San Cristobal de Las Casas Tourist Attractions
How to get thereBy bus from Mexico City about 18 hours, from Tuxtla Gutiérrez about 2 hours; by car from Tuxtla Gutiérrez 83km/52mi on the MEX 190 (Panaméricana) from Mexico City.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the oldest Spanish settlement in Chiapas, lies in the Jovel Valley surrounded by forest-clad mountains, of which the highest are Tzontehuitz (2858 m (9380 ft)) and Huetepec (2717 m (8917 ft)). Although a typical Colonial town with many churches and low houses with tiled roofs and barred windows, considerable Indian influence is evident, creating an unusual atmosphere. San Cristóbal and its surroundings are some of the most interesting places to visit in Mexico. Despite its southern location the high altitude of the town affords it a cool climate, a fact particularly apparent after sunset. The area also experiences a considerable amount of precipitation, with rain falling even during the dry period (November-May).Until 20 years ago the town was completely cut off from and unaffected by tourism, which has since expanded greatly and led to changes. On New Year's Day 1994 the town was temporarily occupied by members of the Zapatist Army of Liberation (EZLN). Negotiations between the insurgents and the government took place in the cathedral.AdviceWhen visiting Indian villages it should be remembered that their inhabitants strongly dislike being photographed; pictures should only be taken from a distance or permission requested beforehand. The easiest way to avoid difficulties is not to take a camera on such trips. Note also that very casual dress and inconsiderate "tourist behaviour" can also cause bad feeling.
Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
San Cristóbal has many churches, of which only a few are of importance however. Building of the Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción on the Zócalo (Plaza 31 de Marzo) began in 1528 and it has since been altered and redecorated several times. Inside there are several 17th-19th c. Baroque altars, paintings and sculptures, including a picture of Mary Magdalene by Miguel Cabrera, and the principal picture of the Altar del Perdón by Juan Correa. Also noteworthy are the wood carvings; particularly attractive ones decorate the pulpit.
Church of San Nicolás
The parish church of San Nicolás stands next to the cathedral. It was built between 1613 and 1620, and restored in 1815.The house of the founder of the town, now a hotel, lies opposite the cathedral on the corner of Av. Insurgentes. Stone heads of Castillian lions can be seen on the doorway.
Church of Santo Domingo
Going north from the Zócalo along Avenida General Utrilla we come to the most important sacral building, the church of Santo Domingo. Built between 1547 and 1560 on the orders of Bishop Francisco de Marroquin of Guatemala, its present 17th c. façade is typically Mexican-Baroque and is one of the largest in surface area of its kind in Mexico. The imperial double eagle, the coat of arms of the Emperor Charles V, can be seen above the barred central opening and on the sides. The interior is over-lavishly decorated and contains a number of sculptures and wooden altars covered with gold leaf. The particularly richly and artistically carved pulpit dates from the 19th c., its plinth is carved from a single piece of wood and is one of the most remarkable examples of Baroque in the western hemisphere.The adjoining convent was built at the same time. It served as a prison in the 19th c. and is now used by an Indian textile co-operative (Tianguis Jolobil). A museum of religion stands next to it.
Archaeological and Ethnological Museum
It is worth visiting the archaeological and ethnological museum and library housed in Na-Bolom Inn (Maya: "house of the jaguar"; Av. Vicente Guerrero 33). Both were established by the Danish archaeologist Frans Blom, who died in 1963, and are dedicated to the Indians of Chiapas and their cultural inheritance, above all to the Lacandons whose declining culture is recorded in the marvellous photography of Gertrude Duby-Blom, wife of the researcher, who died in 1993. Since her death a board of directors has run the house, opening it to visitors from 4 p.m.
The Mercado (market) lies near the church of San Domingo. Indios from the nearby villages gather here daily. Some years ago part of the market was replaced by a modern market hall. This has resulted in the loss of much of the character of San Cristóbal's original unique market. Members of the two peoples of the Maya group can be seen here: the Tzotzil (about 110,000 members; Chamula, Zinacantán, Larrainzar, Huixtán and Chenal-hó) and the Tzeltal (approximately 100,000 members; Tenejapa, Carranza, Amatenango del Valle, Oxchuc and Cancuc). They wear costumes which vary from village to village. The most striking are those of the Chamula and of the Indians from Tenejapa and Zinacantán.
Museo Na Blom (La Casa del Jaguar)
Archeologist Franz Blom and his wife Gertrudis owned this mansion. The two spent their lives studying the Maya. This museum is filled with photos of their journeys as well as artifacts. The library is open to the public and features more than 5,000 books on the Maya.
Casa Sergio Castro
This house in Av. 16 de Septiembre 32 contains a famous private collection of Indian costumes.
Map of San Cristobal de Las Casas Attractions