Chiapas is an incredible region in Mexico that has a lot of incredible natural attractions yet is very little known. Along with La Huasteca Potosina, Chiapas is one of the best-hidden gems of Mexico!
Turquoise blue waterfalls, ancient Mayan ruins hidden in the jungle, and colorful colonial cities are just a few of the things that make the Chiapas region so special.
Plus traveling in Chiapas is RIDICULOUSLY cheap with most tours and entrance fees costing just a few bucks. But finding information on this region can be a bit challenging, especially in English.
After spending a few weeks traveling through Chiapas we have rounded up all the top attractions to visit in this area – plus a map of Chiapas pinpointing exactly where these places are located.
If you are planning a trip to Chiapas, Mexico – here are 10 of the best things to see and do in this area:
- 1. El Aguacero Waterfall
- 2. Sumidero Canyon
- 3. San Cristóbal De Las Casas City
- 4. El Chiflón Waterfalls
- 5. Lagunas De Montebello National Park
- 6. Yaxchilán Ruins
- 7. Las Golondrinas Waterfall
- 8. Agua Azul Waterfall
- 9. Misol-Há Waterfall
- 10. Palenque Ruins
We visited most of these locations while driving from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Palenque. In this post, I have listed out the attractions in the order that we visited them.
Best Things To See & Do In Chiapas, Mexico:
1. El Aguacero Waterfall
The first location that we visited in the Chiapas region was El Aguacero waterfall. The El Aguacero waterfall is located 2 hours west of San Cristóbal de las Casas and we camped here for a few nights before heading into the city.
Centro Turístico El Aguacero is a natural protected area along the La Venta River that includes a canyon, the El Aguacero waterfall, and caves.
Visitors have to climb down 700 steep steps into the canyon to reach this waterfall but once you get there, you are rewarded with incredible views that feel like a hidden tropical paradise.
The main attraction here is the El Aguacero waterfall inside the deeply carved canyon along with some unique trees. Even in the winter season, this waterfall was quite lush and powerful creating mist from far away. Visitors can also go up close to the El Aguacero waterfall and explore the cave systems behind it.
When we visited El Aguacero waterfall the La Venta River itself was pretty low on water so we couldn’t jump in for a swim. But with the low water level, we were able to walk up and down the river to explore the canyon from the bottom.
At the top of the canyon is a little tourist office where visitors can park for a small fee. Here you can also find a restaurant and bathrooms that are included with the entrance fee.
We actually ended up staying here overnight in our custom-built campervan as we arrived pretty late and didn’t have much daylight left. This tourist office felt super safe and had a gate that gets locked at night.
- Location: Cañón Río La Venta, cascada El Aguacero
- Cost: 25 pesos per person ($1 USD – did I already mention how crazy cheap this region is?!)
- Hours: 9 am to 5 pm
2. Sumidero Canyon
The next stop on our Chiapas trip was Sumidero Canyon.
Sumidero Canyon is an expansive canyon along the El Sumidero River that can only be accessed by boat. Guided tours of this canyon can be arranged by local tour companies in Chiapa De Corzo city.
Don't want to rent a car in Mexico and drive there yourself? Then check out this Sumidero Canyon tour from San Cristobal de las Casas that covers transporation, entrance fees and a boat tour of the canyon!
Sumidero Canyon is one of the most popular locations in the Chiapas region and gets quite a lot of visitors (mostly local).
A tour of the Sumidero Canyon costs around 230 pesos ($12 USD) per person which is expensive for Chiapas – but still relatively cheap.
During the 2-hour-long Sumidero Canyon tour, you can expect to see waterfalls along the canyon walls, caves, and some wildlife such as spider monkeys and crocodiles.
With giant towering walls, the scale of this canyon just takes your breath away – kind of similar to the Grand Canyon in the US.
Keep in mind that boat tours of the Sumidero Canyon are pretty exposed to the sun offering very little shade so make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and bring drinking water with you.
- Location: Embarcadero Chiapa de Corzo
- Cost: Around 230 pesos ($12 USD) per person for a boat tour
- Hours: Tours start at around 10 am
3. San Cristóbal De Las Casas City
By the time we reached San Cristóbal De Las Casas city in Chiapas, we had been on the road for nearly 4 months driving in our campervan across Mexico. We decided to park our van in San Cristóbal for a few days and relax with our friends.
San Cristóbal is a beautiful colonial city full of colorful houses and narrow historic streets.
The first thing that stood out to us about San Cristóbal was that this city was packed full of backpackers and tourists. There aren’t too many big cities in Chiapas so many people make San Cristóbal de las Casas their home base while visiting this region.
San Cristóbal is a very tourist-friendly town. Here visitors can find a ton of awesome hotels, hostels, trendy restaurants, bakeries, and bars. My favorite place in town was La Viña de Bacco wine bar where for $1 USD you can get a wine glass plus a tapa – a price that’s hard to beat!
