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Chiapas Road Trip: My 10-Day Chiapas Itinerary

Chiapas is a rare slice of Mexico brimming with waterfalls, magical towns, and Mayan ruins. Here is my detailed 10-day Chiapas itinerary packed with outdoor adventures.

Tucked in southern Mexico straddling the Guatemala border, Chiapas is a forgotten state, one that has been sadly neglected by the government. It’s a shame, as Chiapas is brimming with some of Mexico’s greatest natural wonders: from the spectacular el Chiflon waterfalls to the well-preserved Palenque ruins and alpine lakes at Laguna de Montebello.

Thankfully, Chiapas has also escaped the clutches of mass tourism and managed to stay under the tourist radar. If you’re looking to escape the crowds of Cancun or Los Cabos, Chiapas is an excellent destination for adventure travelers seeking more authentic experiences.

10-day Chiapas itinerary

My Chiapas Itinerary & Guide

You’ll need at least 10 days in Chiapas to see the highlights: from the colonial charm of San Cristobal de las Casas to the indigenous villages such as San Juan Chamula and the impressive Palenque ruins and nearby waterfalls. I’m sharing my Chiapas road trip itinerary, including where to stay and what to see at each spot.

Here is a summary of my 10-day Chiapas itinerary. I will be giving a day-to-day breakdown below.

  • Days 1-2: Palenque
  • Day 3: Day Trip to Yaxchilán
  • Day 4: Day Trip to Misol-Ha and Agua Azul
  • Days 5-7: San Cristobal de las Casas
  • Day 8: Comitán and El Chiflon
  • Day 9: Lagos Montebellos
  • Day 10: Back to Tuxtla Gutierrez

Download my Chiapas itinerary on Google Maps.


How to Get to Chiapas

The starting point of our Chiapas itinerary is the Villahermosa Airport (VSA). It’s a small airport and planes that land there tend to be smaller. There are regular flights from Mexico City, Cancún,  Mérida, Monterrey, and Guadalajara. Check for flights.

You’ll then fly out from the Tuxtla Gutierrez International Airport (TGZ) in the capital of Chiapas. It’s a relatively small airport and only serves Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Cancun. The only international destination it serves is Guatemala City.

Flights from Cancun to Tutxla Gutierrez are really cheap; I paid US$50 each way even when I booked it the week before flying. Flights from Guatemala City cost only $70 each way.

Search for Flights here!

10-day Chiapas itinerary - How to Get to Chiapas

By Road

San Cristóbal is popular with backpackers who travel overland here from Guatemala. There are many tour agencies that offer transport services from Panajachel, Quezaltenango, and Antigua in Guatemala directly to San Cristóbal. The journey usually takes 10-16 hours including the time it takes to pass immigration.

From other parts of Mexico, you can catch the ADO bus (Mexico’s biggest bus company) that has comfortable, air-conditioned buses that run on time. There are regular night buses from Palenque to San Cristobal. Book your bus tickets online!

The most popular routes are below:

  • Palenque — San Cristóbal: 9 hours; 420 MXN (US$21)
  • Campeche — San Cristóbal: 11 hours; 962 MXN (US$49)
  • Oaxaca — San Cristóbal: 12 hours; 932 MXN (US$47)
10-day Chiapas itinerary - How to Get to Chiapas by road

Getting around Chiapas

By Car

Hiring a car is the best way to explore the Chiapas state – the drive from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque in particular is best done by car as bus drivers along the route are notorious for their reckless driving and crazy speed (more on safety below).

I always book my car rental from Discover Cars as they offer the best prices and excellent customer service. An economy rental car in Oaxaca costs around $200 for a whole week, which is less than $28 a day. The current price for gas is 23.50 MXN (around $1) per liter.

