Many people who visit Mexico have probably never heard of Chiapas. I hadn’t until I visited nearby Oaxaca and started planning our onward journey. Just what is there to do in Chiapas? After a little digging, it became clear that Chiapas is known for two things. Fantastic waterfalls and incredible Mayan ruins. It also became clear that to truly experience everything this diverse state had to offer a road trip of Chiapas was in order.
So we set out on our Chiapas road trip adventure to see if Chiapas was everything it was cracked up to be. We were not disappointed. A stunning state overflowing with waterfalls, deep cenotes, soaring mountains, stunning gorges, and lush green jungles. Hidden amongst this spectacular backdrop, crocodiles, spider monkeys, exotic birds, and the ruins of an ancient and powerful Mayan civilization. Grab your whip and your fedora and let’s get cracking on your own Chiapas road trip.
Chiapas has a huge variety of destinations and places to visit. Our itinerary focuses on inland destinations. However, Chiapas has a small coastline for those looking to extend their holiday to do some relaxing on the beach. The Chiapas destinations that we will cover in our itinerary are cities like Tuxtla Gutiérrez and San Cristobal de las Casas, waterfalls such as El Chiflon and Agua Azul, and the ruins of Palenque and Yaxchilán.
The Two-Week Chiapas Itinerary
Exploring Chiapas is no easy feat, with rugged mountainous terrain covered in thick jungle, and often large distances between the sights and attractions. Therefore, driving this state is the perfect way to enjoy it at your own pace, without the expense or rigidity of organised tours. Whether you rent a car in Tuxtla or bring your own (like us).
To properly explore Chiapas by car you need at least two weeks. We spent a month in Chiapas and felt like we only scratched the surface. The distances in between cities and attractions may seem short initially, but when you factor in topes (Mexican speed bumps), the occasional police check and winding mountain roads, the time spent driving is not commensurate with the kilometers.
Here is our two-week itinerary for exploring this natural paradise. A list of all of the best places to visit in Chiapas, what to do in Chiapas, and other tips and tricks that we learned on this road trip of Chiapas.
Day 1- 3: Tuxtla Gutiérrez and Chiapa de Corzo
The starting point for your Chiapas road trip will most likely be the capital city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez as it boasts the state’s only international airport. As we made the drive from Oaxaca, this was also our first stopping point.
While Tuxtla Gutiérrez is a large, bustling capital city, there are plenty of outdoor adventures to be had nearby if you choose to make this your home base for a few days. Here are a few options for what to do in Tuxtla.
Cascada El Aguacero
Start your nature adventure off with Cascada El Aguacero, an hour’s drive west of the city. This federally protected waterfall is located in the El Ocote Biosphere Reserve. To reach the waterfall, you must make your way down the 700 step, concrete staircase which is suitable for all travelers. The journey down should take approximately 20 minutes until you reach the beautiful cascading falls. The return journey is a bit more grueling as you climb back up to the top of the falls. Take snacks or lunch and spend the day soaking up the Mexican sun before heading back to Tuxtla for the evening.
- Entrance Fee: $36 pesos per person
- Distance: 56 kilometers (~ 1h) from Tuxtla Gutiérrez
The Sumidero Canyon
The Sumidero Canyon can be visited in two different ways, and we recommend taking advantage of both.
If you have your own wheels, grab breakfast to take with you and enjoy it at the final mirador overlooking the stunning Sumidero Canyon. If you go just as the gates open there will be few (if any) tourists imposing on your viewing space.
After breakfast, head back down the winding road and stop at the remaining five miradors. The cost to enter is $37 pesos and there are toilets available at the last mirador.
Pro-tip: The views over the Sumidero Canyon will make you want to use your drone for some great aerial footage. Be careful if you do this as drones are illegal for tourists in Mexico. While we did not see any police nearby, we have seen tourists stopped in Mexico for the use of a drone.
After enjoying the vantage point of the Sumidero Canyon, take a boat ride to further explore this monumental canyon. Boat rides depart from Chiapas de Corzo throughout the day and cost $230 pesos. Take advantage of the discount on the boat ride when you show proof of payment from your previous entrance at the mirador (must be the same day).