It’s easy to spend a few days in San Cristóbal De Las Casas hanging out and recharging while also enjoying amazing food and a fun, friendly atmosphere.
- Location: San Cristóbal De Las Casas
4. El Chiflón Waterfalls
When we arrived in Chiapas we did not expect to see so many beautiful waterfalls. We had just spent a few weeks exploring La Huasteca Potosina region in Mexico that’s kind of the hub for blue waterfalls. To our surprise – we were not done seeing turquoise waterfalls quite yet!
The El Chiflón waterfall in Chiapas is one of the most magnificent waterfalls that I have ever visited. Located about 2.5 hours southeast of San Cristóbal de las Casas, it’s well worth it to arrange a day tour to El Chiflón waterfall from there.
The El Chiflón waterfall is located on a long turquoise blue river along with a few other smaller waterfalls like Cascada El Suspiro and Cascada Quinceañera.
As one of the biggest attractions in Chiapas, the El Chiflón waterfall is NOT a hidden gem that you stumble upon in the Mexico jungle. This waterfall has quite the operation set up around it with paved trails leading there, giant viewing platforms, and restaurants.
The El Chiflón waterfall is by far the biggest highlight of this park but it does require a bit of walking to get to its viewpoint. If you’ve got the energy, you can even hike to an overlook at the top of El Chiflón waterfall with beautiful panoramic views along the way.
- Location: Centro Ecoturistico Cascadas el Chiflón
- Cost: 30 pesos ($1.50)
- Hours: 7 am to 6 pm
5. Lagunas De Montebello National Park
Lagunas De Montebello National Park is an expansive park on the Mexico-Guatemala border that is home to almost 60 different lakes.
Tziscao is the biggest lake at Lagunas De Montebello National Park and this is where we camped for a few days while exploring this area.
Tziscao Lake is located right on the border between Mexico and Guatemala and this lake is split between both countries. Along the Tziscao Lake, you can even walk up to a sign that says “Welcome to Guatemala” although we didn’t see any guards or border crossing offices here.
Lago Pojoj is the most scenic of all the lakes in this area.
Lago Pojoj has super clear blue water and visitors can rent these little boats that will take you to a small island in the middle of the lake.
At Lagunas de Montebello National Park you can also find some cool overlooks and hiking trails offering amazing panoramic views of the surrounding lakes.
Lagunas De Montebello National Park is best explored in your own car but there are day tours like this one that you can arrange from San Cristóbal de las Casas.
Location: Parque Nacional Lagunas de Montebello
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6. Yaxchilán Ruins
Yaxchilán Ruins was one of the coolest and most unexpected Mayan archeological sites that we visited in Mexico.
Located on the Usumacinta River by the Mexico-Guatemala border, Yaxchilán Ruins can only be accessible by boat. It takes about 4 hours to tour the Yaxchilán Archeological Site including an hour of transfer there and back.
What I love about the Yaxchilán Ruins is that this whole ancient Mayan city is surrounded by a dense jungle so you get some really awesome Indiana Jones vibes during your visit.
As we explored the Yaxchilán Ruins we hiked through overgrown paths, heard howler monkeys in the distance, saw colorful toucan birds, and stumbled upon bats flying out of old hidden Mayan huts.
Boat tours to Yaxchilán Ruins can be arranged by local tour companies in Frontera Corozal town. This tour costs around 300 pesos per person/$15 USD (depending on your negotiation skills) and most tour companies ask for payment in cash.
Frontera Corozal town itself is very small so most visitors don’t actually stay here and use Palenque as their home base.
- Location: Archaeological Site of Yaxchilán
- Hours: 8 am to 5 pm
- Cost: Around 300 pesos ($15 USD) per person
If you don’t plan to rent a car in Mexico, you can book a tour of the Yaxchilán and Bonampak Ruins from Palenque that includes transportation, guides, meals and entrace fees to the ruins!
7. Las Golondrinas Waterfall
After visiting the Yaxchilán Mayan ruins, we were making our way toward Palenque while stopping at a few different waterfalls.
The first spot on our “waterfall bucket list” was Las Golondrinas, a beautiful waterfall just an hour away from Yaxchilán Archeological Site.
The Las Golondrinas waterfall is one of the lesser-known waterfalls in Chiapas for international visitors but is highly popular among locals, especially for swimming.
When we came here Las Golondrinas waterfall was packed with families hanging out by the river, camping, cooking and doing some cliff jumping.
This waterfall is named Golondrinas which in English means “swallows”. If you come at the right time during sunset you can see swallow birds fly into the caves behind the waterfalls.
