San Cristobal de Las Casas is a small colonial city in the Mexican state of Chiapas, it is 2,200 meters above sea level and absolutely beautiful!
The cross into Guatemala from San Cris was relatively easy and a well trekked route but there are a few extra precautions to take due to Covid. Save this post if you plan on taking this trip yourself.
Here’s how to do it:
🎫 Purchase a shuttle ticket in San Cristobal de Las Casas and be sure to do this in advance – they are currently doing limited trips.
🦠 Get a PCR or Antigen test for Covid-19 no more than 72 hours before you are due to cross the border. Make sure you have TWO printed copies of the test with you.
- You’ll be picked up from your accomodation in San Cris between 8 – 9am depending on how many people they have to pick up before you. Make sure you are ready to go at 8am, they won’t wait!
- You’ll drive for two hours then make a stop at an Oxxo for food and the bathroom if you need it.
- Next stop is Mexican immigration. Here they’ll check you haven’t overstayed your visa, if you’re a tourist, and they’ll stamp you out of Mexico. If you have overstayed they’ll charge you a fee.
- Now you’ll drive 10 – 15 minutes to the Guatemalan border. You’re going to change shuttles here so you’ll need to carry your bags from the parking lot across the border to the immigration office in Guatemala – it’s only about 300 meters.
- At immigration in Guatemala first you’ll enter a temporary building and hand over your Covid test results. They’ll also take your temperature and ask a few questions. Once this is done they’ll give you a note to take to the official immigration office.
- The immigration officer will take a copy of your test results, the note from the Covid checker person and issue your visa. We are kiwi and American and both got 90 day visas, free.
- Once you’re all cleared by immigration it’s time to get into your new shuttle and drive the rest of the way to your destination in Guatemala. We went to Panajachel, and after clearing customs, it was roughly a 6 hour drive with one stop for food. We arrived in Panajachel at 8pm, exactly 12 hours after we left San Cris
- That’s it, you did it!
Watch the video here ↓
Back Strap Loom Weaving has been practiced since pre-Hispanic times. I gave it go in San Cristobal de las Casas, and let’s just say I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon!
This beautiful tradition and craft has been handed down generations.
Depending on the size and intricacy of the design it can take anywhere from days to months to complete a piece.
It’s a fairly simple process and device but is by no means easy! You are essentially creating a grid pattern of interlocking yarns.
A loom is used to facilitate the weaving process, by providing a means of tensioning.
The artisan usually kneels on the ground to weave. By moving their body, the weaver can control the amount of tension in the warp yarns throughout the weaving process.
- Cotton is threaded onto skeins
- Thread is selected with the patterns and colors of the final textile in mind.
- Once the thread is rolled, the design is painstakingly layered on the uridora, or warp board.
- The artisan establishes the final length and width of the piece. With the blackstrap technique the width is limited so this is usually used for small textiles like belts, bags, table runner, trim etc.
- The warped thread is carefully transferred to the back strap loom.
- One end of the loom is tied to a tree, post, or wall. The other end is wrapped around the back of the artisan (hence blackstrap loom)
- You can increase or decrease tension by rocking forward or backward.
- The entire process and pattern is kept in the memory of the artisan, there are no written patterns or guides used.
San Cristóbal de las Casas, the main hub for the state of Chiapas, is somewhere we know we will back to. It is full of beautiful architecture, nature and plenty of culture.
Here are our top things to do in San Cristobal de las Casa (or San Cris for short):
Visit the. “José Castillo Tielemans” Market
Want to get a real taste for San Cris, this is where you’ll find it- there is everything from handicrafts to mountains of shrimp, fresh. fruit and vegetables, candles for religious ceremony and more. Whether you are interested in shopping or not we strongly suggest you take at least one stroll through the winding alleys of this market.
This was the first thing we did in San Cris and was hands down the best tour we’ve had in Mexico.
We explored the techniques of a whole range of artisans and producers – from textiltes to food and alcohol. We learnt what makes them unique from the rest; and were immersed in the handmade scene of San Cristobal.