From this vantage point, you will be able to marvel at the 1,000 meter high walls, spot wildlife such as the American crocodile and the elusive spider monkey, and visit small caves and rock formations. The return trip should take approximately two (2) hours. Make sure to bring plenty of sun protection. The boats are uncovered and can be exposed to the sun depending on the time of day.
- Entrance Fee:
- Mirador: $36 pesos
- Canyon: $236 pesos ($200 pesos if you show same-day entrance ticket for mirador)
- Hours of Operation:
- Mirador: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, closed Tuesdays
- Canyon Embarcaderos:
- Canon Del Sumidero: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Cahuare: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Chiapa de Corzo: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Chiapa de Corzo
Known as the heart of Chiapa, the town of Chiapa de Corzo is culturally significant not only because it is the starting point for visits to the Sumidero Canyon, but also because it holds one of Mexico’s most lauded festivals. While the city is charming in its own right, visiting during the Fiesta Grande in January is a remarkable experience. The streets come alive with vendors and performers leaving a festive experience not to be missed.
- Distance: 14 kilometers (~20 min) from Tuxtla Gutiérrez
El Chorreadero Falls (Cascada de Chorreadero)
Make your last outdoor adventure near Tuxtla Gutiérrez a visit to El Chorreadero Falls. When we visited, the waterfall was just a drizzle, but I can imagine during the rainy season it would be impressive.
The waterfall is fed through an underwater river that descends into a series of pools from a cave. Tours can be arranged to take you deep into the heart of the cave and includes adventure activities like rappelling, jumping, scrambling, and more.
The cost to enter is $25 pesos per person. We asked to camp at the gates of the falls (only in a parking lot) and were allowed with no problems or additional payments.
- Entrance Fee: $25 pesos per person
- Address: Carretera Federal Libre a San Cristorbal Km 24+600 Juan de Grijalva
- Hours of Operation: 8:00 am – 6:30 pm
- Distance: 12 kilometers (~ 20m) from Chiapa de Corzo
Day 3 – 4: El Chiflon and the Cenotes of Chiapas
El Chiflon Waterfall (Cascada)
The next stop on your road trip in Chiapas is one of our favorite experiences in Chiapas. And, what we think is the most impressive waterfall in Chiapas (and maybe all of Mexico). El Chiflon is a series of waterfalls culminating at the Velo de Novia (Bride’s Veil) which reaches a height of 120 meters. These waterfalls are not only impressive because of their height and thunder, but also because of the turquoise blue color of the San Vincent River. This personally was my favorite part of visiting these falls. The watercolor is so mesmerizing that it almost looks fake. Like someone dropped a whole lot of water coloring into the river! Soak up the sun, take a dip in the stunning river, and enjoy one of Chiapas’ greatest gifts.
The cost to enter is $50 pesos per person. You can also camp in the parking lot overnight for an additional $70 pesos per car. Plus, it allows you to be the first to enter the falls beating the crowds and bus loads of tourists.
- Entrance Fee: $50 pesos per person
- Camping Fee: $70 pesos per car
- From El Chorreadero Falls: 140 kilometers (~ 2h 45m)
- From Tuxtla Gutiérrez: 130 kilometers (~ 2h 30m)
READ MORE: The Best Waterfalls in Chiapas
With the rest of your afternoon, head over to Cenote Chucumaltik just thirty minutes down the way. If you don’t know what a cenote (pronounce say-NO-tay) is, you are not the only one. I had to look this one up too. A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Cenote Chucumaltik, in particular, reaches depths of 60 meters and is a stunning blue color. Plus if you time it right, there will be no one around to bother you.
Entrance to the cenote is $30 pesos but you can stay as long as you want. Remember to bring plenty of water as there are no vendors or restaurants here. We also recommend grabbing some lunch and enjoying a picnic at Cenote Chucumaltik. Lastly, make sure to pack your snorkel gear as the scenery under the water is equally as impressive.
- Entrance Fee: $30 pesos per person
- Distance: 22 kilometers (~30m) from El Chiflon
Pit Stop: Uninajab
If you have more time, further down the road from Cenote Chucumaltik is Uninajab. Uninajab is a community with a series of freshwater pools overlooking the valley and La Angostura. It is a great place to visit if time permits. The cost to enter is $25 pesos per person, but you can stay here overnight for no additional fees.
