Colonial churches and cobblestone streets, epic mountain scenery, and a unique indigenous culture ensure that San Cristobal de las Casas is one of the most diverse destinations in Mexico.
Visit towering canyons, magnificent cathedrals, and bustling local markets during your stay in the most popular city in Chiapas State. Three days is not enough time to explore all of the museums and natural attractions, but it’s just enough for an adventurous journey through San Cristobal de las Casas’ best attractions.
To inspire your trip to Chiapas, here’s the best way to spend three days in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Best Time to Visit San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is located at an altitude of 2,200 meters (7,200 feet), so despite being the tourist capital of Mexico’s most southerly state (the humid, tropical climes of Central America are just a few hours drive away), the city has a rather pleasant, temperate climate throughout the year.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t get hot here; and in the summer months of May, June, and July temperatures can regularly exceed 30°C (86°F) in the daytime. The rest of the year is much cooler, with winter temperatures averaging around 20°C (68°F) and dropping to lows that occasionally fall below freezing on the coldest of nights.
Compared to the heat of the lowlands and beaches, visiting San Cristobal de las Casas is a welcome escape from Mexico’s heat and humidity for many travelers. For the coolest, driest temperatures, the best time to visit San Cristobal de las Casas is between November and April. During the summer, temperatures not only rise but so does the rainfall. August to November sees more rainfall than the winter but not nearly as much as the summer, and it can be a great shoulder season for anyone looking to visit San Cristobal de las Casas with few other tourists around.
How to Get Around San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas might be a hilly city, but once you’re used to the cobblestone streets and sharp ascents underfoot, you’ll realize that the easiest way to get around is on foot.
The central areas are laid down in a colonial-style grid system, with the cathedral and zocalo at the center. From here, it’s easy to visit all of the city’s major markets, churches, and museums without ever having to jump into a taxi.
Of course, if you’re not up for walking all day, every day, then you can hire a driver, rent a bicycle from your hostel or hotel, or use the local colectivos. For day trips further afield, it’s often best to either rent a car or join an organized tour, as public transport is irregular.
Where to Stay in San Cristobal de las Casas
The best places to stay in San Cristobal de las Casas are going to be within walking distance of the zocalo or close to the main tourist street of Real de Guadalupe, where there are restaurants, bars, cafés, and shops to be found in abundance.
This is very much a colonial-era city, and many of the best hotels and hostels are located within historic buildings, often with a lovely central plaza and colorful décor. There are lots of wonderful boutique hotels, including the Sereno Art Hotel and Hotel Parador Margarita.
If you’re wondering where to stay in San Cristobal de las Casas on a budget, then don’t worry, because this is a backpacker-friendly city. Popular hostels to socialize at include Rossco Backpackers Hostels or Planet Hostel, while Puerta Vieja Hostel is a great choice if you’re looking for a beer garden as well as workstations and high-speed Wi-Fi to help you live that digital nomad lifestyle.
For more accommodation options in San Cristobal de las Casas check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 3-Day San Cristobal de las Casas Itinerary
Exploring San Cristobal de las Casas in three days is certainly a challenge, because the most popular city in Chiapas has more than enough sights and attractions to keep you busy for at least a week, if not longer.
Our three-day San Cristobal de las Casas travel itinerary is a great way to see the most important destinations in and around the city, while we’ve also included a day trip to the outstanding Sumidero Canyon in the plan.
Without further ado, here’s how to make the most of 72 hours in San Cristobal de las Casas.
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Day 1 in San Cristobal de las Casas
The first day has to be spent exploring the best places to visit in San Cristobal de las Casas, including the all-important churches, cathedrals, and local markets. You’ll get a sense of colonial Spanish history, as well as the enduring indigenous culture that prevails throughout the city. We recommend joining a walking tour in the morning, exploring by yourself in the afternoon, then enjoying alfresco drinks and dining in the evening on Real de Guadalupe.
Catedral de San Cristobal de las Casas
If you’re wondering what to do in San Cristobal de las Casas in three days when you first arrive, then take a stroll to the zocalo. Here, in the center of the city, you’ll find the Catedral de San Cristobal de las Casas.
This historic cathedral dates back to the 16th century, and while it’s often under renovation and being repaired, the public space outside is a famously busy meeting point. Next to the cross in front of the cathedral, you’ll be able to join walking tours through the city, while musicians play in the square and street vendors serve up spicy snacks.
Walking Tour of San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is best explored on foot, but there’s no better way to see the city than with a local guide. Tip-based walking tours leave regularly from the cross by the cathedral, but, of course, you can arrange private tours with local guides, too.
On a walking tour, you’ll see the best of San Cristobal de las Casas, including iconic churches such as Iglesia de Santo Domingo, artisan markets, and textile museums, as well as hidden eateries, cantinas, and plenty of street art and murals.
A walking tour will take a good few hours, but it’s a great way to get to know San Cristobal de las Casas on your first day in the city.
Explore the Markets
After your walking tour, you’ll know where the best markets are in San Cristobal de las Casas, but you’ll need more time to actually explore them. Spend the afternoon drifting through San Cristobal de las Casas’ best mercados, taking in local life and picking up a few souvenirs on the way.
Next to Iglesia de Santo Domingo, there’s a popular handicraft market that’s known for its indigenous textiles and jewelry. Pick up some colorful yet warm clothing for the cold San Cristobal de las Casas evenings, or barter for amber and jade products at the many stalls.
The city’s main market is the Mercado Municipal, which is the busiest market in San Cristobal de las Casas. This sprawling complex is an excellent place to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, as well hand-pressed tortillas and jars of fresh salsa.
