Chiapas’ mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas is a lesser-known gem along the tourist circuit of Southern Mexico. With a fraction of the visitors that San Miguel de Allende or Oaxaca City sees, this charming town has lots to offer and fewer people to share it with. Whether your vice is dining out at restaurants, drinking until the sun comes up, exploring the colonial old town and or disappearing into the surrounding nature, San Cristobal has something for everyone. Discover exactly what to do in San Cristobal de las Casas with our ultimate city guide.
What to do in San Cristobal de las Casas plus where to eat, the best cafes and more on exploring this charming mountain town!
How to Get to San Cristobal de las Casas
From Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas
The journey from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas down the Mexico 199 is long, windy and full of topes. The 215 kilometer journey takes approximately 5 hours due to the road conditions.
Beware throughout this drive, as local communities have capitalized on the increased traffic. Townspeople gather in the middle of pueblos along the road blocking traffic, often using homemade spike strips, designed to puncture your tires. These blockades bar your onward journey unless you pay a toll (sorry ‘co-operacion’) to the community. We have heard of people being charged upwards of 200 pesos, but thankfully we managed to get away with only paying 20 pesos.
If you are making the drive with your own wheels or by rental car, there are many stops that can be made along the way to break up the drive. Check out our article on The Best Waterfalls in Chiapas for some inspiration and side trips to make the most of this road trip.
ADO (or OCC) Bus Company offers a bus service between Palanque and San Cristobal. Due to the condition of the road the bus takes a different route through Villahermosa making the journey between 8 and 10 hours. Trips depart approximately 8 times per day. To make your booking head to www.ado.com.mx for the most up to date schedule and pricing. Prices generally range between $200 – $350 pesos one-way.
Colectivos, the Mexican version of public transportation, can be taken from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas. From Palenque take a colectivo from the corner of 5a Poniente Sur and Benito Juarez to Ocosingo. In Ocosingo, you will need to change colectivos for the remainder of the journey. Ask someone in Ocosingo for the colectivo terminal to San Cristobal de las Casas as there are many colectivo companies running this leg of the trip. The cost for each ride should be approximately $90 pesos.
From Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas
The journey from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas is nine hours down the Mexico 185D to the Mexico 190D. The letter D attached to a road number means tolls, which can rack up quickly, but it also means the road conditions are likely better than most meaning fewer potholes and topes.
ADO (or OCC) operates a night bus between Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas. Departing times are 19:00, 20:00, 21:00 and 22:30 and range between 10 to 12 hours. Prices vary between $585 – $900 pesos. To make your booking head to www.ado.com.mx for the most up to date schedule and pricing.
Where to Stay in San Cristobal de las Casas
Before you start planning your trip to San Cristobal de las Casas, you need to know where you are going to stay. Whether you are overlanding with your own vehicle, or traveling with public transport, there are options for everyone. Here are our recommendations.
While maybe not your first choice for camping, Walmart parking lots are usually a reliable option. Most are open from early in the morning to late in the evening and come with security guards patrolling the area and security cameras. San Cristobal de las Casas is no different. We camped at the Walmart in San Cristobal for several nights over a two-week period and felt safe. From Walmart you can drive into town or take a collectivo for 7 pesos.
It is also possible to camp on the streets in the town centre but be cautious the cobblestone streets of San Cristobal’s old town are extremely narrow. If you don’t require phone service for work like we do there is a free campsite outside of town on an empty lot next to the Parque Natural el en Cuentro. This camp is quiet, green, natural and best of all not a supermarket parking lot.
Hostal Corazon Corteza
Hostal Corazon Corteza is a colorful hostel located a few blocks off the main walking street, Real de Guadalupe. Each of the five rooms is designed with reclaimed wood and locally sourced materials. The hostel has plenty of hanging out space with a living area inside and a large courtyard. One highlight of the hostel is the beautifully prepared breakfast each morning by the owner Sarah. The downside, only one shower to be shared throughout the whole hostel. Despite this, we recommend this place for a stay in San Cristobal.