Check Car Rental Prices

10-day Chiapas itinerary - How to Get to Chiapas by car

By Bus

In general, bus travel in Chiapas is convenient and comfortable. ADO bus is very reliable and punctual, and you can easily book tickets online. Just bring a jacket because the air conditioning will be cranked up and be prepared for a long journey around the mountains. Pre-book your bus tickets here to ensure availability.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - How to Get to Chiapas by bus

My 10-Day Chiapas Itinerary

Chiapas Itinerary Day 1: Arrive in Palenque

Upon arrival in Villahermosa Airport, catch the bus to Palenque. ADO runs a direct service in comfortable mini-buses from Villahermosa airport to the bus terminal at Glorieta de la Cabeza Maya in Palenque town. Pre-book your bus tickets here to ensure availability.

There are two main areas to stay in Palenque: the city center and the area along the road to the Palenque ruins. Staying in the city center offers more amenities and food options, on the other hand, the hotels along on the road to the ruins are surrounded by nature and you can even hear the howler monkeys at night! 

Palenque town itself is a modern city with not much to see; all the interesting sights lie in the countryside. Spend your evening wandering around the main square, take photos with the colorful ‘Palenque’ sign, and enjoy dinner. Tropi Tacos near the central square is a budget-friendly restaurant with lots of tacos options to choose from. Read reviews.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Arrive in Palenque

Where to Stay in Palenque

Luxury: Hotel Nututun Palenque

Hotel Nututun Palenque is a 4-star hotel in Palenque that offers a comfortable stay for families, couples, and friends. Surrounded by beautiful nature, the Hotel Nututun Palenque has air-conditioned rooms, a swimming pool, a restaurant, onsite parking, and free Wi-Fi. Just a short 10-minute ride away from the Palenque ruins. Check rates here.

See also  20 Cool Things to Do in La Paz, Mexico
Mid Range: Axkan Palenque

Axkan Palenque is a great option to stay without breaking the bank. Located just outside of town, you can catch the colectivos outside the hotel that head to the ruins. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, a swimming pool, and restaurant on site. Check rates here. 

Budget: Cabañas Kin Balam

Cabañas Kin Balam is conveniently located just 5 minutes away from the Palenque ruins. Cabañas Kin Balam offers affordable yet charming cabins surrounded by gardens and an outdoor swimming pool for guests to relax in. Check rates.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Where to Stay in Palenque

Chiapas Itinerary Day 2: Explore Palenque Ruins

The next day, rise bright and early to visit the Palenque ruins as it opens (at 8 am).  This is when the site is the least crowded and you can avoid the heat of midday. I was one of the first to enter the Palenque ruins when they opened, and it was spectacularly seeing the sun piercing through the mist that hovered above the pyramids.

To get to the Palenque Ruins from the city center, you can take the colectivo minibus with a sign that reads ‘Ruinas’.They depart from the ADO bus terminal every 15 minutes and make stops in town along the way, operating from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm every day. Tickets only cost 40 MXN (US$2) and the Colectivo takes you directly to the entrance of Palenque ruins.

Read my guide to the Palenque ruins.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Explore Palenque Ruins

Chiapas Itinerary Day 3: Day Trip to Yaxchilán

The Palenque Ruins are an absolute marvel but the remote Yaxchilán ruins will blow your mind. Located about 169 km (105 miles) from Chiapas, the Yaxchilán ruins have been immaculately preserved because of their secluded location. Loosely translated as “green stones” in the Maya language, Yaxchilán is found along the Usumacinta River near the Guatemalan border.

Yaxchilán centers around the majestic Gran Plaza, which is flanked by the Great Acropolis and the Little Acropolis. Adorned with intricate decorations, ornate motifs, and cryptic hieroglyphics, the site is a testament to the enduring legacy of the Mayan empire.

It’s not so straightforward to get there; it’s best to book a guided day trip. But if you prefer to venture there on your own, catch the colectivo mini bus from Palenque to Frontera Corozal. Then take a taxi to the riverside where you will take a boat to the ruins. At the riverside, you’ll need to wait for 6 more people to share the boat ride cost or opt to pay the entire fee (1300 MXN or $76.55).

