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San Cristobal de las Casas

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San Cristobal de las Casas

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San Cristobal de las Casas is in the southern Mexican region of Chiapas.

Church in San Cristobal de las Casas

Get in

The express bus system for getting around Mexico is advanced. The buses are generally comfortable and clean and there are multiple lines to choose from in a user-friendly way with professional and helpful ticket clerks at most main stations. The roads to San Cristobal are winding and can be dizzying so some choose the option to take a bus and let a professional driver do the work. You can see the beautiful greenery of Chiapas all around you on the trip through the big bus windows, or pull the curtain to nap.

As of spring of 2006, there is a "new" road to San Cristóbal and it takes about 35 minutes to get from Tuxtla Gutierrez to San Cristóbal and is not so vertiginous as the old road. There is also a new airport that is one hour 15 minutes from San Cristóbal and as of fall, 2007, the fare for a taxi is 600 pesos per taxi to San Cristóbal and 200 pesos to Tuxtla Gutierrez, or a shuttle service offering door-to-door service for 170 pesos to/from San Cristobal. From Tuxtla one can take an "Omnibus" that leaves every 20 minutes to San Cristóbal for about 40 pesos. There are many other public transportation modes from Tuxtla to San Cristóbal: taxi colectivo, autobus, and collective suburbans. The taxi drivers all know where these are located.

Get around

San Cristobal de las Casas is a beautiful city. If you are reasonably mobile you should be able to walk anywhere within the city without strain. Rent-a-Bikes are also a good way to get around if you have a very "adventurous" side!!!

If you rather make your own plans and travel a bit off the beaten track, rent a car with driver. Check it out at: http://san-cristobal-de-las-casas-car-rental-with-driver.com

See

  • Maya Medicine Museum is not to be missed. Information is available in English and Spanish and they also have healers on site to treat whatever ailment you may suffer.
  • Good views of the city and surrounding mountains can be had from the churches on hills on the east and west sides of town.
  • There is a drum and brass band and singers who perform patriotic melodies at 8AM Mondays at the main square. Musicians may be found at the square evenings as well.
  • Na Bolom, former home of Gertrudis Duby Blom, Swiss wife of Danish archeologist Frans Blom, continues to be an inn and museum managed by her supporters and associates.Na Balom
  • The great handicrafts market on the grounds of the Santo Domingo church
  • Constant cultural activities around the Centro
  • Mayan villages in the surrounding mountains. San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan are the most well-known (and visited) Maya villages, but there are others, such as Tenejapa and San Andres Larrainzar, that are equally as fascinating, and they receive very little tourism. The best day to visit the Maya communities are during their weekly markets and festivals. Cielo y Tierra Tours offer excellent half-day tours to Chamula and Zinacantan, as well as some of the more remote Maya villages. Visit their website for further information. [9]

Do

Stroll around town, enjoy the environment, lovely buildings, café, restaurants, churches and squares.

  • Kinoki, Av. 1.de Marzo 22, Tel. 6780495, Movies everyday at 4PM, 6PM and 8PM. You can as well rent a room with a projector and sound system and choose a movie from a huge list and watch it with your friends. (ca. 25 Pesos - 2.5 US)


  • Different City Tours, 044-967-1053425, [1]. 2-5 hours. Discover the city and the surroundings with a guide, learning about the ethnological and ecological history of Chiapas and San Cristóbal and its social movements. 100 Pesos.

Volunteering

After the Zapatist movement came out of the jungle in 1994 a great load of NGOs came over to San Cristobal. Nowadays you can find lots of interesting projects in any field really. The list of NGOs working in San Cristóbal and its surroundings is quite long.

  • Nataté[10] works on sustainable projects in San Cristóbal and within the state of Chiapas. Nataté works in different fields, Education, Water and Waste Management(dry toilets, water filtering), Reforestation, Construction... Short and long term projects are available.
  • 'FrayBa [11] sends Human Rights Observers in Zapatista communities.

People should be aware of cultural issues in this region. While San Cristobal has done a great job of cleaning up, there is real destitute poverty just around the corner if you scratch the surface. The native people suffer a lot so please respect them and treat them with kindness when you come into contact. Also, the Zapatista communities are sick and tired of the "hand out" mentality of a lot of NGOs. If you want to do something with the Zapatistas, do it on their terms. Ask questions, do not tell anything. They have a lot more to teach you than you do them.

Learn

San Cristobal is also a popular destination for travelers who want to learn Spanish.

