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Is it REALLY worth Including San Cristobal in my Yucatan Itinerary

Is it REALLY worth Including San Cristobal in my Yucatan Itinerary

Old Aug 19th, 2017, 05:54 PM
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Is it REALLY worth Including San Cristobal in my Yucatan Itinerary

Hi everyone. I haven't booked anything yet but am thinking about organizing a 7 night trip to the Yucatan in January 2018. The itinerary I'd LIKE to arrange is as follows:

4 nights Playa del Carmen, including a full day tour to Chichen Itza, Valladolid and Ek Balam
3 nights San Cristobal de las Casas, including a very long day trip (and back) to Palenque

The Playa portion of my itinerary is easy and pretty risk free in terms of potential problems. But the San Cristobal portion seems FULL of potential problems and negatives. These include:

1. A non stop 9:00 a.m. flight from Cancun to Tuxla Gutierrez on Viva Aerobus, which gets HORRIBLE Trip Advisor reviews.
2. The very long day trip to Palenque (I know, I should add more time but I'm afraid I have a job)
3. The horrible winding roads into and out of San Cristobal that I've heard of. I am pretty subject to car sickness. I've never taken drammamine so have no idea how well it would work for me.
4. The flight schedule home from Tuxla to Minneapolis, which would have me on 3 flights home and not landing at the MSP airport (assuming everything is on time) until midnight on a work night.

Despite all of the above, I'm having a hard time dropping San Cristobal from my itinerary. Something about it is calling me--perhaps because I envision it to be the Santa Fe of Mexico (although I've never been to Santa Fe either.) It would seem so much easier to just do a 5 or 6 night trip to Playa and spend a few days on the beach with drinks and a couple of other days doing the Chichen Itza circuit and adding in Tulum and Coba.

For those who have been to San Cristobal (this includes you, kja ) is it really worth all of the effort and pains in the ass to get there and then traverse around the area?
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Old Aug 19th, 2017, 06:41 PM
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I can't say whether it will be worth it to you or not. I can say that I loved San Cristobal de las Casas and was very glad to have 2 full days (3 nights) there -- one for the outlying Mayan villages and a bit of San Cristobal and one devoted to San Cristobal.

And I loved Palenque -- easily worth a VERY long day just for the archeological site AND another day for the waterfalls between Palenque and San Cristobal, which I visited by a day-long tour from Palenque.

With a week, I think I'd go for EITHER Playa del Carmen & Valladolid (and maybe another few sites near them) OR San Cristobal & Palenque (and maybe a few other sites near them). Your call!

If you do go to San Cristobal, I highly recommend Bela's B&B. Book WELL in advance, as it is tiny and books up quickly.
http://belasbandb.com/wordpress/

Good luck with your decision!

(P.S. I just finished my TR on Greece. Have a look, if you are so inclined!)
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Old Aug 19th, 2017, 06:52 PM
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Yikes - I'd definitely choose between those 2 areas. Trying to do both will just mean lots of transition days and really diluting your experience. Maybe choose Playa del Carmen this trip and do yourself a favor and stay a night or 2 in Valladolid so you can get to Chichén Itzá as it opens, beating the crowds and the heat. We loved Ek Balám and headed from there to San Felipe for tarpon and flamingos. That would give you time for more cenotes and culture, maybe a visit to the Jungle Place to hang out with spider monkeys.

I stayed 2 weeks in San Cristóbal in 2010 and did a weekend trip to Palenque with stops at the Toniná Maya site plus the Misol Ha and Agua Azul water stops either coming or going. I wouldn't consider a visit to Palenque from San Cris as a day trip - grueling with very little time at the site and you'd miss the stops that were part of the magic. That area would also make a nice 1 week trip.