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Day Trip to Yaxchilán

Chiapas Itinerary Day 4: Cool off in Waterfalls

Admire Misol-Ha

After spending the first few days of your Chiapas road trip exploring Mayan ruins, it’s time to refresh yourself at the waterfalls just 20km (12.5 miles) away from Palenque. Misol-Ha is the largest waterfall in Palenque, at over 110 feet (35m) high.

Misol-Ha stands out from the other waterfalls because it has a single drop, so you can explore the cool networks of caves behind the falls. You are allowed to swim in the plunge pool at the bottom of the waterfall.

From Palenque, the colectivo takes about 40 minutes at 90 MXN (US$5) per person. The entrance fee is 30 MXN (US$2), although sometimes an additional 10 MXN maintenance charge is also applied.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Misol-Ha

Swim in Agua Azul

A stone’s throw away, you will find Agua Azul, considered one of the best waterfalls in Mexico. The name translates to “blue water,” Agua Azul is famous for its stunning crystal clear blue tones.

However, this color is only visible during the dry season (October to April). During the rainy season (May to September), the consistent rain will make the water look brown. When I was there, the water was so brown and turbulent that swimming was allowed.

Don’t forget your swimsuit, towel and dry bag!There are life jackets rentals if you’re not a strong swimmer. Water shoes are also highly recommended as the rocks to walk on can be very slippery. It takes around 2 hours from Palenque to get to Agua Azul.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Agua Azul

Chiapas Itinerary Day 5: Explore San Cristóbal de las Casas

Next day, head over to the colonial city of San Cristobal del las Casas, which is just about 3 hours and 20 minutes away by car. However, the road between San Cris via Ocosingo to Palenque is not safe mostly because of road blockades and armed gangs patrolling this stretch of the road.

You can catch the overnight ADO bus, which takes a detour via Tuxtla Gutiérrez. The journey takes much longer, around 7 hours, but ADO bus takes the safer route to Palenque. You can save a night of accommodation and arrive in Palenque in the morning.  Book your seat here.

The crown jewel of Chiapas, San Cristobal de las Casas is a pueblo mágico (magical town) bursting with colors and Indigenous culture. Perched at an elevation of over 7,200 feet (2,200 meters), San Cris – as it’s affectionately known – is lined with cobblestoned streets and terracotta-roofed colonial houses, surrounded by misty mountains and hilltop churches. Indigenous Tzoztil ladies saunter along the sidewalks in their embroidered huilpil, hawking beautiful artisan and textiles.

Read my recommendation on the best things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - San Cristóbal de las Casas

Where to Stay in San Cristóbal de las Casas

Accommodation prices in San Cristóbal de las Casas are really affordable and even upscale boutique hotels here are cheaper than you’d imagine. We recommend staying in the historic center (near Plaza de la Paz) so you can easily walk everywhere.

Mid Range: Hotel Casa Mexicana

I stayed here for a week and really loved the excellent location, amazing prices, and comfortable rooms. Housed in a colonial building with a lush patio/garden, the hotel is a great option for those who want comfort without spending too much (pictured). Check rates here.

Luxury: Casa Lum Boutique Hotel

Located along the pedestrianized Calle Real de Guadalupe, this sweet 8-room boutique is intimate and stylish. Built with reclaimed wood and tiles, the hotel features upcycled furniture and textiles from local indigenous artisans. And the onsite restaurant uses vegetables and herbs grown in their backyard garden. Check rates here.

Ultra Luxury: Hotel Bo

The most expensive hotel in San Cristobal is the Venetian-style Hotel Bo, an upscale boutique hotel with designs inspired by indigenous music with a sort of rustic minimalism. The main appeal of this hotel is Restaurant Lum, serving gourmet Mexican fare with wild flavor combinations. Check rates here.

