Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

We visited the ruins and were pleasantly surprised at how well preserved and expansive they were. We were also surprised that we were allowed to climb up most of the ruins. 
The cost to get in is nominal but know that outside of the ruins, everything gets pretty expensive compared to the other areas of Chiapas we visited. In the restaurants near the hotel area of town, entrees start at around $100 MXN. We stayed at the Chablis Hotel which was fine but at $60 USD a night, it was standard for the area but still more than I would have liked to spend. We ate in the gringo area a few times but also went into town across the bridge and ate at some of the small restaurants there. They were much less expensive, about $12 MXN per taco. 
If I were to retake this trip and were on an even tighter budget, I would have taken one of the tours from San Cristobal to Palenque to see the ruins and visit Miso-Ha and Aqua Azul in one day. We took the bus from San Cristobal to Palenque for $112 MXN, then took a colectivo to and from the ruins for a total of $80 MXN, the two entrance fees for the ruins (one for the park, one for the ruins) for $87 MXN, a tour that took us to Misol-Ha and Aqual Azul for $150 MXN, and finally the bus ticket back to San Cristobal for $176 MXN. So all of this comes out to $605 MXN per person. There were tours from San Cristobal that included Palenque, Miso-Ha, and Aqual Azul for $450-600 MXN. I think by staying in Palenque for three nights (so that we would have two full days to visit the ruins and the waterfalls), we actually spent more money than if we would have just crammed it all into one day. But at least we could take our time at the ruins and have time to relax. I guess that’s the trade off.
Misol-Ha waterfall
Agua Azul waterfall
Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

San Cristobal is a lovely colonial town that also feels like an acutal town. While there are more tourists (English speakers are more prevalent here), and there is some of the bothersome focus on selling things to tourists, there is something about the town that also feels normal; locals just going about their day.
Ominous clouds over San Cristobal
We spent a lot of time wandering around the regular, everyday market (food, housewares, etc.) not to be confused with the craft market (ceramics, textiles, souvenirs, etc.). It is a never ending maze of stalls.
 
We also ate lunch in the market most days we were there; taco and caldos (soups and meat dishes that sometimes include rice and beans, but always include corn tortillas) were the main choices. Once again (see blog entry Chiapa de Corzo), speaking Spanish is a must. But the food was good, plentiful, and cheap. The average meal we had in the market was around $25 MXN. I am not sure what the custom is on tipping at these food stalls but we tipped a small amount, maybe $5 MXN each time. Knowing how much we were saving, we felt that we could afford to be generous.
Carne asada tacos con cebolla
We chose not to visit the nearby Mayan villages after reading on other blogs that the locals in those villages were not always interested in people coming to stare at them. So instead, we went out to a park called Archotete and it was well worth it. 

We took a taxi most of the way to the park which cost about $60 MXN. We had read online that the taxi would be closer to $30 MXN but since there were two of us, maybe the cost was per person. We walked the rest of the way, about a mile down a gravel road through a small town.

Me crossing a shaky bridge in Archotete park.

The entrance fee for the park was $10 MXN per person. We were two of four people visiting the park that day so we had the trails to ourselves. We paid an extra $10 MXN to go into a cave and we made friends with the local stray dog. After a few hours of hiking, we decided to take a taxi back from the park instead of walking down to the main road which cost $80 MXN.

The grotto in Archotete park
We named this dog Omar.
There are a lot of beautiful churches to visit in town and some great bars and restaurants to relax in. One of the cheapest bars we encountered was on Real Guadalupe called La Vina de Bacco. It’s a wine and tapas bar with their cheapest glass of wine starting at $18 MXN. They also serve beer and mixed drinks. There also seems to be a lot of live music venues around town.
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico

We went to Chiapa de Corzo to wander around the square and to take a boat tour of Sumidero Canyon. We also took some time to go into the market and eat some delicious food. Choose any stall that is busy but know that a) most stalls only serve one kind of food (tacos, tamales, caldos, etc.) and that b) Spanish is a must. But you’ll save yourself a lot of money by eating in the market than going to the restaurants near the river. A plate of three tacos cost about $20 MXN whereas the menu del dia at the restaurants on the river cost about $65 MXN.
 
Sumidero Canyon
The tour of the canyon is well worth the $160 MXN and takes about two hours but know that information is only given in Spanish. It seems as though there is only one tour company that runs these tours. We found a booth on the square but you can also go directly to the river to purchase tickets.
 
While in town, we saw a ruin of some sort up on a hill near the church (which is on another hill) overlooking Chiapa de Corzo. It’s well worth the short walk uphill for the ruin and the views of the area.
Hilltop ruins
 
To get to Chiapa de Corzo from Tuxtla, you must take an autobus to an area called Soriano (I think it’s one of the bus depots but I’m not sure). At Soriano, on the roadside, there will be colectivo drivers hollering for passengers going to different destinations that are close-by. The cost was $12 MXN each way.
Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico

Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico

We flew in and out of the Tuxtla airport for its cost and convenience to the other places we wanted to visit while in the area. In our research, my husband and I had read that Tuxtla was not a tourist-friendly town but we really enjoyed our time there.
 
Getting from the airport to town was more expensive than I would have liked but it made the most sense. Supposedly there is a way to take a colectivo from the airport into town but the airport is about 30 minutes away from the city center, and I’m glad we paid for the taxi instead of wasting time trying to figure out the other hypothetical option. It cost $280 MXN which when we visiting in February of 2014 the exchange rate was $13 MXN to $1 USD.
 
We spent a lot of time just walking around Tuxtla and eating food. No one seemed to be interested in us which was a nice change from the more tourist-heavy areas of Mexico and a great introduction to Chiapas.
Food was pretty cheap and there are taquerias everywhere. A plate of three tacos was about $35 MXN. The only issue I ran into was that most restaurants don’t serve hard liquor (I am not a beer drinker) and even a few bars only served beer.
 
We also took the orange autobuses (which are different than the colectivos) up and down Calle Belisario for 6 MXN per ride. This took us to Parque Central which seems to host an array of events; music, market, etc. But we stayed further west on Calle Belisario near a university in a Holiday Inn. We used points for our stay so I can’t comment on pricing for hotels in the area.
 
There is a nice athletic park at the intersection of Calle Belisario and Calle Libramiento Pontiente Norte which has a track around the outside and soccer fields and playgrounds on the inside. It’s a great place to wander around, relax in the shade, or take in a game.
Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico

General Notes on Chiapas

We chose to go to Chiapas because we had heard it was beautiful, safe and that the food was delicious. All of these things were true and we really enjoyed out time there. But I don’t think this would have been the case if my husband was not a strong Spanish speaker. We rarely found locals who spoke English (even in our hotels which included Holiday Inns) and we are under the impression that most of the tourists visiting this part of Mexico are Mexican. With this knowledge, I would recommend this area as a great destination as long as you know there won’t be a lot of help if Spanish is not spoken. Also, credit cards are not accepted in most restaurants and hotels nor are they accepted by the bus company we used, OCC. But the people are friendly though not very chatty, the towns we visited were interesting and did not seem exhausted with tourism (even the town of Palenque just seemed like a regular town with a few random English speakers wandering around). I can’t wait to go back and explore others parts of Chiapas.
General Notes on Chiapas