Have a great visit, whatever you decide.
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Old Aug 19th, 2017, 07:04 PM
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Oh, I should have said -- like hopefulist, I saw Palenque, and the falls, from Palenque. Trying to see that huge and awesome site as a day trip would not have been to my liking.
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Old Aug 19th, 2017, 07:20 PM
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Random thoughts.
I've been to pretty much every highland Colonial city in Mexico, and San Cris is indeed unique. I would not equate it in any way with Santa Fake (and I have been there). More Guatemala-ish than Mexico.
I didn't find the road between San Cris and Palenque particularly curvy or unnerving, but I was driving a rental and don't get carsick when I drive. The highway in the Sierra Gorda in Queretaro was much worse.
Agua Azul, Misol Ha, and Aguas Claras between SC and Palenque are worth the stop.
Palenque may be the most impressive ruins in all of Mexico.
It will be chilly in January, especially at night. But the days can be gloriously sunny.
I wish I had the link handy, but I recall reading a recent PROFECO survey where well-regarded Interjet had more complaints than Viva Aerobus.
I think Tulum is cool, but not so much if it weren't on the beach. Way overcrowded.
I admit that these days I favor Colonial Mexico rather than beachy areas, but that wasn't always the case.
San Cristobal takes effort get to no matter where you start from, but if you have the chance, you should go. Unless you think that next year you'd be able to stay a week or more.
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Old Aug 19th, 2017, 08:50 PM
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To me too much drama for one location, especially with the plan to do the long day trip to Palenque. Point of visiting cultural destinations is to soak it in--hard to do that while spending most of your time in a bus and fretting about travel logistics.

Save Chiapas for another trip (it pairs better with Campeche and Merida than with PdC in any event). Trying to do Chiapas as an oh-by-the-way addition won't do you or the destination any justice.
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Old Aug 19th, 2017, 10:35 PM
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I forgot your question about motion sickness -- I've encountered it only rarely, and only in my youth, but I read about motion sickness on the road from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas, too, and I chose to take a dramamine just in case. I did NOT experience motion sickness, nor did I experience any side effects of which I was aware. If you decide to make that trip, you might test dramamine out by taking a pill (it is over-the-counter) one day when you have no other responsibilities to see if you have any adverse reactions.
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Old Aug 20th, 2017, 06:42 AM
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Strictly from a trip planning and logistics perspective, it looks like you have 2 different trips here, which would *each* take the 5-6 days you have available.

I allow 1 day at home before going back to work, as far as the midnight flight arrival on a work day (been there done that).
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Old Aug 21st, 2017, 01:00 AM
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The road palenque San Cristobal is the worst I took in Mexico and then ne if the worst I ever did.
It took hours. I think the average speed I did was 30 km/h - 20 mph.
With the last half hour at dusk behind a truck with a broken gearbox.
I am like the others I would choose one circuit and come back for the Rest later.
Btw when at the falls there was a rivalry between some villages about who should manage the sites. So we paid first to (polite) guys faces masked with handkerchief then to officials.
Fun ...
on the way back they had blocked the road and I waited 2 hours to be allowed through. Less fun. And paid an additional 100 pesos.
Hope their problem is solved.
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Old Aug 21st, 2017, 03:49 AM
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I believe you answered your own question here MinBeef and you are correct in assuming a great amount of time for San Cristobal from the Cancun area. That said, you can easily fit Tulum and Coba in one day and be back in Playa for supper and drinks... You can then visit Chichen Itza in a one day visit and again be back in Playa that same day. in closing you can also add Valladolid and Ek Balam in visiting for the day and spend the night in Valladolid which would be nice [stay at El Mason de Marquis] or back again in Playa. There are dozens of things to do and appreciate in PDC itself, you have a variety of great adventures at your disposal without having to live the stress that comes in with adding the Chiapas region to your program...
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Old Aug 21st, 2017, 04:14 PM
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@ Whathello: Scary situations! I'm glad that you and your family faced no worse. But can you please tell us when that happened? I remember reading about such things, but quite some time ago. I don't think I've seen any stories about "bandits" on that road for at least a decade, and possibly much longer....
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Old Aug 21st, 2017, 06:25 PM
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Volaris flies non-stop between Cancun and Tuxtla Gutierrez a few days a week. The other days, you'd need to connect in Mexico City. It's a highly regarded domestic airline.

The toll highway between Tuxtla and San Cristobal has been open for about 10 years. It's quite good and fairly straight. You can tell you're gradually climbing about 6,000 feet over the space of about 30 miles. It's a major improvement over the old road.