  • Tierras Mayas Spanish Language School, [2]. At Tierras Mayas, in addition to learning Spanish in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, you will also find opportunities to come in contact with and immerse yourself in the various cultures of Mexico. We offer one on one, intensive and group classes. We also have weekly outings where students can visit other sites of cultural significance in and around San Cristóbal. We take pride in not only teaching you Spanish, but also in bringing you into the experience of the Mexican way of life.
  • San Cristobal Language School, [3]. SCLS is part of one of the premier Spanish language networks in Mexico (the QLS Network). It is located in a historic casona in the heart of downtown San Cristobal. It is the only school in town in which all Spanish teachers have college degrees.


  • Casa De La Vista, [4]. Offers Spanish & Cultural Awareness instruction. The teachers encourage and motivate students, providing instruction for beginning and advanced Spanish language speakers while providing a strong cultural background.
  • Instituto Jovel, [5]. One of the most old and respected school for learning spanish as a second language. It is the only Spanish school stablished in its own and beautiful building. Instituto Jovel is the only school for credits to college and university students.
  • Spanish Immersion School La Casa en el Árbol, [6]. An enthusiastic and socially committed language school. La Casa en el Árbol offers intense Spanish Immersion Programs as well as volunteering programs.
  • Sol Maya Language School, Hermanos Dominguez 25-A (at the stairs to the hill of San Cristobal), [7].

Buy

  • Buy colorful handicrafts in the market.
    The market in San Cristóbal de las Casas
  • To get your quality leather products (bags, purses, rucksacks, belts) custom made, go to Talabartería Ballinas where Vicente Hernández will exercise his excellent handicraft skills for you. Av. Presidente Portes Gil # 8A, Col. Revolución Mexicana (from the centre take Flavio Paniagua East and turn left (North) along Huixtla and it's several blocks on, on the left-hand side). Tel (67) 8 95 42.
  • Near the crafts market there is a handicrafts cooperative with authentic goods from the surrounding villages. The prices are a good deal more expensive, but you'll be getting the real handmade goods.
  • East of the Parque Central, following Real de Guadalupe, is a complex called Tierra Adentro [12] which sells Handicrafts, T/shirts, Posters etc. in a cooperative which helps the autonomous communities of the Zapatista movement.
  • Organic Products are available in Tierra Verde 2.5 blocks east of the Parque following the Real de Guadalupe

Eat

Perfidia has bocadillos to share, from empanadas and enmoladas, to the famous hamburgers and salads with locally made jamón serrano and regional cheeses.

On and around the main square there are many sit-down restaurants. Also, you can find cheaper food at the local street vendors (found anywhere there are tourist attraction).

There are various vegetarian restaurants in town. One of them is in the pedestrian zone north of the plaza and it's called Naturalissimo.

  • El Gato Gordo - Real de Guadalupe 20. Good restaurant with live music. It has a cheap vegetarian menu for 35 pesos (soup, rice, cheese croquets). Pasta is also +- 35 pesos.

Go to the main public market and eat tamales for breakfast. Another local specialty is "sopa del pan" which you will probably not find in any restaurant catering to tourists. You will find it in the comedors int he market. That is the best food in town.

On Saturdays many houses sell tamales out their front door. Look for the red lights. On any given evening there are places where people make antojitos on the street in front of their houses. This is real local food.

At certain times of the year different exotic insects are consumed in different ways. Pay attention in the market and you might have the chance to try something really exotic.

A lunch time bargain is in the different cantinas. These are family places and I am not telling where any of them are, you will have to figure that out on your own... order a beer and you will get a little plate of food to go with it.. house choice. Its cheap and excellent, though, you might get drunk in the process.

Drink

Most all restaurants serve filtered water. The local drink here is "posh" or pox. It is a hard liquor made from cane and has been used traditionally for healing and partying. It is frequently served in ponche -- a pineapple or fruit hot punch with a special bread broken into it.

  • Perfidia, María Adelina Flores and Cristóbal Colón, 3 blocks east from the cathedral. A good space to relax and listen to great music, get the party started with a few tequilas, mojitos, or other cocktails, or visit a local art exhibition with a diverse mix of people who live in San Cristóbal. It's the best spot for tourists to really interact with locals and the many people from all over the world who have come to San Cristóbal and decided to stay. The bar occupies a beautiful old house, which is registered as a historical landmark, with three different rooms, each with a different feel and decorated with elaborate stencils by a local artist, and a garden patio (which is beautiful at night). Perfidia has many great specials, including pitchers of Mexican beer for only 50 pesos and 2-for-1 drink specials until 9 o'clock, way past normal happy hour, free live music and exhibitions, and very cheap, gourmet Mexican bocadillos (snacks). In April 2008, Perfidia will start salsa lessons with a very popular teacher (from when the space used to be called La Pera). And on May 31, 2008, Perfidia will feature the gallery opening "Intercambio Frontal: Tijuas-San Cris," a dialogue through installation art, photography, painting, and stencil between the Tijuana artist Alejandro Zacarías and San Cristóbal artist Luther Blissett.
  • La Paloma restaurant on the walking street. Has nightly music and is a nice place for the older set especially.