End the day in the charming town of Comitan to rest up and explore the next day. Walk the old town streets, explore the lively main town square, and take in the traditional Mexican culture. We recommend dining at Ta Bonitio for the best meal in the city! Or, if you are looking for something more authentic head, over to El Puerquito for delicious carnitas tacos!
- Distance: 30 kilometers (~40m) from Cenote Chucumaltik
The Tenam Puente ruins are small in comparison to some of the other ruins located throughout Mexico, but are just as fascinating. The overgrowth from trees and vegetation that provide a canopy over the ruins are unique. Like a bygone era, these ruins that were once forgotten now have a renewed sense of beauty.
We were not charged the entrance fee but be prepared to pay $40 pesos per person for entry which gives you access to the ruins and a small museum.
- Entrance Fee: $40 pesos per person (or free if you are luckly like us)
- Address: A13Km al Suroeste de Comitan Carretera Federal Km190 rumbo a La Trinitaria
- Hours of Operation: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Distance: 15 kilometers (~30m) from Comitan
Day 5: Chiapas’ Freshwater Lagoons
Lagos de Colon
Lagos de Colon is a hidden gem of Comitan, along the Chiapas road trip adventure. Located close to the Guatemalan border, Lagos de Colon is definitely not to be missed. The series of small waterways are filled with crystal blue water surrounded by lush, green jungle. You won’t find many (if any) international tourists here as Lagos de Colon caters primarily to the rural communities and nearby towns. This is evidenced by the flocks of locals that descend upon the lakes to enjoy the cool, refreshing water for family picnics and gatherings.
Follow the road towards the El Lagartero Ruins to explore not only the ruins but the labyrinth of water bodies hidden beneath the tree canopies. This is also an excellent location to camp overnight as the locals leave at 5:00 pm and the parking area under the trees is quiet during the evening.
The entrance fee is $25 pesos per person which includes entry into the El Lagartero Ruins. Palapas can be rented for an additional $100 pesos per day and there are restaurants and tiendas for purchasing food and beverage. Toilets are also available for $5 pesos.
- Entrance Fee: $25 pesos
- Address: 30160 La Trinitaria
- Distance: 66 kilometers (~ 1h 15m) from Tenam Puente
Day 6 – 7: Lakes and Rivers
The next stop on your Chiapas road trip should be the Lakes of Montebello and Las Nubes.
Lagos de Montebello (Lakes of Montebello)
The Lakes of Montebello are a series of 59 different lakes near the Guatemalan border. These lakes are famous for their striking colors ranging from blue to emerald and the impressive forestry surrounding the lakes making them untainted by commercialization and tourism. Entry into the National Park is $36 pesos (January 2020) and then an additional $25 pesos to enter the lakes. Camping is available on the shores of Lake Tziscaco, however, a guard might ask for an additional $25 pesos per person if he is there when you leave in the morning.
- Entrance Fee:
- National Park Fee: $36 pesos per person
- Lagos de Montebello Fee: $25 pesos per person
- Distance: 94 kilometers (~1h 40m) from Lagos de Colon to Lago Montebello
Continuing further you will find Las Nubes. The thundering waterfall of Las Nubes along the Santo Domingo Las Nubes is known for its power and breadth. An ecotourism center protects and maintains the falls which are in impeccable condition. Entry is $30 pesos to visit the waterfall for the full day and includes access to toilet and showering facilities. For an additional $100 pesos you can spend the night in your campervan or cabins are available for $1,400 pesos.
We spent the afternoon relaxing by the falls, reading books, and enjoying the peace and quiet of the ecotourism center. If you dare to get in the gorgeous water be prepared as can be chilly!
- Entrance Fee: $30 pesos per person
- Address: Ejido Las Nubes S/N, Las Nubes
- Distance: and 72 kilometers (~1h 40m) from Lago Montebello
Day 8: The Labyrinth of Yaxchilán
How to Get to Yaxchilán
It is important to head out early as you start day 8 of your Chiapas road trip as today will be one of the longest driving days on the trip. To reach Yaxchilán, you will need to take a boat from the nearby town of Frontera Corozal which is a four and a half hour journey from Las Nubes. The drive itself, however, is impressive passing through tiny pueblos with rolling mountains in the background from Guatemala.