- Address: Calle Dr. José Felipe Flores 43, Sta Lucia, 29200 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis., Mexico
- Cost: $
A relative newcomer on the scene is Casa Azabache. A trendy, modern hostel delivering premium accomodation without the hefty price tag. The rooms and the hostel itself are beautifully decorated. The downside to Casa Azabache is the restriction on the usage of the kitchen. If you like to cook your own breakfast, you may want to rethink your stay as the kitchen is only available for use starting at 10:30 each morning. Other than this, Casa Azabache is a great place for exploring the town of San Cristobal.
If none of these tickle your fancy there are plenty more, check out some other options available in San Cristobal de las Casas below.
What to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas
While the main draw to San Cristobal is the rising culinary scene and the nearby natural wonders, there are things to do in San Cristobal while biding your time before your next meal.
Wander the cobbled streets
While this may be obvious, San Cristobal has some of the liveliest cobbled stone streets in Mexico. San Cristobal boasts two main walking streets, the Real de Guadalupe and Miguel Hildago, both lined with colorful restaurants, bars, boutique stores, art galleries and more. Take some time to get lost in the maze of pretty colonial streets, you never know what you might find!
Visit the Cathedral of San Cristobal
San Cristobal, like most Mexican cities, is centered around the cathedral located at Plaza de la Paz. Visit the cathedral at dusk to watch the colors of the setting sun reflect against the yellow facade or visit the inside of the cathedral between the hours of 9:00 – 13:30 and 16:30 – 20:00 each day for free.
Casa de la Cultura
Previously a women’s convent, the Casa de la Cultura now is a cultural center offering art exhibits, classes and workshops, and other cultural events. If you have some free time, stop by to see what is going on in the city.
- Address: Hermanos Domínguez Sn, Zona Centro, 29220 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis.
- Hours of Operation: 9:00 am – 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm Monday through Friday
Where to Eat in San Cristobal de las Casas
If you are not in San Cristobal de las Casas as a jumping-off point to explore the surrounding area, then I assume you came here to eat. While the culinary scene is not quite as refined as that in San Miguel de Allende or Oaxaca City, it is up and coming. And there are definitely a few restaurants in San Cristobal de las Casas not to miss. Here are our favorite restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in San Cristobal de las Casas!
Breakfast | Frontera Artisan Food and Coffee
Start your morning off right with breakfast and coffee at Frontera Artisan Food and Coffee just a short walk from the city center. The breakfast options range from classic Mexican fare like chilaquiles to Western staples like bagel and lox sandwiches. The coffee is sourced locally from farmers in Chiapas and is prepared any way you like from V60 to Aeropress and more.
- Address: Belisario Domínguez 35, Barrio del Cerrillo, 29220 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis.
- Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday: 8:00 am – 9:00 pm
- Sunday: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Lunch | Anchoite Cochinita Pibil
This tiny restaurant serves only one thing…pork. Specifically cochinita pibil, a marinated, slow-roasted pork hailing from the Yucatan Peninsula. While theres only one type of meat on the menu, you can have it served in a variety of ways, tacos, toastadas, torditas, or gringas. Don’t be deterred if there is a line out front. With such a simple and delicious menu, the service is quick, and the wait will be worth it.
- Address: Calle Niños Heroes 10, Zona Centro, 29200 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis.
- Hours of Operation: 8:30 am – 11:00 pm Monday through Sunday
Dinner | Cardamomo Cocina Hindu
San Cristobal de las Casas is overflowing with international dining options specifically those with an Asian flair. Whether you are craving Korean, Japanese, Thai or Indian there is something for everyone. Our favorite? Cardamomo Cocina Hindu. You immediately know you are in for a treat upon the greeting of spices wafting through the door. While the options are limited unlike most Indian restaurants, the quality and taste are sublime. Cardamomo is a welcomed diversion from the Mexican fare. We also recommend trying one of their unique cocktails particularly the gin-based ones. The perfect pairing for what is to be one of your best meals in San Cristobal.
- Address: Real de Guadalupe 170, Barrio de Guadalupe, 29230 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis.
