5 Reasons to Love San Cristobal de las Casas

San Cristobal Church

Six months.

I can’t believe Martin and I have been on the road for six months.

I also can’t believe we are only in Mexico! I thought for sure we’d be in South America by now! Another traveler mentioned she had the same experience with Mexico. She had intended to travel down to South America but ended up spending all of her time in Mexico. 

After living in Guatemala for seven weeks, the differences between Mexico and Guatemala are obvious.

Mexico is clearly a more developed country: it has better roads, actual sidewalks, nicer cars, and more tourism. Antigua and Flores are well developed in Guatemala, but the rest of the country is still very rural and very poor.

I love the resourcefulness of Guatemalans. If you say you need help to a Guatemalan, suddenly you have a whole team of people working to solve your problem. Sometimes it involves calling their sister’s brother-in-law’s friend in Guatemala City or othertimes it involves physically making whatever it is you need from whatever they have lying around. Within an hour your problem is solved. It’s pretty much awesome.

Yet, despite this resourcefulness, Guatemala feels like it is very comfortable with the status quo. Improvements to things would be nice, but they don’t go out of their way to make them. On the other hand, Mexicans have lofty plans for improvements and tend to start them, but often don’t finish them. 

So how did we end up heading north from Guatemala instead of heading south?

Our friend Amy!

Martin and Amy and Coffee

When a friend from Minnesota flies to Mexico to visit a college friend who lives in San Cristobal de las Casas, I will go north to visit her. 

Totally worth it.

Not only is seeing and catching up with Amy delightful, but San Cristobal de las Casas might be tied with Savannah, Georgia for my favorite city so far. 

Here are my five most favorite things about San Cristobal:

1. The city center is very walkable.

San cristobal pedistrian street

2. The restaurants are varied and delicious.

Falafel in Mexico

Of course, falafel in Mexico comes with a side of salsa and pickled jalapeños. Perfect!

3. The museums celebrate the culture and history of the area.

Museo de Ambar

The Amber Museum

Cafe Museo Cafe

The Coffee Museum

Beautiful Art

Chocolate museum

The Chocolate Museum

Chocolate Musuem

The Chocolate Museum

4. The markets are filled with colorful foods and handmade crafts.

Vegetables in Mexican Market Bean in Mexican Market

5. The city is filled with beautiful architecture and vistas.

San Cristobal de las Casas

Bonus facts about San Cristobal de las Casas:

To get here, we hired a tourist shuttle from Antigua for 300 quetzales/person. The shuttle was supposed to leave at 5:30 a.m., but didn’t actually leave until 6:30 a.m. At the border, we switched vans and drivers. I took two Dramamine to survive the 12 hour trip. 

San Cristobal de las Casas may be in Mexico, but it is cold! At 7,200 feet (2,200 meters) the temperature dips into the 40s at night. Thankfully during the day, it is in the mid 70s. And I thought we were high up in Coban (4,300 feet or 1,320 meters)! This is a big change from Minneapolis where the elevation is just a meager 690 feet (210 meters). 

In 1994, San Cristobal became more well known throughout the world when Las Zapatistas stormed the municiple building and began an overt revoluntionary movement, which lasted over a decade. They were (and still are) fighting for better education, health care, and economic development for the indiginous population in the state of Chiapas. It was a really big deal. We watched a documentary about it that was pretty interesting.

San Cristobal has about 200,000 residents. Tourism is a big part of the city’s economy as well as mining. Amber is really popular here as well as coffee and handmade textiles. It’s diffcult to walk down a pedestrian street without getting approached by someone selling something. They can be very persistent! 

Full laundry service is significantly cheaper in Mexico than in Guatemala. ($4.60 in Guatemala vs. $3.18 in Mexico). 

A good cup of coffee is easy to find. (Finally!)

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