In addition to San Cristóbal, there are tiny Mayan villages tucked into the surrounding mountains that can be visited on a half-day excursion from the city. On market days, these communities are given a potent lease of life and are a great place to search for gifts and souvenirs.
With their color and cuisine, traditional markets are an essential feature of indigenous culture in Mexico and there are hundreds across the state of Chiapas. The Mercado Municipal in San Cristóbal offers a vibrant example of this exciting market culture. With its colorful fruit stands, mountains of chili peppers and pungent meats, this is a place for those who are serious about cooking.
With its vibrant indigenous traditions, Chiapas has long had a reputation as a center for spirituality and mysticism. Mayan steam baths are a great way to experience this living tradition. Known as a temazcal, or “house of sweat,” the ritual is performed by a shaman in an igloo-shaped structure. The dome is filled with hot steam produced by throwing water onto scorching volcanic rocks. The ceremony is typically accompanied by chanting and is said to cure both physical and spiritual malodies.
Chiapas is top of the list for biodiversity in Mexico, with more than 700 species of birds and 200 species of reptiles. Turtles, pelicans, ocelots, crocodiles, wild boar, salamanders and bats are among the many animals found in the state. In recent years, ecotourism in the region has grown exponentially. The Triunfo Biosphere Reserve is a favorite destination for travelers and contains threatened mammals such as spider monkeys, jaguars and pumas.