Along the way we visited:
To get a look at local life, understand how and where the goods we were buying came from.
A recycled paper plant
Here they make paper from plant fiber, recycled or unwanted paper and cardboard and turn it into beautiful woodblock prints, books, notebooks, diaries, you name it. During our visit we learnt about the whole process of how the paper is made and were given a piece to take home with us.
Cheese, chocolate and coffee makers
What more could you ask for really?! Each were different stops and were equally delicious – the amount of cheese, chocolate and coffee we tried was insane!
If you haven’t heard of pulque before it’s often referred to as the “healthy” alcohol or the drink of the gods. The pre-hispanic drink is another product from the agave, it is fermented which produces a is thick and viscous drink that can substitute as a meal. Its produced and consumed mainly in states of central Mexico, such as Tlaxcala, State of Mexico, Puebla, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí but as part of this experience you’ll be taken to a hidden gem in San Cris so you can. try pulque in Chiapas.
Visit indigenous villages
Interesting facts about the villages:
- they have their own police force
- the villages rule autonomously
- they have their own customs
- they have their own traditional dress
- they have their own holidays and celebrations
San Juan Chamula
A village just out of San Cris with a high indigenous population where shamanism is believed in and practised.
In Chamula you’ll inevitably visit the main church where stepping inside is unlike anything we’d ever experienced before. The church is covered in thousands and thousands of candles (literally), with different colours and meanings, and the ground is covered in pine needles. People are huddled in groups, some engaging in sacrificial practices and prayers.
Another interesting site in San Juan Chamula is the cemetery, which doesn’t have colourful headstones or tombs like others you’ll see across Mexico, just mounds covered in pine needs and crosses of different colours signalling the age of the person that has been laid to rest there.
Another small village close to San Cris with a population that’s 99.1 percent Tzotzil Maya.
As you approach the village from the mountain the slopes surrounding the village are full of greenhouses growing flowers of which the village is famous for.
In Zinacantan you can witness a more colourful cemetery, 2,700m high with the most amazing view over the town. The Mayans believe that after you die you remain part of the community and from the mountain you can overlook what’s going on.
There is also an option to visit some artisans in Zinacantán, we were lucky enough to visit twice – the first on an AirBnB experience and the second with a friend from San Cris. On our second trip we visited the home of a local family and I was able to try the back strap loom (I don’t think I’ll quit my day job!).
Please note: you cannot take photos in the churches of either Chamula or Zinacantán and you should be very wary of taking photos without permission outside of the church as well, although in Zinacantán you will be approached a lot to take photos in exchange for cash.
El Chiflon and Montebello Lagos
El Chiflon Waterfalls
A multi-tiered cascade, surrounded by mountains and rainforest.
Advice #1: Bring a change of clothes – you will get wet! Before we started our journey, we grabbed a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant. A bit pricier than San Cristobal but that’s the way it goes when there are no other options.
Advice #2: Do as the locals do, and bring a picnic. There are plenty of places dedicated to just that, or you can find a quaint spot for you. It’s a good walk. I’d say a good km or two (expect an hour long trek).
Advice #3: bring footwear with a grip! Now I saw a guy zooming by in jandals so what you wear is up to you. However, the trail past the first (of 4!) Waterfalls become slippery and uneven. Besides often walking to get that perfect view requires getting dirty; which brings me to –
Advice #4: Bring an extra pair of clothes. So, an hour later (unless you’re Mr. Jandal & enjoy a good speed walk) you will have reach the cherry on top – the 150m waterfall! Where the mist creates rainbows, and the remaining 50m leads to the perfect view towards where you started while drenching you in cascading waters. We did this trip in the winter months so could not jump in the gorgeous river, but –
Advice #5: bring swim gear and a towel.
Don’t feel like walking back? Good, they have several zipline runs (150m, 200m, and 300m) topping @ $200 pesos (~$6 US).
A collection of 52 crystal clear lakes surrounded by pine forest. Here, you can dive into the refreshing blue waters, and even cross in a cayuco (a small, rustic wooden raft).
Pssst you may also want to check out our 10 Things To Do in Every Destination.