One of the favorite
stops for travelers visiting Chiapas
is San Cristóbal de las Casas (elevation: 2,100 meters).
Founded in 1528, the city has a strong indigenous presence and
many of its buildings are colonial gems. Located south of state
Gutiérrez, San Cristóbal was the original
state capital until 1892.
The town takes its name from Fray Bartolomé de las Casas,
the first Episcopal Chair. He was also one of the first and
greatest defenders of the indigenous population. The town serves
as the commercial hub for nearby villages.
The Huitepec Ecological Reserve is located just 3.5 kilometers
(2.2 miles) from the center of town on the road toward Chamula.
Managed by the local environmental group Pronatura
Chiapas, the reserve is located on the eastern side of the
Muktevitz volcano (inactive and nearly 10 million hears old).
This is one of the highest peaks (2,700 meters) in the central
Chiapas mountain range.
The 2.5-kilometer (1.5-mile) interpretive trail ascends 250
meters above sea level and winds through a pine-oak forest.
Allow yourself 2-3 hours for the hike through the 135-hectare
(333-acre) nature reserve. The area boasts 60 local species
of birds and 40 migratory species that nest here during the
winter. Established in 1986, the Huitepec Reserve is the first
such private conservation initiative in Mexico.
Tianguis Sana y Cercana is the local and mostly organic market
and is held Saturdays from 10am to 2pm, at Casa de la Luna Creciente
on Calle Comitan #41 (Avenida Diego Dugelay).
For those interested in local crafts,
a must-visit workshop is open to the public and shows how paper
can be recycled. Taller Leñateros, located at Flavio
Paniagua #54, is run by Maya artisans who have produced handmade
paper, books and block prints for than 20 years. The paper makers
use flowers, lichen, banana fronds along with recycled newspaper
Another recommended visit is Na Bolom, which means 'house of
the jaguar' in the language of the Tzotzil,
an indigenous group from the Chiapas highlands. For more than
a half century, this research center has been committed to the
protection and reforestation of the Lacandón forest.
Located at Guerrero #33 on the corner of Chiapa de Corzo, in
the northwest section of town, the center is housed in a 19th-century
colonial building that was the residence of founders Franz and
Gertrude Blom. Franz was a Danish-born archaeologist who came
to Mexico in 1919 to work for a Veracruz oil company. In 1943
he met Gertrude Duby, a Swiss journalist. They married in 1950
and began to convert their house into an institute for scientific
studies. At first, the Bloms' extensive work with the Lacandones
was anthropological. But as the deforestation of the Lacandón
forest accelerated, their focus shifted to conservation.
Since 1975, the center has supported a nursery that gives away
about 35,000 trees each year. In 1978, Blom and other conservationists
urged the government to create the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve
to protect the Lacandón rain forest. Those wishing to
support this work can do by visiting the museum, or better yet,
by staying the night. This is one of the town's first places
to open its doors to travelers.