Once reaching Frontera Corozal, you will need to pay an entry fee of $30 pesos per person to enter. This act of paying a town levy is customary in Chiapas as the communities take the opportunity to capitalize on international tourists. Once in Frontera Corozal, you will then need to take a boat to the ruins. The boat only leaves when the boat is full (10 people) to share the cost of the boat or wear the entire boat ride (~$1,000 – $1,500 pesos). It seems like a lot to do to get there, so is it worth it? We think yes!
The Yaxchilán Ruins
As you can probably gather Yaxchilán is located on the Usumacinta River making it a dominating power in the Mayan culture. Standard in Chiapa, the ruins are encased by the lush Chiapan jungle which is home to howler monkeys.
What makes Yaxchilán unique is the labyrinth. The labyrinth is the first structure that you will come to once you enter Yaxchilán. Legend is told that the Mayans used the labyrinth to test individuals who wanted to compete on the ball field. Mayans would be sent into the labyrinth after taking a hallucinogenic and if you made it out alive you were deemed fit.
If you are a cultural or ruin aficionado then making a stop at Yaxchilán is a must before heading onwards to one of the most visited ruins in all of Mexico.
- Entrance Fee:
- Frontera Corozal: $30 pesos per person
- Boat Ride: $1,000 – $1,500 pesos per boat (can be shared)
- Ruins: $65 pesos per person
- Address: 29935 Frontera Corozal
- Hours of Operation: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (last boat is at 3:30 pm)
- Distance: 250 kilometers (~4h 30m) from Las Nubes
Pro-tip: Camping is allowed in the embarcadero without facilities free of charge.
Day 9: The Ancient Murals of Bonampak
How to Get to Bonampak
A day in Chiapas without visiting a waterfall or ruin would be disappointing. Luckily, the next destination is the nearby Bonampak ruins.
As with Yaxchilán, a fee of $35 pesos per person is collected to enter the village of Lancado. This, unfortunately, is not the last payment that will need to be paid before entering the ruins or even getting there. Along the road leading to the ruins, locals set up a roadblock. The roadblock is to stop you from driving to the ruins with your own car and requiring you to take their transportation and of course for a price. The additional transportation will set you back between $100 – $150 pesos per person for round trip transportation.
The Bonampak Ruins
Bonampak which means “painted wall” in modern-day Mayan is known not for its architecture or size, but for its unique mural paintings. These paintings are displayed within the three rooms of Structure 1. These murals depict the history of the Mayan people who lived at Bonampak. Do not miss the opportunity to visit these unique murals!
- Entrance Fee:
- Lancado: $35 pesos per person
- Transportation: $100 – $150 per person
- Ruins: $70 pesos per person
- Hours of Operation: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Distance: 45 kilometers (~1h 15m) from Yaxchilán
Day 10: Chiapas’ Most Impressive Ruins, Palenque
The city of Palenque is less than charming. The main square is nothing special and there are handful of restaurants or bars. The ruins, however, are worth a visit. The jungle of Chiapas’ rainforest engulfs the ruins of Palenque . Unlike other ruins in Mexico found on windswept hills or desolate fields, this one makes you feel as if you are in an Indiana Jones film. The rays of sunlight peeking through the jungle canopy make you stop and realize just how lucky you are to be able to explore such amazing sites.
The one downside to Palenque, however, are the souvenir vendors that set up shop IN the ruins. No, I’m not talking about outside, I’m talking about ALL over the walkways throughout the ruins. We went just as the ruins opened, so the hawkers were not yet spruiking their wares. They were too busy setting up shop for the busloads of tourists that would arrive later in the morning. Our advice, get there early to avoid the salespeople and the busloads of tourists.
