San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
Attractions in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico: What to do and where to go
San Cristobal's unique beauty lies in the resulting blend of ethnic diversity and colonial influences. This has created an interesting cultural tapestry which intrigues visitors, who wish to experience the rich customs and beliefs preserved by the local population over the years.
Appreciate the architectural landmarks from the 16th century among the cobbled stone streets, lined with large houses with red tiled slanted roofs and flower filled gardens. Also evident are artistic influences from the viceroyalty period, as well as traces from the Arab invasion of Spain. The architecture, the friendliness of the people and the cold make this city a beautiful and cozy place to visit that offers so much, you should really take the time to see it all before you go and explore the magnificent surrounding areas.
The Cathedral of the City is located right next to Central Park. It is a beautiful building that was first erected during the 17th century, finally completed in the 20th century; and displays Baroque, Moorish and Neoclassic styles. It houses many valuable pieces of sacred art, such as paintings by Juan Correa, Miguel Cabrera, and Eusebio de Aguilar. Friar Bartolome de las Casas was the cathedral's first bishop.
Temple and Ex-Convent of Santo Domingo
Built between 1547 and 1551, this pair of buildings, masterfully blends several elements of Colonial and Baroque architecture. The temple's pulpit is an especially delicate piece, which is carved from gold plated wood. The Ex-Convent houses the "Museum of the Highlands of Chiapas" and displays important archaeological artifacts and objects dating back to the Viceroyalty period in Mexico, between the 16th and 19th century.
Museum of Amber
Furthermore, they exhibit pieces of rough amber, so you can see how it looks when it is first extracted. Throughout the museum, posted on the walls, you can read about the first pieces found at the sites, interesting facts about the amber mines in the state, and see comparative charts about the amber found in Chiapas and other parts of the world, as well as a thorough explanation about the importance of amber to Pre-Columbian society. For all this and more, the Amber Museum is a highly recommended stop on your tour of the area.
Rancho Nuevo Caves
Just 10 minutes away from the city of San Cristobal are the Rancho Nuevo Caves, a 550-meter cave system full of amazing stalactite and stalagmite rock formations. The tour takes you through a wide passage that leads into a large chamber. It may be a bit moist inside the cave, although this varies depending on the weather. The park's large expanse of land offers unparalleled opportunities for hiking, climbing and camping, as well as for photography and research.
El Chiflon Cascade
This tour begins by a river with a climb up a 1268 meter high staircase surrounded by majestic trees and rare tropical birds; you will also encounter groups of beautiful butterflies along the way. It is quite a long walk, but it is definitely worth it when you get to the top. Once there, you will witness a truly breathtaking natural wonder. If you make it to the highest vantage point you will be able to stand over the cascade, listen to the water crashing against the rocks and feel the cold spray on your face.
Then again, if you are the daring type and love extreme sports, you can also make your way across the river by a Tyrolean traverse; you will certainly see the cascade from a unique perspective.
Montebello National Park is located in the municipalities of Trinidad and La Independencia, in Southern Chiapas. This area is home to 256 types of plant and more than 100 different species of wildlife. It encompasses 52 different lakes and lagoons featuring diverse hues that range from turquoise blue to indigo, and even black, according to locals. These breathtaking lakes are surrounded by a thick forest of coniferous evergreens and evergreen oaks among others, and they are home to quetzals, tayras, margays, red brocket deer, and many migratory birds.
You can charter a kayak at some of the lakes to further explore their wonders at your own leisure, or if you are not fond of rowing, you can always hire a Rafter to take you on the trip. Whatever the choice, you will have to wear a life jacket throughout the trip.
San Juan Chamula
When you set foot in this magical town, you feel as if you have walked into another dimension. You will see picturesque adobe houses with doors that bear crosses made of branches which represent the tree of life. Small parcels of land and streets blend into the landscape, and majestic green hills surround and safeguard the native Tzetzal and Tzotzil Indians that inhabit this town.
Right in the center of the town, there is a small chapel that is by far the most intriguing attraction of all in San Juan Chamula. Inside the chapel, there are cloths hanging from the ceiling, the tips are tied to the walls forming a pyramid like shape that symbolizes the heavens, for Chamulans. The floor is also covered with grasses, so that people's feet do not touch the ground, and is also symbolic of paradise.
On the sides of the chapel, there are figures of saints whose chests bear mirrors hanging from their necks. There are wooden tables in front of these sculptures where people place candles that are kept lit at all times. People usually sit on the floor, bring colorful candles, different foods and beverages as offering to the idols, and pray in their native tongue. After praying, they share the food and beverages equally among the participants. You might even see a shaman perform rituals to cure the sick.
Entering this chapel and witnessing these rituals will deeply touch you, regardless of your religious beliefs and it will certainly be a memorable experience.
Zinacantan, translates as 'land of the bats', is the place where they weave the most beautiful cloth in all Chiapas. Early every morning the men leave to work in fields and don't return until sunset. The women on the other hand, spend from 6 to 8 hours a day kneeling on the floor, painstakingly weaving their threads, which they hold in a leather belt that they wear. Every now and then they take a break and go out to gather wood for fuel. In the evenings, once they have finished with their chores, they gather to talk as they embroider. Meanwhile, the eldest woman, the matriarch, kneels by the fire making tortillas for the whole family.
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