See also  How to Get from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende
10-day Chiapas itinerary - where to stay in San Cristóbal de las Casas

Day 6: Day Trip to San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán

Visit San Juan Chamulas

Just a 30-minute drive from San Cristobal de las Casas lies the famous Tzoztil indigenous village, San Juan Chamula. This village has become renown for its prominent Tzoztil tradition, syncretist practice, and animal sacrifice rituals.

Visiting the church in San Juan Chamula was the highlight for me. Instead of rows of benches, you’ll find pine needles covering the floor, candles lit all over the place, and locals are sat deep in prayers or sobbing with grief. Shaman healers walk the aisles collecting offerings in the form of Coca-Cola and pox (a Chiapas alcoholic drink). Other times, it’s a live chicken that gets killed in the church.

You can get there on your own by taxi or colectivo, but booking a guided tour will give you more insights to the indigenous culture and rituals. I booked this day tour online and was pretty satisfied with my guide.

TIP: Photography is strictly prohibited inside the church. This also refers to photographing locals, who are understandably cautious of strangers. Their strong adherence to Mayan tradition has led them to believe that each shot taken from them is stealing a part of their soul.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - San Juan Chamulas

See the Flowers of Zinacantán

Zinacantán is another day trip you can squeeze into your Chiapas road trip. At just 18km (11 miles) from San Juan Chamula, you can easily see both towns in the same day.

The community of Navenchauc resides snugly at the valley’s base, surrounded by the distinctive calcareous formations. Here, the rhythm of life intertwines with the seasonal changes, as orchards and greenhouses flourish amidst the verdant scenery. However, the valley grapples with drainage challenges during the rainy season, transforming the surrounding plain into a temporary lagoon.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Zinacantán

Day 7: Day Trip to Cañon de Sumidero

Wander around Chiapa de Corzo

At just 1 hour from San Cristobal de las Casas, Cañon de Sumidero and the gateway town, Chiapa de Corzo, are an easy day trip away. Located along the banks of the Grijalva River, Chiapa de Corzo has a rich blend of history and culture that blankets the entire continent.

As one of the oldest settlements in the region, this enchanting pueblo mágico (magical town) is steeped in centuries of tradition. Its roots trace back to the ancient civilizations of the pre-Columbian era, where indigenous groups like the Chiapanecas once flourished.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Chiapa de Corzo

Explore Cañon de Sumidero

Just north of Chiapa de Corzo is the majestic Cañon de Sumidero, one of the deepest canyons in Mexico. Formed by the Grijalva River, the canyon is absolutely massive, measuring over 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) deep in some parts. You can see the sheer scale of it from the numerous viewpoints on the top of the canyon.

But what really makes this place special is the boat ride through it. You’ll get to see how incredibly vast and deep the canyon is as you cruise past walls of lush greenery, towering cliffs, and even the occasional crocodile basking in the sun. Besides crocodiles, the national park is home to other endangered species such as spider monkeys and ocelots.

The boat ride costs 400 MXN per person (US$20) and takes about 2 hours to get to Chiapas de Corzo. The easiest way to get here is on a day tour; I booked this day trip and really enjoyed it.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Cañon de Sumidero

Day 8: Head to Comitán and El Chiflon

Continue your Chiapas road trip to the small tranquil town of Comitán, about 2 hours from San Cristobal de las Casas. Located in the “Los Altos de Chiapas” region, Comitán de Domínguez is a cultural gem, proudly bearing its historical heritage.

Founded amidst marshy terrain by the Tzeltal people, this ancient settlement flourished. In 1486, the Aztec empire extended its reach to Comitán, leaving an indelible mark on its identity. Today, Comitán’s charm extends beyond its historical significance; it is a Magical Town where tradition and modernity intertwine seamlessly.

chiapas road trip itinerary

Marvel at the Waterfalls of El Chiflon

Comitán is the gateway to El Chilfon, arguably one of the most impressive natural wonders of Mexico. It’s made up of a series of five tiered whitewater falls and turquoise mineral pools. The star of the show is one of the highest waterfalls in Mexico, known as Cascada Velo de Novia, standing at an impressive 230 feet (70m) tall.