- Hours of Operation: 2:00 pm – 10:00 pm Monday to Sunday
Where to Drink in San Cristobal de las Casas
Part of exploring and learning about a city’s culture is drinking, right? Tasting local beers or newly crafted cocktails, in our opinion, is part of the experience. San Cristobal de las Casas is no exception. Here is our choice of the best bars in San Cristobal de las Casas for you to explore.
For Outdoor Drinkers | Kinoki
If you are looking for a roof-top bar, look no further than Kinoki. Located one block back from the main plaza, the Plaza 31 de Marzo, Kinoki offers great views of the city of San Cristobal. When we visited on NYE, a local DJ spun records as we danced the night away under the stars. We highly recommend this place if you are looking for a night out in San Cristobal de las Casas.
- Address: Benito Juárez 6A, Zona Centro, 29200 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis.
- Hours of Operation: 12:30 pm – 12:00 am Monday to Sunday
For Wine Lovers | La Vina de Bacco
La Vina de Bacco is one of two local wine bars in the city of San Cristobal. One differentiates La Vina de Bacco from El Cau Vinos y Tapas is the incredibly cheap glasses of wine. With prices starting as low as $20 pesos per glass including a free tapa, this is quite easily the best watering hole when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck. While the bar is large, it fills up fast especially the prime real estate seats. If you want to people watch with your wine, make sure you show up early before the patio fills up.
- Address: Real de Guadalupe 7, Zona Centro, 29200 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis.
- Hours of Operation:
- Saturday to Thursday: 1:00 pm – 12:30 am
- Friday: 1:30 pm – 12:30 am
For the Local Vibe | Café Bar Revolución
Café Bar Revolución is a hot spot for both tourists and locals alike. A two-level bar located near the center of town, this place is always heaving with people looking to have a good time. Local beer, craft beer, mezcal, cocktails, Café Bar Revolución has it all. It is also a great place to catch live music while snacking on the complimentary popcorn offered up to patrons.
- Address: Andador Eclesiástico, esquina, Calle 1o. de Marzo, Centro Histórico, 29200
- Hours of Operation:
- Sunday – Monday: 10:45 am – 2:00 am
- Tuesday – Thursday: 10:45 am – 3:00 am
- Friday – Saturday: 10:45 am – 4:00 am
Cafes in San Cristobal de las Casas
While Chiapas may be one of the largest coffee producers in Mexico, the café culture is not as prevalent in San Cristobal de las Casas as it is in Oaxaca City (seriously, check out Oaxaca’s 8 Best Cafes). While there are a few trendy coffee shops around, many locals prefer to grab their cup of joe from their local coffee distributor. And at only $10 pesos for a large cup of coffee, how can you blame them. But for a sit down cafe experience, here is our pick of the bunch.
For the Coffee Connoisseur | Amor Negro
If you are looking for a trendy, upscale café with delicious coffee, this is the place to be. Located on the top floor of the Plaza San Agustin, Amor Negro is one of the few places in town embracing the coffee culture the Western world relies on. While their coffee is excellent, this place is not well suited for work with uncomfortable seats, few power outlets, and noise from the open-air food market.
- Address: Miguel Hidalgo 4, Zona Centro, 29200 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis.
- Hours of Operation: 8:00 am – 10:30 pm Monday to Sunday
For Coffee to Go | Carajillo Expendio
Located on the Real de Guadalupe, Carajillo Expendio is your best bet for a quick hit while exploring the cobbled streets of San Cristobal. Primarily a grab-and-go joint, this cafe sources beans locally from farmers throughout Chiapas. These guys are serious about their coffee, and it shows in the quality of their product. Stop in for a to-go coffee or be lucky and snag one of their few chairs out front for some prime people-watching real estate.
- Address: 29200, Real de Guadalupe 15D, Zona Centro, 29200 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis.
- Hours of Operation: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm Monday to Sunday
For Pastries | Oh La La! Real Patisserie Guadalupe
If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth and your coffee cravings, head over to Oh La La! Real Patisserie Guadalupe. As the name suggests, this French-inspired cafe is located on the main walking street Real de Guadalupe. While the prices are a bit more than other cafes in San Cristobal de las Casas, the prices are commensurate with the quality.