Also nightly there are many bars with music on the same street; La Revolución (or El Revo), El Circo etc. On Insurgentes, not far from the wonderful restaurant, Madre Tierra, there is a jazz club, Dada that presents very good music. Most of the music is performed by local musicians in the clubs and restaurants. On the corner of the zócalo in the Santa Clara Hotel/bar there is music in the evenings.


  • iskra cerveceria artesanal, real de guadalupe 53, 9676780822, [8]. micro brewery and live music every night,happy hour from 5pm to 8 pm

Sleep

Courtyard of the San Cristobal Holiday Inn

San Cristobal is considered by some to be the backpackers hub in Chiapas. Some accommodation should be found for around 50P/5USD. There are signs on buildings advertising rooms for that amount, though they may have common bathrooms. One particular backpackers´ hostel worth trying is 'La Casa de Jose', with rooms available for $5 and amenities such as cable TV, free internet and a kitchen. Very nice hotels such as Hotel Real del Valle on Guadalupe just off the main square may be had for 200P/20USD.

Budget

  • La Casa de José[13], Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez #32A, phone (01967) 6747667, dorms from 70 Pesos (high season).
  • Hostal Plaza Central, Calle Bonagua 2B, dorms from 50 Pesos.
  • Hostal La Catrina, Calle Francisco I. Madero 35 (Cnr Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez), clean dorms with bathroom from 80 Pesos (negotiable), Phone 967 6781067
  • Albergue Juvenil, Cnr. Francisco I. Madero/Juárez, dorms from 55/60 Pesos.
  • Hostal El rincón de los camellos [14], Tel: (+52 967) 116-0097, Real de Guadalupe 110 circa Vía Guerrero, Dorms from 70 Pesos.
  • Hostal Ek Balam, Calle Real de Guadalupe # 88, Tel: (+52 967) 120-3141.
  • Hostal Backpackers Hostel, Real de Mexicanos # 16. Tel: (+52 967) 674-0525, Email

contact(at)backpackershostel.com.mx

  • Hostal La Tortuga, María Adelina Flores # 24, Barrio de Guadalupe, Email latortuga1206(at)hotmail.com, Tel: (+52 967) 124-8141
  • Hostal Casa Moxviquil, Calzada Ojo de Agua # 23, Barrio Ojo de Agua. (Junto al manantial Ojo de Agua, la Reserva Ecológica, al sitio arqueológico y la cueva Moxviquil). Tel: (+52 967) 678-9075, Cel: 045 967 105 0022, Email casamoxviquil(at)hotmail.com

Splurge

  • Holiday Inn, Calle 1 De Marzo 15, Zona Centro, +52-967-6780045, [15]. Just a couple of blocks from the center of town. About $100 U.S. per night.


Get out

No reason not to take an express bus to where you want to go.

A tour to two of the local indigenous villages, San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan is found at 9:30AM at the plaza in front of the cathedral, next to the Zocalo. Alex and Raul are always there and everyone who appears is accommodated. They speak many languages and this visit really needs a guide, so you understand the very strange things you will observe. They supply transportation and entrance fees. The tour returns around 2:30PM (lunch time in Mexico). In the spring of 2007, this tour cost 180 pesos ($16 US).

Do not bring your camera to Chamula or any other village. Villagers have been pillaged by photographers over the years and it can be dangerous to whip out your camera. I have seen foreigners end up in jail in different communities for taking photos. Rumor has it some Germans were killed in Chamula for taking photos inside the church. Don't be an ass when you visit Chamula. These people do not exist for your tourist pleasure. Their lives are not simple and easy and they are not quaint and noble savages. Leave them in peace and tred lightly when you visit.

Laguna Miramar - Visit one of the most beautiful lakes in the Lacantun Jungle in the south of Chiapas.

Visiting Laguna Miramar requires planning and organization. It is inside Zapatista territory. Do not attempt to go there without a guide. Do bring everything you will need, there is nothing to buy there.

Canon del Sumidero This is a worthwhile half day trip from San Cristóbal


If you get sick while traveling in San Cristobal

Most people that travel to San Cristóbal never have a need to seek medical attention. But accidents can happen and people do get sick. If you do fall ill or hurt, San Cristóbal has good doctors, dentists and hospitals who will be capable of treating you. Doctors Local English-speaking doctors can be recommended by a good hotel. Most of the higher-quality hotels that cater for foreign visitors have a doctor on call at all times. Ask at reception. If you are not in your hotel contact doctor Sevilla. 967+678-1626