The entry fee to the El Chiflon waterfalls is 50 MXN (US$2.50) per person and you pay for the tickets the entrance of the Ecotourism Center. Once you’re at the park, there’s a short hike of about 15 minutes to get to the first waterfall. From there, it’s another 45-minute hike to get to Cascada Velo de Novia, the tallest of the waterfalls. Take the slippery steps up to El Mirador (viewpoint) with caution and prepare to get wet from the thundering falls.

Be sure to bring a swimming suit and towel if you want to swim in the pools. There are designated swimming areas as some parts can be quite dangerous due to the strong currents.

TIP: If you’d rather stay in San Cris, consider this day tour to visit both El Chiflon and Lagos de Montebello. It’s an incredibly long day trip, but an easy way to see them without worrying about logistics.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Waterfalls of El Chiflon

Where to Stay in Comitán

Budget: Hotel Real Colonial

Located in the heart of Comitan, Hotel Real Colonial offers affordable accommodations without compromising on comfort. The rooms are clean and cozy, and the hotel provides basic amenities for a comfortable stay. Check rates here.

Mid-Range: Hotel Casa Delina

Hotel Casa Delina offers a step up in comfort and amenities while still being reasonably priced. Situated in a convenient location, this hotel features spacious rooms with modern decor and amenities such as free Wi-Fi and breakfast included. Check rates here.

Luxury: Collection O Corazón Del Café Hotel Boutique

For travelers seeking a luxurious experience in Comitan, Collection O Corazón Del Café Hotel Boutique is the perfect choice. This upscale hotel boasts elegant rooms with stylish furnishings and deluxe amenities. Check rates here.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Where to Stay in Comitán

Chiapas Itinerary Day 9: Explore Lagos Montebello

Next day, do another day trip from Comitán to Lagos de Montebello, a gorgeous medley of lakes and pine forests close to the Guatemala border. The reserve contains 59 multicolored lakes, a vast expanse of forest, Mayan ruins and a multitude of wildlife. 

See also  20 Best Beaches in Baja California

UNESCO designated the 6,000 hectare area a Biosphere Reserve in 2009. Lake Tziscao is the largest of the lakes in Lagunas de Montebello National Park, and the closest to the border with Guatemala. There are cabins for overnight stays and opportunities to kayak and swim in the lakes. Book a tour to Lagos de Montebello here.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Lagos Montebello

Chiapas Itinerary Day 10: Head back to Tuxtla Gutierrez

On the last day of your Chiapas road trip, head back to the capital of Chiapas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez for your flight home. The city’s name means “place of rabbits” in Nahuatl, a nod to its indigenous heritage. Its bustling streets hum with life, complemented by a warm and inviting climate that draws visitors year-round. At the heart of its downtown lies the Zocalo or Civic Plaza, where the city’s pulse beats strongest.

The city is home to historic landmarks like the Whitewashed Catedral de San Marcos and the Palacio de Gobierno. The Plaza de San Marcos buzzes with vendors selling arts and crafts. It is the best place to buy a souvenir to remember your Chiapas road trip.

Chiapas Itinerary Day 10: Tuxtla Gutierrez

Where to Go After Chiapas

Campeche

Located in the Yucatán Peninsula, Campeche has a captivating blend of historical richness and natural splendor. Its allure lies in a harmonious fusion of culture and wilderness, offering a plethora of attractions to behold. The echoes of ancient Mayan civilizations resonate through the ruins of its majestic cities, while its colonial charm will leave history buffs mesmerized.

