A GUIDE TO SAN CRISTOBAL, CHIAPAS MEXICO
It’s no secret that Mexico has a very special place in my heart, I’ve visited the beautiful country 14 times in my life and every time I leave I know it won’t be the last. In September of this year I flew back out to this part of the world to tick a few more places off my ‘Mexico must see’ list. Of course I went back to Cancun for old times sake, but after I flew to a place called Chiapas, home of the gorgeous little town called San Cristobal De Las Casas, then Mexico City and finally Los Cabos, but more on those places later, for now if you’re planning a trip to San Cristobal then this post is for you! Be sure to bookmark or pin it for future reference.
San Cris is what they refer to as a ‘magic town’ in Mexico. In case you haven’t heard of these magic towns, they basically mean a Mexican village/town that’s cultural, historical or natural treasures are exceptionally special to Mexico’s heritage and I can see why San Cristobal is on the list! With it’s cobbled streets, markets and colourful buildings this place is a treasure all in it’s self! What makes the place so interesting is it still has everything modern like banks, coffee shops, supermarkets (even burger king) but you wouldn’t have a clue from the outside because all of the buildings remain traditional and ‘typical’ to the aesthetic of the town! Even their branding/signs have to adhere to a certain type of look! Cool right? Anyway, let’s crack on with everything we did and what we would recommend while visiting shall we?
First things first there are 3 main streets in San Cris and they’re always clearly marked on any maps with a dashed line, we found it helpful to use the maps.me app (download the map while you have wifi) and then use that to help you get around. To be honest, you don’t really need the maps, once you know where the main square is from there there are the three main streets that you’re going to want to explore! Make sure you pack comfortable shoes because you’re going to be doing a lot of walking! The main thing to do in San Cris is to literally walk around and explore the streets and take in the bright and bold buildings and eat the traditional food!
Two churches sit on each edge of the town ,both offering great views of the entire place! We climbed to the top of the steps leading to the church ‘ Iglesia de Guadalupe’ and were not disappointed once we reached the beautiful building! We were greeted by a bright yellow and white church and a great sight of the entire town and we also passed plenty of colourful buildings on the street leading up to this point too. I would really recommend you take the walk and head up to this viewpoint but I wouldn’t suggest doing it at night time as it’s rumoured to be a little unsafe in this area after dark. It’s worth noting that we felt completely safe in the middle of the day though! The church at the other end of the town is called ‘Iglesia de San Cristobal de las Casas’, we didn’t make it to this one but heard great things too!
In the heart of this town is San Cristobal Catedral, it’s bright yellow and you really can’t miss it! It’s positioned right in the middle of a large plaza too which is always busy and full of life, definitely worth heading here to soak in the atmosphere and grab yourself some great street food too!
You’ll also want to visit the main market whilst in San Cris, there are a few ‘mini markets’ if you will, dotted around the place but the best one is located right at the end of the main street called ’20 de Noviembre’, just keep walking and you’ll eventually see the entrance to it under white market covers! It’s full to brim of incredibly beautiful handmade treasures and it’s ridiculously cheap! Everything you’ll find in this market is so much better than your typical standard souvenirs, we bought hand embroidered cushion covers, handmade earrings, woven blankets and even a hammock chair from here (and believe me we would have bought WAY more if our luggage would have allowed it!)
We stayed at the most beautiful Air B&B called La Casa De Color literally meaning the house of colour and it did not disappoint! We had the entire place to ourselves and our hosts Mai and Luis even baked us a bunch of home made treats for our arrival! This accommodation is less than a 10 minutes walk away from the main square of San Cris where all the streets meet which was perfect for us and we felt completely safe there. Don’t even get me started on how pretty this place was! Full of traditional decorations, purple beams, colourful walls and furniture plus plenty of papel picado! We were obviously in a rainbow heaven! If you’d rather stay in a hostel then we walked past plenty of places that we thought looked really cool! I know Snail is apparently very popular!