That said, I agree that this is best done as two separate trips.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2017, 06:02 PM
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Thank you everyone for all of that terrific feedback! It will disappoint me to eliminate San Cristobal from my itinerary but I will give serious thought to it. I agree that trying to fit in Palenque as a day trip probably does not make much sense, so if I were to keep San Cristobal, I would consider a daytrip out to the nearby Maya villages.

At this point, I'm thinking one of two itineraries:

1. 6 nights in Playa del Carmen, with a day trip to Tulum and Coba and a day trip to Chichen Itza, Valladolid and Ek Balam. (I found a very well rated tour company that leaves Playa at 6:00 am and so would arrive at Chichen Itza around 8:30.

2. 4 nights in Playa, including the day trip to Chichen Itza and then 3 nights in san Cristobal, with a day trip to San Juan Chumula. (You can see I'm having a hard time letting go of San Cristobal. The only portion of the logistic concerns from my original post that worries me is the poor on time departure performance of Viva Aerobus.)

I will definitely get back to all of you with what I tentatively land on.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2017, 06:20 PM
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If it helps (and I doubt it will):

I thought Valladolid absolutely charming. It's probably my favorite colonial town in the Yucatan peninsula. And BTW, I second Rogelio's recommendation of El Mason de Marquis -- to stay and for a meal.

Ek' Balam is extraordinary -- it's frieze is exceptional.

The Cenotes Dzitnup, just outside of Valladolid are truly beautiful.

If I'm understanding, you would miss these gems if you decide to go to San Cristobal....
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Old Aug 22nd, 2017, 07:11 PM
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sorry ... Rohelio...
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Old Aug 22nd, 2017, 08:24 PM
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You could also split 3-3 with Playa del Carmen/Tulum/Akumal for 3 days and a colonial city like Merida or Valladolid for 3 days with the associated side trips (Celestine, Uxmal, maybe Campeche).

Have you considered just doing 6-7 nights in Chiapas? You could split between San Cristobal and Palenque (with a day trip from Palenque to Yaxchilan + Bomampak).

To be candid, Playa del Carmen is a mini Cancun so maybe Tulum or Akumal would work better for that segment.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2017, 11:58 PM
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To follow up on RAC's insights, seriously, you will be skipping SOOoooo much in each location if you try to cover both in the same trip.....
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Old Aug 23rd, 2017, 09:37 AM
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We actually did a trip combining Chiapas and the Yucatan. But, we had 9 nights and planned it so that we didn't need to worry about backtracking, additional airports/internal flights,etc.

http://www.fodors.com/community/mexi...ruary-2012.cfm

To me, it is almost inconceivable for a Mayan ruins enthusiast to set foot in Chiapas and not see Yaxchilan and Bonampak, let alone Palenque, which probably represents the highest achievement in Mayan architecture (from an aesthetic point of view--Tikal is grander in scale but not quite as elegant).

The best piece of advice I've ever received about visiting a country (instead of a city like Paris or Rome) is to plan your trip with the assumption you'll be able to come back.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2017, 05:58 PM
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I never assume that I will return to a place, no matter how much I like it. The world has too many places that I want to see. I make some very difficult decisions, and try to limit my plans to make sure that what I see, I see well. To each his/her own!
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Old Aug 24th, 2017, 06:35 AM
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I completely share the travel philosophy of kja. I do not worry about fully covering a given country, state, region, etc. I set my itinerary based on what are, to me, the most important and interesting things to see/do/experience and if there are items left over (and there always are) so be it. If I return some day, great. But if not, then I've seen what I felt were the most important things.

For me, the Yucatan does not represent a lifelong desired place to visit but rather, a place to get the heck out of Dodge in the middle of winter to experience some warmth, sunshine and culture. San Cristobal was a discovery during my research of a place I had never heard of but has pulled at me for some reason. If I decide to exclude it from my itinerary, I will be disappointed as I will not be likely to return for a trip simply to Chiapas. But that's the way it goes when there are so many places around the globe of interest. If only I were retired, or a teacher. <sigh>
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