SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS TRAVEL GUIDE
Places to Stay - Click here for price key
For budget digs and a youthful clientele, stay at Media Luna($, Calle Hermanos Domínguez 5, tel. 967/631-5590, www.hotel-lamedialuna.com), which offers Wi-Fi, comfortable beds, and ½ hour free internet daily. Breakfast by previous arrangement.
Ciudad Real ($$$, Calle Diego de Mazariegos, Plaza 31 de Marzo, tel. 967/678-4400, www.ciudadreal.com.mx) has a courtyard restaurant serving Mexican and regional dishes, a bar just steps from the main plaza, and high-ceilinged rooms with cable TV, heat, and safe. Some rooms facing the main square have tiny traditional balconies. Shower only, parking, Wi-Fi in the restaurant.
For an intimate B&B experience and cordial hosts, book Casa Felipe Flores ($$$, Calle Dr. Felipe Flores 36, tel. 967/678-3996, www.felipeflores.com). Each of the five classy bedrooms has its own fireplace; there's another in the cozy yet elegant living room. Continental breakfast is served in the dining room or on one of two outdoor patios.
Casavieja ($$--$$$, Calle María Adelina Flores 27, tel. 967/678-6868, www.casavieja.com.mx) has small but comfortable rooms; interiors have no windows. Lodged in a restored neoclassic, 20th-century mansion, its restaurant is especially popular for Sunday buffet lunch and desserts.
Places to Eat - Click here for price key
For tasty and inexpensive take-out (or to eat in at one row of tables), there's nothing like El Mercadito ($, Calle Diego Dugelay 11, tel. 967/678-0210). Open for lunch and early dinner, "The Market" serves four or five different entrees each day, plus a few soups and sides.
Although touristy and in need of a paint job, Fogón de Jovel ($$--$$$, Ave. 16 de Septiembre #11, tel. 967/678-3145) has a full menu of Chiapaneco and Mexican dishes, and the tortillas are made by hand. Marimbas entertain 2 to 4 and 8 to 10 pm. No credit cards.
Trattoria Italiana ($$--$$$, Belisario Domínguez 8-B near Real de Guadalupe, tel. 967/101-6561) isn't terribly reliable about opening times, but still worth seeking out. Its chef/owner produces a small assortment of wonderful and authentic Italian dishes, changing daily. Closed Sunday, no credit cards. Generally open for lunch and dinner.
Located in the former home of Diego de Mazariezos, the town's founder, La Paloma ($$--$$$, Ave. Miguel Hidalgo 3, tel. 967/678-1547) is attractive and has a full bar as well as Mexican and international dishes, and sometimes live jazz.
Consistently good for more than a decade is El Edén (at Hotel Paraíso, Calle 5 de Febrero #19, tel. 967/678-0085, www.hotelposadaparaiso.com). It is recommended for the steaks, international and Mexican dishes, and for the delicious, massive margaritas: betcha can't drink more than one!
Things to Do & See
Museo de Medicina Maya (Ave. Salomón González Blanco 10, tel. 967/678-5438) tells the story of herbal and spiritually derivede cures employed by the Maya of Chiapas.
Museo del Ambar (Calle Diego de Mazariegos s/n, near 12 de octubre, Parque La Merced, tel. 967/678-9716) is a museum and shop selling authentic amber jewelry and artifacts. Closed Mondays
Museo Mesoamericano del Jade (Ave. 16 de Septiembre #16, tel. 967/678-1122, www.eljade.com) has reproductions of valuable artifacts and jade jewelry on display and for sale.
Indigenous artifacts from throughout the state, including musical instruments, are found at the Museo de Culturas Populares (Calle Diego de Mazariegos 37, tel. 967/674-7227). Closed Mondays and weekends after 2 pm.
Na Bolom (Vicente Guerrero 33, tel. 967/678-1418, www.na-bolom.org) offers tours of its house and gardens, with lots of great photos of the Lacandon Indians and the owners' household items (including indigenous clothing worn by the lady of the house, Trudy Blom). The house (now hotel, restaurant, gardens, and research library) is the legacy of a Danish-Swiss couple who opened their home to Lacandon Indians and researchers for decades until Ms. Blom's death in 1993. Well worth a visit.
Sergio Castro Museum (Calle Guadalupe Victoria 38, tel. 967/678-4289) has guided visits of the owner's collection of weavings and ethnic costumes. Call for an evening appointment
It would be hard to miss San Cristóbal's striking cathedral, at the main plaza and the tourist walkway, Andador 20 de Noviembre.
Chilam Balam (Ave. General Utrilla 33 at Calle Dr. Navarro, tel. 967/678-0486) has guidebooks and books about the Maya and regional history.
Mountains of regional sweets and inexpensive jewelry are sold at the Mercado de Dulces y Artesanías (Plazuela de San Francisco, Ave. Insurgentes at Calle Julio M. Corzo), worth a look to support local businesspeople as you satisfy your sweet tooth or need for inexpensive gifts and souvenirs.
At Santo Domingo church, Sna Jolobel (Andador 20 de Noviembre at Real de Mexicanos) is a women's co-op selling wonderful weaving in traditional motifs: fabric, purses, clothing, and wall decorations. Prices aren't cheap, but the quality is high and the prices allow these women to carry on their traditional weaving, a painstaking and time-consuming vocation which could be easily lost in this age of cheap Chinese imports. An extensive daily crafts market is held in the church's large outdoor patio.
Latinos (Ave. Benito Juárez at Calle Federico I. Madero, tel. 967/678-9927) has been around a long time and still dishes out live salsa and other Latin rhythms along with food and drink.
La Revolución (Calle del Mar at Andador 20 de Noviembre) is a comfortable, casual bar where you'll sometimes hear live rock, cumbia, or salsa.
Youth-oriented La Perfidia (Calle María Adelina Flores 23, tel. 967/678-1209) sometimes has dance lessons, and serves drinks and appetizers in a darkish setting.
The tourism office (Ave. Miguel Hidalgo 2, tel. 967/678-6570), at City Hall, faces the main plaza. Open daily 8 AM to 8 PM.
El Puente (Real de Guadalupe 55, tel. 967/678-3723, www.elpuenteweb.com) has a cinema with topical films, and a language school.
La Casa en el Arbol (Real de Mexicanos 10, tel. 967/674-5272) is a language school and offers cultural activities as well as hiking and biking trips.
How to Get There & Away
See bus schedules and buy tickets ahead of time through TicketBus (www.ticketbus.com.mx) or at the main bus station, located at the south side of San Cristóbal, just off the Pan-American Highway on Avenida Insurgentes. ADO serves San Cristóbal as do the more luxurious OCC and UNO lines.
A new and improved highway has cut driving time between San Cristóbal and Tuxtla Gutiérrez to about an hour. The distance is about 45 km/30 miles. Tuxtla has the nearest regional airport, code TGZ; San Cristóbal's small airport is for private planes only.
Palenque is 207 km/138 miles from San Cristóbal; buses run throughout the day.
Optimo Car Rental, Calle Diego de Mazariegos 39, tel. 967/674-5409.