From the Miguel Colorado cenotes and the vast Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, there is plenty to do here especially for nature lovers. For the beach bums, the idyllic sand pits of Isla Arena and Playa Bonita are ideal for sunbathing and swimming. Mangroves, jungles, rivers, and lagoons paint a picturesque backdrop, inviting you to explore its hidden treasures.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Campeche

Yucatan

Chiapas has several Mayan ruins but it doesn’t quite compare to Yucatan. Yucatan is home to the famous Chichén Itzá and Uxmal. Chumul, Sayil, and Ek Balam are also worthwhile archaeological sites to visit in Yucatan.

There’s a reason why we used to live in the Yucatan Peninsula. Yucatan’s blend of a rich history and beautiful beaches is what makes this region one of the most visited states in Mexico. Here are some of the best things to do in Yucatan.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Yucatan

Oaxaca

Oaxaca has a rich blend of history, gastronomy, and indigenous culture, casting an enchanting spell on all who wander its cobbled streets. This cultural mecca, adorned with majestic churches and elegant plazas, proudly wears its UNESCO World Heritage badge, a testament to its rich heritage.

Here, the essence of Zapotec and colonial legend intertwines seamlessly, painting a picture of resilience and tradition. Beyond this façade lies a city pulsating with life, where every corner whispers tales of a storied past. Read my list of things to do in Oaxaca City and My 10-Day Oaxaca Itinerary.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Oaxaca

Chiapas Travel Guide

Best Time to Travel Chiapas

Thanks to its location in the central highlands of Mexico, Chiapas is blessed with a pleasant spring-like climate all year round. In general, any time of the year is great to visit as Chiapa’s climate doesn’t vary too much throughout the year, with average high temperatures hovering between 73°F (23°C) and 88°F (31°C) no matter the season.

But we would recommend visiting Chiapas between November and April when there’s less rainfall than in the summer months. We visited in March and the weather was glorious. It was always sunny, but the high altitude meant a very dry climate.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Best Time to Travel Chiapas

How Much Does a Chiapas Trip Cost?

Your trip to Chiapas will not break the bank. It’s one of the cheapest regions in Mexico. You can find really affordable accommodation here, and day tours are reasonably-priced. On my Chiapas road trip, I spent around $101 ($1,677 MXN) per day — $23 ($391 MXN) on meals, $32 ($536 MXN) on buses and taxis, and $93 ($1,548 MXN) on hotels.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - How Much Does a Chiapas Trip Cost?

Is It Safe to Visit Chiapas?

An armed insurgency by the Zapatistas ( a socialist militant group) in the ’90s that went on until recently, made the Mexican army a fixture in the region. It crippled the development of the state, making it one of the poorest in the country. However, thanks to the increased police presence, San Cristobal has become of the safest cities in Mexico.

You will be safe if you stick to popular tourist destinations such as San Juan Chamula, Palenque, Comitan, and San Cristobal de las Casas. Also, you should always stay up to date with travel advisories.

10-day Chiapas itinerary - Is It Safe to Visit Chiapas?

Driving Tips in Chiapas

  • In Mexico, you drive on the right side of the road.
  • Roads in Chiapas are notorious for their portholes, watch out for the ‘TOPE’ sign.
  • Some roads in Chiapas (such as the one from Palenque to San Cristobal) are not safe. Make sure you check with locals before driving.
  • Always keep your driving license, car rental papers, and proof of insurance handy.
  • The main road hazards are reckless drivers; they tend to go very fast, changing lanes as and when they like without signaling. Be wary of these drivers and keep calm!
  • Avoid driving at night as you won’t be able to see the speed bumps and drivers go even faster than usual.
10-day Chiapas itinerary - Driving Tips in Chiapas

Chiapas Road Trip Tips

I hope you’ve found this Chiapas itinerary useful. Chiapas will surprise even the most seasoned traveler. Feel free to leave a comment below if you need any help with planning your Chiapas road trip.

For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!


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10-day Chiapas itinerary

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