Thursday, June 29, 2017

San Cristóbal de las Casas

Tourism in Mexico is down, including San Cris. Usually, North Americans vacation at the Mexican beaches and don't realize the beauty of the pias adentro, country inside.  More than 60% of Mexico is 5000 feet above sea level and there are numerous old colonial cities throughout.

San Cris epitomizes all the charm of Mexican colonial cities. It is over 7000 feet above sea level, has historical landmarks, and el centro is a tourist mecca with shops and restaurants and tour agencies. The downfall is it's not so easy to get to.  Coming from the US you have to fly into Mexico City, then to Tuxtla Gutierrez, then take a taxi or bus 1.5 hours up into the Highlands.  From Tucson, I'd be thrilled if I could get here in 12 hours, however it is usually an average 15-hour day of travel.

Despite the 3 plane rides and taxiing here, its worth the visit.  The climate is cool in the evening and early morning, the sun is brilliant and strong during the day and right now we are getting afternoon showers. The flora and fauna are a mix of pine forest, similar to the Pacific Northwest, with desert cacti and agave plants. The local Mayan wear their traditional and fashionable textiles daily and you can learn to recognize which outlying village they are from by the clothes they wear.

El Centro has colonial structures including elaborate churches from the 16th century.  Even older Mayan ruins; Toniná is 2 and a half hours away and if you want a full day excursion you can go to Palenque, one of the most impressive ruins in Maya Mundo. To learn about the local Mayan textiles and culture, Don Sergio's tour is a must, however, he will only give it if he has a larger group and there is also a nice Textile Museum adjacent to Santo Domingo church. (If you do go to Don Sergio's tour, please donate generously - reading this blog will inspire you.)


Atop of Toniná.

Lastly, Bela's Bed and Breakfast is the most charming place to stay in San Cris. For me, this is my San Cris home. The rooms are decorated with local artesanía textiles and crafts and I get to feast my eyes on a beautiful garden and planted succulents when walking downstairs to the salon for breakfast al gusto that always includes fresh squeezed orange juice. Last year Bela added a room with a loft that has a king bed on the bottom floor and 2 twin beds in the loft, perfect for a family with 2 children. The beds are so comfy and the location is perfect: in the el centro zone and one block from the Santo Domingo Church and market.

If you are looking to get off the beaten 'gringo path', but not too far astray, San Cristobal de las Casas is definitely worth the visit.

Posted by Patricia Ferrer.

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