- Entrance Fee:
- National Park: $37 pesos per person
- Ruins: $80 pesos per person
- Address: Carretera a Palenque- Zona Archaeologica Km. 8
- Hours of Operation: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
- Distance: 152 kilometers (~3h) from Bonampak
Pro Tip: For those intending to overland in Palenque be careful. We parked on the streets of Palenque and were woken up to a burglar IN our car. Be smart about where you park and if you can afford it maybe spring for paid accommodation. Luckily the bandit only made out with a camera lens and a raincoat, but it gave us quite the scare!
Day 11: Waterfalls of Chiapas
Today is all about visiting the amazing waterfalls in Chiapas and is one of the most popular things to do in Chiapas. The drive from Palenque to Misol Ha and Agua Azul will take you across beautiful scenery of the Chiapan mountains and jungle. It will also take you through at least one possible road blockade.
Communities gather at certain points along the road with a wooden board boasting nails protruding upwards to puncture your tires barring your onward journey unless you pay a fine to the community. We managed to get by with only paying $20 pesos, but have heard of people being charged upwards of $200 pesos. Ultimately you have no way of getting around the blockade without driving significantly out of the way as there is only one road leading from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas through the mountains. Either way, it is a small price to pay for being able to explore the impressive natural wonders that Chiapas has to offer.
Update: Please exercise extreme caution when traveling the journey between Palenque and San Cristobal. The incident we mentioned above is not isolated. Many people have been victimized by the locals along this route especially those traveling by bicycle.
The second last stop on your nature adventure is Misol Ha. Misol-Ha is just thirty minutes south of Palenque. While the falls of Misol Ha do not have the stunning turquoise blue waters of other waterfalls in Chiapas, Misol Ha is still impressive. When we visited water thunderously cascaded down the thirty-five meter drop into a deep pool surrounded by lush, green forest. Make sure to bring your swimsuit here to enjoy the cool depths of the waterfall pool.
A concrete walk way has been constructed behind the falls allowing you to get up close.
- Entrance Fee: $30 pesos per person
- Address: Camino a Cascada de Misol-Ha
- Hours of Operation: 6:45 am – 7:45 pm
- Distance: 21 kilometers (~30m) from Palenque
Agua Azul Chiapas
Next, make the hour drive down to Agua Azul. It is hard not to be impressed with Agua Azul. Thousands upon thousands of liters of stunning torquoise water surge over a series of sprawling waterfalls. The only drawback is the food stalls, souvenir shops, and tour guides vying for your business and your money. While the overly commercialized aspect detracts some from the natural beauty of Agua Azul, we still recommend making it a stop on your way down to San Cristobal de las Casas.
We were charged an entrance fee of $25 pesos each at the top of the hill before you enter the national park, only to find out that this was a “road usage fee” (despite being provided a ticket stating Cascada entrada). We were asked to pay another $45 pesos each at the falls. While the overall cost is not so significant, the idea of getting scammed at every point (this double-dipping is common through Chiapas) makes you feel like a target and a sap.
- Entrance Fee:
- Road Usage (Perhaps Scam): $25 pesos per person
- Waterfalls: $45 pesos per person
- Address: 7V4M+RW Arroyo Agua Azul
- Distance: 44 kilometers (~1h) from Misol Ha
Pit stop: If you have not gotten your waterfall fix yet in Chiapas, the drive to Tonina passes two more small waterfalls that are worth a visit. Find out more in our article The Best Waterfalls in Chiapas.
Day 12: Discover the Ruins of Tonina
Complete your Chiapan adventure with one last visit to a Mayan ruin. The Tonina ruins are located approximately 30 minutes outside of Ocosingo. These ruins, in my opinion, rival the ruins in Palenque probably due to the lack of an oversaturated tourism industry.
The centerpiece of the Tonina ruins is the acropolis which extends over 71 meters tall and provides sweeping views over Chiapas’ countryside. The climb to the top for the vista is worth the visit alone. There is also a labyrinth similar to the one in Yaxchilán if your Chiapas road trip didn’t take you all the way there.
Make sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection as the climb up to the top can be slow going on the narrow facade of the acropolis.
The entrance fee is $65 pesos per person available at the kiosk prior to entering the ruins. Guides are also available on-site to learn more about the history of Tonina including its rivalry with nearby Palenque.
