In the last week of my trip, I decided to make a sprint to cover as much ground as I could. The first step was a tour of the southern state of Chiapas. Chiapas is much less developed than the rest of the country and is home to many indigenous populations and lots of Mayan ruins.
On day one, I took a bus out to the Usumacinta river, which forms the border between Mexico and Guatemala. From there, you ride 45 minutes in a boat to the remote Mayan ruins of Yaxchilan. The site contains impressive ruins, with palaces and temples bordering a large plaza upon a terrace above the Usumacinta River.
That same day, I toured another Mayan ruins site named Bonampak, known for its well preserved murals inside the temples.
On my second day, I visited the yet more impressive Mayan ruins site of Palenque. The city was active from about 200 BC – 800 AD. Though not as large as other Maya sites such as Tikal or Chichen Itza, it contains some of the finest architecture, sculpture, roof comb and bas-relief carvings that the Mayas produced.
Over the centuries, the site was absorbed into the jungle of cedar, mahogany, and sapodilla trees. While extensive excavation has been done, only about 10% of the site has been unearthed, with an estimated 1000 structures still covered by jungle.
After touring some gorgeous waterfalls, I then headed through the winding mountain roads onward to San Cristobal de las Casas, considered by many to be the cultural capital of Chiapas.
The drive from Palenque to San Cristobal really shows how little development there is in Chiapas. These small roadside towns are a frequent sight.
The drive takes you through endlessly winding mountain roads, which are both nauseating and beautiful.
Occasionally you have to stop for, well, traffic:
San Cristobal de las Casas, the cultural gem of Chiapas. The city’s center maintains its Spanish colonial layout and much of its architecture, with red tile roofs, cobblestone streets and wrought iron balconies often with flowers.
Bet you can't eat just one ;)
The locals can be a little noisy at times though:
I spent precious little time exploring San Cristobal itself, taking day trips on each of my two days there. On the first day, I went to the small town of Chiapa de Corzo, a feat which is accomplished by taking a collective taxi/bus to the outskirts of the town, crossing six lanes of highway on foot, and taking another collective taxi into town. From there, you can walk to the docks and take a boat tour of the Sumidero Canyon. The canyon walls reach a height of up to 3300 feet.
The next day, I toured yet more waterfalls and lakes.
Up next, I've got only one weekend left in Mexico. And so the sprint will continue to my final destination, San Luis Potosi's "Huasteca"