San Cristobal is a unique mixture of indigenous people, mestizos and foreigners living next to each other. Life here goes slowly, the historical centre is small enough to walk everywhere and there are a few pedestrian streets that allow you to breathe in the charm of San Cristobal.
The town offers countless bars, restaurants, cafés, and art galleries. Here, life goes on until late night hours. Every night you will find live music. Everybody will find something special: performances, art exhibitions, alternative cinema, yoga and meditation classes, alternative medicine, Spanish classes, and salsa classes to name a few.
The city is situated at 2,120 m (7,000 feet) above sea level, in a lush green valley where the air is fresh and you can experience that unique clarity of highland light. Because of this altitude it is cooler than most of Mexico’s towns, which usually feels as a nice fresh change from other extra-hot destinations through all year around. While days are usually sunny, yet not too hot, it gets cooler in the evenings (cold in the winter months).
San Cristobal de las Casas was once the state capital of Chiapas, when the state was under Guatemalan rule; it may still have been but for its reluctance at first to join union with Mexico, in 1824, it fell out of favour with the powers of the day and the capital was moved to neighbouring Tuxtla Gutierrez.
COLONIAL CENTER – Plaza 31 de Marzo (called Parque Central) is a main meeting point for locals and visitors alike. On the north side of the plaza is San Cristobal’s Cathedral.
Three blocks south is the TEMPLO DEL CARMEN with its archway crossing the road, one gateway to the city. Once you have seen the church you can go next door to the Instituto de Bellas Artes (Institute of Fine Arts), which offers art exhibitions and other art fairs from time to time.
Considered San Cristobal’s most beautiful church, the TEMPLO Y EX-CONVENTO DE SANTO DOMINGO completed around 1560, is situated north of the main plaza on Avenida 20 de Noviembre. In front, you will find a colourful market of handicraft.
For a VANTAGE POINT VIEW OF SAN CRISTOBAL, head to the Templo de San Cristobal and climb the steps of its tower. You’ll need to be pretty fit to get to the top, but the views are worth it.
CASA NA-BOLOM – Meaning “House of the Jaguar” (Jaguars are Chipas’ ‘local mascot’) this elegant colonial mansion was most recently owned by a philanthropic couple from Switzerland, Gertrude Duby-Blom and her husband Frans Blom. After falling in love with Chiapas, they moved here and spent the rest of their lives exploring, surveying and studying the local indigenous societies and ecology, as well as educating and protecting its peoples. Today the house is packed full of their work including photographs, archaeological finds and books.
MUSEO DEL AMBAR DE CHIAPAS (Amber Museum) – situated at the Ex-Convento de la Merced and displays a selection of Amber; Chiapas Amber is known for its purity and clarity.
MUSEO DE LA MEDICINA MAYA (Mayan Medicine Museum) – gives a great insight into Chiapan indigenous culture, customs and everyday life. A special section is devoted to the Association of Midwifes where you can watch their video. It’ is recommended to combine a visit here with a trip to local villages.
MUSEO DE TRAJES REGIONALES (Regional Costumes Museum) – needs an appointment to be seen; but if local costumes and dress interest you, this is a must see private collection of exhibits.
MUSEO DE CULTURAS POPULARES (Popular Cultures Museum) – houses temporary exhibits and photographs.