- Entrance Fee: $65 pesos per person
- Hours of Operation: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Distance: 77 kilometers (~2h) from Agua Azul
Day 13 – 14: San Cristobal de las Casas
After visiting all of the natural wonders Chiapas has to offer, end your Chiapas road trip in San Cristobal de las Casas. This mountain town is slowly making a name for itself amongst travelers as being a culinary and coffee destination. While you can find the traditional Mexican cuisine, the San Cristobal de las Casas specializes in international flavors. Korean to Argentine steak houses, and Indian to Spanish, the booming international food scene here is a surprise revelation.
Spend your final days indulging and pampering yourself after long days exploring ruins and waterfalls throughout Chiapas.
Read more on what to do in The Ultimate Guide to San Cristobal De las Casas.
- Distance: 107 kilometers (~2h 40m) from Tonina
Useful Tips for a Road Trip in Chiapas
Before you set out on your road trip of Chiapas, make sure oyu go over these dos and don’ts.
When Is the Best Time to Road Trip Chiapas?
The best time to visit Chiapas is during the dry season which runs from November to May each year. The weather is a little cooler and less humid during this time as well as making nights more enjoyable.
Do always bring your raincoat when traveling abroad.
Don’t let weather spoil your holiday!
What Are the Driving Conditions in Chiapas?
Like most of Mexico, driving in Chiapas can be hectic. Mexican’s typically do not adhere to passing rules, speed bumps (topes) appear out of nowhere, and impromptu toll booths by communities can make driving stressful at times.
Do keep your speed in check.
Don’t drive at night as the roads are not well lit and topes appear out of nowhere.
Do stop for impromptu toll booths.
Don’t forget your fake wallet with small bills.
Can I Find Gas in Chiapas?
One thing to always be mindful of while on a road trip in Chiapas is running out of gas. One rule of thumb we live by is to keep the tank above one-quarter and to keep a gas can in case of emergency. Gas stations are easy to come by in cities throughout Mexico but are few and far between in more remote parts of the country (like the Chiapan country-side). Gas is often sold by the plastic coke bottle from roadside vendors in a pinch.
Do fill up your tank in the city before heading out into nature’s playground.
Don’t find yourself stranded in the jungle of Chiapas without gas or cell service.
Do pay by card at gas stations as they are the one reliable place to use credit cards and bank rewards points!
Don’t forget to tip the attendant for filling your tank.
Is It Safe to Drink the Water in Chiapas?
Water in Mexico is non-potable. We recommend bringing a Platypus water filter to filter your own water. Additionally, carry jerry cans to purchase water at water purifying facilities for cents.
Do ask the gas stations to fill your unfiltered water tank to be filtered later.
Don’t mistake this for clean water and drink it.
Is Chiapas Safe?
We frequently are asked about safety and whether we feel safe overlanding in Mexico. We find that speaking with locals is a great way to make us feel comfortable with our camping spot and to make the locals feel comfortable with a stranger setting up camp nearby.
Do check in with the locals and make sure it is safe to park there.
Don’t park in unlit spots where burgalers might be lurking.
Are There ATMs in Chiapas?
Mexico uses the Mexican peso (MXN not to be confused with the old Mexican peso MXP). There are ATMs in most medium-size cities and most will charge a small fee for each transaction depending on the bank. We found the fee can be as little as $15 pesos to as much as $60 pesos. Specifically in Chiapas, there are no ATMs at the waterfalls and lakes, so make sure you visit one before leaving Tuxtla, Comitan, Palenque, or San Cristobal de las Casas.
Do carry cash in Mexico as most local restaurants and shops are cash only.
Don’t tip the locals off to you being a tourist and try to pay in your home country currency. (I’m looking at you mom!)
Is the Mobile Internet Reliable in Chiapas?
In this day and age, we all depend on our cell phones, tablets, and laptops. We need the internet to navigate roads and if you are like us to work on the go. The mobile signal in Chiapas varies significantly depending on where you are located. Expect there to be no cell coverage in between cities especially on the drive from Las Nubes to Palenque and then further on to San Cristobal de las Casas.
Do download offline versions of maps.me or Google maps.
Don’t rely solely on the internet as the locals usually have the best scoop.
We hope you enjoy your road trip in Chiapas! Thanks for wandering with us!
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