- Address: Av, Real de Guadalupe 2, Centro Histórico, 29200 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis.
- Hours of Operation: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm Monday to Sunday
For more information on the best cafes in San Cristobal check out our article The 6 Best Cafes in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Best Day Trips from San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is a great jumping-off point to explore some of the natural wonders of Chiapas. Take a break from city life and explore the outdoors with one of these incredible day trips from San Cristobal.
Sumidero Canyon and Chiapas de Corzo
Explore one of Mexico’s most charming pueblo magicos, Chiapa de Corzo and see one of its’s most spectacular natural site, the Sumidero Canyon in one trip.
The town of Chiapa de Corzo is steeped in culture and history which dates pack to pre-colombian civilisation and has been a site of significance throughout the ages.
Chiapa de Corzothe is also the starting point for boat trips through Sumidero Canyon. As of December 2019, the two-hour boat ride costs $250 pesos. On the trip you speed through the canyon marveling at its impressive granite walls while trying to spot crocodiles, spider monkeys and other wildlife that calls the canyon home.
Alternatively, if you are looking to visit the canyon from a different (and cheaper angle, for only $36 pesos per person, you can drive along the top of the canyon to the five miradors overlooking Sumidero Canyon.
Chiapa de Corzo de Corzo is only one hour from San Cristobal de las Casas and easily reached by private vehicle or collectivo.
For more on the Sumidero Canyon, Chiapa de Corzo, and Chiapas’ state capital, Tuxla Guiterrez check out our article Overlanding Chiapas: What to Do in Tuxla Gutiérrez.
El Chiflón and Cenote Chucumaltik
El Chiflón, Chiapas’ most impressive waterfall, is a series of three waterfalls, El Suspiro (The Sigh), Ala de Ángel (Angel Wing) and Velo de Novia (Bride’s Veil) with Velo de Novia reaching a height of 120 meters. While the waterfalls themselves are impressive, the real drawcard here is the unique turqouise blue color of the water. It is so impressive in fact that it doesn’t even look real. The San Vincent River stretches from Velo de Novia in the brightest turquoise blue river water you will ever see. Make sure to bring your swimmers and enjoy a refreshing dip in the water. Swimming is allowed in certain areas along the river.
Cenote Chucumaltik is located only another thirty minutes past El Chiflón and is open from 7:00 – 17:00 daily. A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Having not been to a cenote before, I did not know what to expect. Chucumaltik exceeded my expectations. The cobalt blue color of the water against the lush green surrounding forest and the seemingly unending depths of the sinkhole (over 60 meters deep) made for quite the experience. Make sure to back your snorkel gear for exploring the underworld of the cenote. The cost to enter is $30 pesos per person as of January 2019.
Getting to El Chiflón
With Your Own Vehicle
The falls are about two and a half hours drive from San Cristobal de las Casas. The roads are in good condition although they are quite windy.
A number of tour operators run day tours to El Chiflón and the Montebello lakes starting from Tuxtla Gutiérrez and from San Cristobal de las Casas. You can see the options and prices here.
From Comitan you can take a colectivo to the El Chiflón tourist center. The colectivo companies can be found on Hwy 190 between 1a and 2a Calles Sur Poniente. Find one going to El Chiflón. The ride should take about 40 minutes and cost thirty pesos per person.
For more on exploring El Chiflón and other waterfalls in Chiapas check out our article The Best Waterfalls in Chiapas.
Hopefully that’s got you started with a few things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas. But it’s really only the beginning of this exciting town and region. Be sure to let us know your own tips, experiences, and thoughts below.
Looking for More Chiapas Travel Destination Inspo?
Still looking for what to do in San Cristobal de las Casas and Chiapas? Check out our other Chiapas articles by following the link below:
- Things to Do in Chiapas: Tuxtla Gutiérrez
- The Best Waterfalls in Chiapas
- A Chiapas Road Trip: The Ultimate Itinerary
- Van Life San Cristobal de las Casas: The Complete How-to Guide
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