Real de Guadalupe
One of the best things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas is to spend an evening on Real de Guadalupe. This is one of the city’s main thoroughfares, and for a large section, starting by the zocalo and heading east, it’s mostly pedestrianized.
Some of the city’s best café, bars, and restaurants can be found along Real de Guadalupe, and as soon as the sun sets the musicians and bands appear in force to liven up the mood. Enjoy an alfresco dinner of tapas and wine, or just take a stroll and gorge on street snacks along the way.
Day 2 in San Cristobal de las Casas
The second day of your weekend in San Cristobal de las Casas is going to be spent immersing yourself in the city’s indigenous past and present. While the streets and churches are undeniably colonial in appearance, the Spanish-style architecture hides the local cultures and customs that have been a part of Chiapas for thousands of years. Join local tour guides on an excursion to nearby villages in the morning before visiting indigenous-focused museums in the city in the afternoon.
Chamula and Zinacantan
San Cristobal de las Casas is highly regarded for its colonial architecture, but head just outside the city, and in the surrounding hills you’ll find indigenous communities that called Chiapas home long before the conquistadors arrived.
In the villages of Chamula and Zinacantan, the communities blend age-old practices with newer, Catholic traditions. You’ll need a local guide to fully appreciate the nuances, but step inside the church, for example, and you’ll quickly realize that the local religion is far removed from any form of Catholicism you see elsewhere in Mexico. Ceremonies involve large quantities of the local grain alcohol, as well as copious amounts of fireworks.
In Zinacantan, it’s possible to meet with local textile weavers. You may already have seen their products for sale in the markets in San Cristobal de las Casas, but in the village, you can buy straight from the producer or just take the time to see how elegant indigenous garments are carefully woven together.
Tours generally take in both Chamula and Zinacantan and offer an excellent insight into local history and traditions.
Casa Na Bolom
After visiting the indigenous villages in the hills around San Cristobal de las Casas, head to Casa Na Bolom when you’re back in the city to learn more about the wider indigenous world in Chiapas.
Casa Na Bolom (which means the House of the Jaguar), was one of the first museums in Mexico dedicated to preserving the history and culture of indigenous communities. The focus is on the Lacandon Maya, a group that has traditionally lived in Central America and southern Mexico.
The museum actively supports local community projects while also functioning as an impressive library and cultural center within San Cristobal de las Casas.
Sergio Castro Museum
Sergio Castro is quite the legend in San Cristobal de las Casas because he has spent his life helping those less fortunate by running a rustic and underfunded medical center that provides care to indigenous communities in San Cristobal de las Casas.
At the same time, Castro has amassed an array of indigenous clothing and textiles from across Chiapas that he has on display at his home-turned-museum. Every indigenous group in the region has its own unique, and often colorful garments, and Castro has a selection from almost every community.
A visit to the museum is by appointment only as Castro also provides medical services in the same building where the museum is found. Any proceeds from the small museum go towards buying medical supplies so that he can continue his work.
Day 3 in San Cristobal de las Casas
It’s your final day in San Cristobal de las Casas, and while there’s still a lot that you can see and do in the city itself, we recommend taking a day trip for the third day. That’s because, while you’re staying in San Cristobal de las Casas, you have the chance to see one of Mexico’s most spectacular natural features, the stunning Sumidero Canyon. It’ll take the whole day, but it’ll be well worth it.
The Sumidero Canyon is easily one of Chiapas’ most outstanding natural attractions. Join a boat tour and cruise along the water beneath the canyon’s towering walls, which in many places reach heights of up to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet).
Along the way, you’re likely to spot crocodiles lazing on the banks of the river, while the trees are full of rare birdlife and wildlife. The Sumidero Canyon is a 1.5-hour drive from San Cristobal de las Casas, and the easiest way to visit is on an organized tour from the city.
Chiapa de Corzo
On the way to Sumidero Canyon, it’s easy to stop off in the historic town of Chiapa de Corzo. Many of the Sumidero Canyon tours from San Cristobal de las Casas include Chiapa de Corzo in the itinerary, and the town is well known for its blend of colonial architecture and indigenous customs.
Chiapa de Corzo was the first town in Chiapas to be conquered by the Spanish conquistadors, but while they built churches in the Moorish-style and colorful colonial plazas, the indigenous beliefs and traditions never disappeared.
Day 4 and Beyond
You can visit the best museums, churches, and even the Sumidero Canyon with three days in the city, but you’ll find that many travelers end up spending weeks in San Cristobal de las Casas. Not only is it a budget-friendly city, it’s a great base from which to explore the wider Chiapas region.
The fourth day and beyond can take you to the nearby, green surrounds of El Arcotete, a nature preserve that’s full of walking trails and rope bridges. You can also visit the city’s botanic gardens, or you can delve deeper into the indigenous culture with a trip to Oventic, a Zapatista-run village in the mountains.
Further afield, there are endless day trips to be had. There are caves and nature preserves; the famous Lagunas de Montebello (Montebello Lakes), which are located close to the Guatemalan border; the waterfalls and cascades of El Chiflon; and the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque.
From a cultural immersion in the indigenous villages of Chamula and Zinacantan to a day spent spotting crocodiles in the depths of the Sumidero Canyon, any San Cristobal de las Casas itinerary is guaranteed to be absorbing and action-packed.
And if you’ve got time to spare, then a quick three-day city break can easily turn into a week-long expedition as you head further afield in search of lakes and waterfalls. Pack your bags, and enjoy the best that San Cristobal de las Casas has to offer!