45 Best Sights in Chiapas and Tabasco, Mexico

Museo Ik'al Ojov

The Museo Ik'al Ojov, on the street behind the church, is in a typical home and displays Zinacantán costumes through the ages.

Museo Mesoamericano del Jade

Centro

Jade was prized as a symbol of wealth and power by Olmec, Teotihuacán, Mixtec, Zapotec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec nobility, and this museum shows jade pieces from different Mesoamerican cultures. The most impressive piece is a reproduction of the sarcophagus lid from Pakal's tomb, at Palenque. If asking for directions, remember that J in Spanish carries an H sound, making the word “jade” pronounced “HAH-day.“

Av. 16 de Septiembre 16, San Cristóbal de las Casas, 29200, Mexico
967-678–1121
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $3

Museo Regional de Antropología Carlos Pellicer Cámara

Many out-of-towners make a beeline for the Museo Regional de Antropología Carlos Pellicer Cámara. On the right bank of the Río Grijalva, the museum is named after the man who donated many of its artifacts. Pellicer, who has been called the "poet laureate of Latin America," was constantly inspired by a love of his native Tabasco.

Much of the collection is devoted to Tabasco and the Olmec people, the "inhabitants of the land of rubber" who flourished as early as 1750 BC and disappeared around 100 BC. The Olmec have long been recognized as inventors of the region's numerical and calendrical systems. The pyramid, later copied by the Maya and Aztec cultures, is also attributed to them. Some of the most interesting artifacts on display here are the remnants of their jaguar cult. The jaguar symbolized procreation, and many Olmec sculptures portray half-human, half-jaguar figures or human heads emerging from the mouths of jaguars.

Many artifacts from Mexico's ancient cultures are on the upper two floors, from the red-clay dogs of Colima and the nose rings of the indigenous Huichol people of Nayarit to the huge burial urns of the Chontal Maya, who built Comalcalco, a Mayan city near Villahermosa. All the explanations are in Spanish, but the museum is organized in chronological order and is decidedly easy to follow.

Carlos Pellicer Cámara 511, Villahermosa, 86050, Mexico
993-312–6344
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $1, Closed Mon.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Museo Regional de Chiapas

Northeast of Parque Central, the leafy Parque Madero is a wide swath of greenery in a city mostly covered in concrete. It's home to the Museo Regional de Chiapas. One room focusing on archaeology has an excellent display of pre-Columbian pottery, while the other on history takes over after the arrival of the Spanish. A standout is an octagonal painting of the Virgin Mary dating from the 17th century. All the captions are in Spanish.

Calzado Hombres Illustres 350, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 29000, Mexico
961-612–8360
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $3, Closed Mon.

Ora Ton

Centro

Near the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista is the small museum called Ora Ton. Inside are examples of traditional dress, exhibits of musical instruments, and photos of important festivals. Admission is with the same ticket you bought for the church.

Otisa Travel Agency

Otisa Travel Agency gives daily guided tours to the Cañón del Sumidero, Palenque, Yaxchilán, and Bonampak. Horseback-riding trips are also available, as are transfers to and from the airport in Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

Parque Central Miguel Hidalgo

The zócalo anchors every Mexican city and town as the focus of important cultural and social events, and Tapachula is no exception. Marimba, classical, and ambient music is often featured in the gazebo at the center of the park on many afternoons.

Pepe Santiago

Pepe Santiago, a Lacandón resident associated with Na Bolom since childhood, leads tours daily to San Juan Chamula, Zinacantán, and San Nicolás Buenavista. (Pepe's name is a veritable ticket to acceptance in the more remote regions of Chiapas.) The group leaves Na Bolom promptly at 10 am (they suggest arriving at 9:45) and returns around 3; it's well worth the $30 per person price. Pepe's sister, Teresa Santiago Hernández, also leads tours.

