus can lead you to some of the best Chiapas’ coffee farms – Finca Hamburga, Finca Argovia, and Finca Chiripa. Not only can you tour the plantations here, but you can stay in luxe lodges, zip line over the jungle, and swim in the nearby rivers.
Tapachula and the Coffee Route are underrated destinations in Chiapas – most tourists don’t make the trip to get there but the ones that do are rewarded for it!
Days 17-18: Boca del Cielo & Puerto Arista
To continue this epic Chiapas road trip, take highway 200 past Pijijipan, a small and unassuming village, to reach the two most famous beach resort towns on the Pacific coast of Chiapas – Boca del Cielo and Puerto Arista.
Boca del Cielo or “Mouth of Heaven” and Puerto Arista both offer stunning long sandy beaches with activities like surfing, swimming, and kayaking. Tourists flock here to escape the cities and relax, spot the migration of endemic birds and catch a fiery sunset over the Pacific ocean.
These beach towns are the perfect place to just rest and take a breather from this jam-packed Chiapas road trip itinerary.
Best eco-friendly place to stay: Entremares
Days 19-21: El Arco del Tiempo & El Aguacero
One of the best things to do in Chiapas is to take a multi-day adventure to camp underneath the world’s largest natural arch at El Arco del Tiempo.
To get there means adventuring, once more, into the jungle. On this journey, you will need to hike for hours and rappel down the canyon walls into the river, where you can camp underneath the magnificent archway on little sandy banks. Once here, there’s nothing left to do but to enjoy the views and sounds of the jungle. You can also swim in the soft turquoise river that flows through the arch.
If you wanted to, you could also organize a kayaking or rafting adventure on the river to reach the arch instead of hiking through the jungle.
Additionally, while you’re in the area of the Canyon Río La Venta, you should visit the stunning El Aguacero Waterfall and its wispy cascading water as it tumbles down the canyon wall and mossy plant-covered rocks. You can also trek, camp, and swim here.
I would recommend visiting El Aguacero on your way back out, though, since you will be closer to your final destination of Tuxtla.
Final Day: Return Trip to Tuxtla
After visiting El Arco del Tiempo and El Aguacero, you will have completed the road trip loop around the state of Chiapas!
Overall, it takes more or less 3 weeks to road trip Chiapas entirely, if you want to hit all the major (and off-beat) attractions and highlights.
But of course, if you have less time to spare to road trip in Chiapas, then definitely adjust this itinerary however you like! For example, if you feel Yaxchilán and Bonampak add too much driving time to reach, you can skip that section and drive straight from Palenque down to Comitán.
In any case, if you end your road trip at Aguacero, then you are only a 1-hour drive away from Tuxtla where you can return your rental car and take your flight out of TGZ.
I hope you will use this ultimate itinerary to plan your road trip around Chiapas! I have created this itinerary using my own travel experiences here, and though I haven’t checked everything off yet, you can bet it’s on my bucket list!
Lastly, if you have already taken a few road trips in Chiapas, then please drop any additional recommendations or tips for driving in Chiapas in the comments below!
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