- Location: Cascadas Las Golondrinas
- Cost: Around 40 pesos ($2 USD)
- Hours: 6 am to 6 pm
8. Agua Azul Waterfall
If there is one waterfall that you should visit in Chiapas, the Agua Azul waterfall is that spot. Located an hour and a half south of Palenque, Agua Azul waterfall is one of the most beautiful attractions in this entire region.
Agua Azul waterfall is located on the Rio Xanil River and it is popular for its beautiful turquoise blue color – which sometimes does change after heavy rainfall.
Agua Azul Park consists of a stunning series of cascading waterfalls and turquoise-blue swimming pools. But as one of the most beautiful attractions in Chiapas, the Agua Azul waterfall is very touristy and does get crowded.
After paying a small entrance fee of 40 pesos ($2 USD) we reached Arroyo Agua Azul, a mini-town built to cater to Agua Azul visitors. Here you can park your car and find lots of food options, campgrounds, souvenir stalls, paved trails, and multiple viewpoints of the waterfalls.
The only bad part about this area when we visited was that locals blocked off the roads accessing Agua Azul waterfall and demanded a small fee to pass through. Although the fee was nominal (like a couple of dollars), overall they were being pretty hostile toward us and the whole encounter was a bit unnerving.
- Location: Agua Azul Waterfalls
- Cost: 40 pesos ($2 USD) per person
9. Misol-Há Waterfall
Misol-Há is another very popular waterfall in Mexico’s Chiapas region. But unlike the Agua Azul waterfall that’s flatter and super blue in color, Misol-Há plunges down a tall orange-colored cliff.
While you want to avoid visiting Agua Azul waterfall during the rainy season (when the water there isn’t as blue), for Misol-Há the rainy season is the best time to go since the extra rain makes this waterfall look very powerful and lush.
After seeing the Misol-Há waterfall from a viewpoint in the distance, you can go on a beautiful hike right behind it. But to hike this trail make sure to wear sturdy shoes as it does get very slippery from the waterfall mist.
This trail ends at caves behind the waterfall but do note that you will need to pay extra to hire guides and rent headlamps to enter these caves.
- Location: Misol-Ha
- Cost: Around 40 pesos ($2 USD) per person
- Hours: 6:45 am to 7:45 pm
- Misol-Há Tourism website: Misol-Há.com
10. Palenque Ruins
The last, but definitely not the least spot that we visited in Chiapas was Zona Arqueológica Palenque, also called the Palenque Ruins.
As one of the biggest and most impressive North America Landmarks, the Palenque Ruins are a must-see for anyone visiting the Chiapas region!
Zona Arqueológica Palenque is an elaborate ancient Mayan city located in the midst of the Mexico jungle.
The Palenque Ruins are HUGE and even after a few hours of walking around, we kept finding new buildings and pyramids to climb and explore.
Although we didn’t get a guide for this archeological site, I wish we had. These ruins were so big that we felt a bit lost and missed lots of historical background information.
If you plan to visit Palenque Ruins on your own, try to get there as soon as it opens around 8 am. A few hours later this site was packed full of tourists and the weather was getting too hot to enjoy walking around.
- Location: Zona Arqueológica Palenque
- Cost: 70 pesos ($4 USD)
- Hours: 8 am to 4:30 pm
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Interested in stepping up your photography game? Here is the camera gear that I carry everywhere I go to create amazing travel photos:
- Main camera: Sony a7c Camera. The Sony a7c is tiny, light, full-frame, and durable – in other words, amazing!
- Polarizer Filter: Hoya 40.5 mm Filter. Polarizing filters reduce glare in water, protect the lens from getting scratched and bring out the best colors when it’s bright outside. Having a polarizing filter is a must-have if you plan to photograph lakes, oceans, rivers, and waterfalls.
- Wide Lens: Sony 16-35 mm F4. Great for capturing wide panoramas, nature landscapes, and cramped city streets. Mounts to any Sony mirrorless camera and features autofocus, image stabilization, and incredibly sharp images.
- Lightweight Travel Tripod: Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Tripod. A good tripod is essential for capturing images in low light conditions, such as during sunset and sunrise, or creating smooth water effects when shooting waterfalls. The Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod is very sturdy, light, and folds small so you can take it on all of your adventures!
- Memory Cards: SanDisk Extreme 256 GB. It’s always good to bring a few extra memory cards on trips. SanDisk Extreme is ultra-fast for capturing high-quality images, bursts, long exposure night shots, and 4k videos. This memory card is also durable and reliable yet very affordable.
- Camera Batteries: Wasabi Power Battery Set. I’ve made the mistake of getting to a location to realize my camera is out of battery. Always keep your batteries charged with this camera charger set.
- Camera Bag: Lowepro adventure shoulder bag. A camera bag is something you should definitely invest in! Without having a proper place to store it I would get my camera scratched, sandy, or even occasionally drop it.
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