Puente San Cristóbal

The 190D toll road between San Cristóbal de las Casas and Tuxtla Gutiérrez takes you across Mexico’s third-highest bridge—and the world’s 46th—a spectacular three-sector girder span, 200 meters (656 feet) above the canyon floor. The bridge gently curves and gradually slopes upward at a 10-percent grade from west to east over its length of 323 meters (1,060 feet). One of the country’s great engineering feats almost didn’t happen, however. The bridge collapsed during its final phase of construction in 2004. Retooling and redesign led to a newer, stronger bridge that opened two years later and completed the new highway between San Cristóbal and Tuxtla. The structure can withstand an earthquake of up to 8.0 magnitude. For obvious reasons, stopping on the bridge is not permitted; you’ll have to take in the views while in motion from the windows of your bus, van, or car.
Carretera 190D, Zinacantán, Mexico

Templo de Santo Domingo

This three-block-long complex houses a church, a former monastery, a regional history museum with a great deal to see, and the Templo de la Caridad (Temple of the Sisters of Charity). A two-headed eagle—emblem of the Hapsburg dynasty that once ruled Spain and its American dominions—broods over the pediment of the church, which was built between 1547 and 1569. The pink stone facade (which needs a good cleaning) is carved in an intensely ornamental style known as Baroque Solomonic: saints' figures, angels, and grooved columns overlaid with vegetation motifs abound. The interior has lavish altarpieces, an exquisitely fashioned pulpit, a sculpture of the Holy Trinity, and wall panels of gilded, carved cedar—one of the precious woods of Chiapas that centuries later lured Tabasco's woodsmen to the highlands surrounding San Cristóbal. At the complex's southeast corner you'll find the tiny, humble Templo de la Caridad, built in 1715 to honor the Immaculate Conception. Its highlight is the finely carved altarpiece. Indigenous groups from San Juan Chamula often light candles and make offerings here. (Do not take photos of the Chamula.) The adjacent former convent houses Sna Jolobil, an indigenous cooperative that sells weavings of high quality.

Toniná

Between San Cristóbal and Palenque, on a paved road running along the Río Jataté and through the Ocosingo Valley, is the ancient Mayan city of Toniná. The name means "house of stone" in Tzeltal, and you'll understand why it's named this once you glimpse this series of temples looming some 20 stories over the valley. Built on a steep hillside, Toniná is even taller than Palenque or Tikal.

Toniná is thought to be the last major Mayan ceremonial center to flourish in this area. It thrived for at least a century after the fall of Palenque and Yaxchilán. There is speculation as to whether it may have actually had a part in their downfall. Excavations indicate that the vanquished rulers of those cities were brought here as prisoners. Wonderfully preserved sculptures, including the Mural de las Cuatro Eras (Mural of the Four Ages) depict bloody executions.

Transportadora Turística Trotamundos

This experienced tour provider hosts daily tours from San Cristóbal de las Casas to the Cañón del Sumidero, as well as longer excursions to Palenque and Bonampak.

Turísitica del Grijalva

This tour company offers boat tours and tours through the Cañón del Sumidero that last around 2½ hours and cost $25 per person.

Zócalo

The square around which this colonial city was built is officially called the Parque Manuel Velasco Suárez, but no one bothers with that name. In its center sits a gazebo used by marimba musicians most weekend evenings at 8. You can have a coffee on the ground floor of the gazebo; expect to be approached by children and women selling bracelets and other wares. Surrounding the square are a number of 16th-century buildings, some with plant-filled central patios. On the facade of the Casa de Diego de Mazariegos, now the somewhat downscale Hotel Santa Clara, are a stone mermaid and lions that are typical of the plateresque style—as ornate and busy as the work of a silversmith. The yellow-and-white neoclassical Palacio Municipal (Municipal Palace) on the square's west side was the seat of the state government until 1892. Today it houses a few government offices, including the municipal tourism office. The tree-lined square leads to the vast, barren plaza that fronts the Catedral de San Cristóbal Mártir across the street.

Between Avs. General Utrilla and 20 de Noviembre and Calles Diego de Mazariegos and Guadalupe Victoria, San Cristóbal de las Casas, 29200, Mexico

Zoológico Miguel Álvarez del Toro

All the animals at the Zoológico Regional Miguel Álvarez del Toro, known to locals as ZooMAT, are native to Chiapas. You'll find more than 100 species in settings designed to resemble their natural habitats, including jaguars, black panthers, tapirs, iguanas, and boa constrictors. Rather than sit in cages, spider monkeys swing from trees. Birders will be excited to see the rare resplendent quetzal at close quarters. Many animals from this zoo have been sent to other zoos around the world. The lush, forested setting and slightly higher elevation on the edge of town translate into slightly cooler temperatures than in the center city. Plan on a $5 taxi ride to get here from downtown Tuxtla.

Calz. Cerro Hueco s/n, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 29000, Mexico
961-614–4701
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $2, Closed Mon.