Being vegan I did wonder whether we were going to struggle to find place to eat in San Cristobal but that was not the case at all! There were plenty of vegetarian/vegan restaurants and any restaurants that were not plant based were more than accommodating to us and there was always an option or two already on the menu that we could eat! Here were our favourites of the trip…
A delicious Thai place nestled in a really cute building full of restaurants! It was particularly pretty in here in the evening! We had the hoisin prawn noodles (minus the prawns! “Sin langostinos” in spanish) and the vegetable spring rolls. It was all absolutely delicious and I highly recommend their strawberry mojito cocktails too!
For brunch we ate at La Casa del Pan, purely because we had strolled past it the day before and they had a sign saying vegan and vegetarian options so we thought we would check it out! I couldn’t resist the guacamole as per usual with any place I eat at haha and then me and my sister both had the veggie burger which was great too!
This place was so beautiful and is conveniently located just down the street from the famous Guadalupe church, we were not that hungry at the time we arrived and just wanted somewhere to stop for a drink and they kindly offered us their different natural fruit juices to try (all were so yum!), we also had a couple of delicious mochas here and sat taking in the pretty garden surroundings and watching their resident hummingbird just fly around checking out all the flowers! It was lovely.
If you’re after a good cup of coffee and a nice dessert, pastry or cake then you’ll want to visit Ooh La La! The desserts and puddings looked really fancy and we loved the music in this place too! This was in the same building as Bangcook I just mentioned.
This isn’t just traditional to San Cristobal but if you’re wondering around the streets of here or anywhere and see a sign for esquite then make sure you head on over and get yourself a cup of this delicious Mexican street food! It’s basically cooked sweetcorn with spices and lime juice (there’s cheese too which we just left out). It’s my new favourite Mexican snack. (Well tied with guacamole of course!)
Another traditional drink you should try in San Cris is a drink called ‘Posh’ or ‘Pox’. It’s a ‘maya beverage that warms and caresses the heart’, it’s mostly made of corn and comes in a bunch of flavours! t’s not a drink that you’ll find easily outside of Chiapas so it’s certainly special to this place, you have to try it! Don’t shot this like tequilla, you’re supposed to sip it and enjoy the taste…although I just could not enjoy the taste of the traditional version, it was warming my throat more than my heart to be honest! The banana flavour was good though! We sampled this at a cute little place called La Posheria.
If you happen to be heading to San Cris in September then you will not want to miss the street festival that marks Autumn Equinox! This was a complete accident that we were here on this day (This year it was on 22nd September 2018) but it was the BEST, MOST BIZARRE, RANDOM day ever and turned out to be one of our favourite days of our entire trip in Mexico! We didn’t even realise this festival was happening until we were having brunch in a cafe and heard all of this noise and music outside, we then strolled outside and was literally greeted by hundreds of people dressed as monsters, movie characters, celebrities and more just dancing down the streets!
We decided to get ourselves a good spot on the side of the street where everyone else was stood watching the parade but it wasn’t long until we were dragged into the parade ourselves to dance around with these crazy characters to the music blasting out of the floats! It was absolutely hilarious, my sister even got to try on one of the huge costumes herself! ha!
- One thing that you will see a lot of on the streets of San Cristobal is children begging, working and trying to sell you things. A local friend of ours recommended that we don’t give them money, he explained that generally the parents do not work and they just send the children out onto the streets to get money and if you really want to help the kids then the best thing you can do is buy them some food instead or give them clothes, etc
- San Cristobal is safe as long as you stay in the recommended areas (Like I mentioned earlier don’t stray too far from the main streets) but that being said just be careful, we went in quite low season and we did feel quite ‘looked at’ at times, people definitely noticed us as tourists but in all honesty at no point did we feel unsafe!
- Take a jacket or jumper for the evening, because of the high altitude of this place it can get a little chilly at night!
- If you’re planning a trip here I feel like you can see everything you need to in 2-3 days, aside from that there are some amazing trips that leave from here to see some epic waterfalls! We didn’t get chance to visit them this time but they looked incredible.