Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México is a little known tourist destination in southern Mexico. With a population of over 600,000, it's the largest and most developed city in the state of Chiapas. We crossed the border checkpoint at Talisman through the El Carmen Border near Tuxtla Chica. The border is smaller than Ciudad Hidalgo and we figured it would be a quicker route. We left Guatemala without any problems at the border until getting to the Mexican side. An overzealous border agent must have figured us for drug dealers or gun runners. He searched every little box and crannie of our bags. Even after a burst of displeasure at to what he would find in a box 3 inches by 1/4 inch in size, he continued. 3 hours later we got through the border minus a few cartons of cheap cigarettes confiscated.
The next stop was Tapachula. Tapachula, a town of around 300k seemed a good place to get our Jeep fixed. We were told to head to the bigger city Tuxtla Gutierrez to get if fixed. We arrived in Tuxtla and began looking for a place . After finding a few shops that claimed they could do it with chinese parts, we settled on the Jeep Dealership who claimed to use US parts. The total price was just under 600 USD for a full rebuild. So what to do in Tuxtla Gutierrez Chiapas Mexico for around a week? We have handpicked the Top 5 Tourism Destinations Near Tuxtla Gutierrez Chiapas Mexico in no particular order.
1) Marimba Park/ Parque de la Marimba
Marimba Park - Parque de la Marimba is located on Central Avenue between Eighth and Ninth west. It's easy to get to and find and located in the center of town. Every night a marimba band plays in the baroque gazebo in the center, and people come from all over the place to watch or dance. The hours of the festivities are Monday to Friday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. On the outskirts of the park there are tents setup with food, trinkets, anything else you would normally find at a fair. Dance a little then hit the tents up for some incredible food or sweets. Across the street from the park are a plethora of restaurants, bars and other places to hangout. In the park itself, there are benches setup in concentric rows from the gazebo and dance area.
Get there early to get a seat if that's your thing, ours was dancing. This place fills up fast and parking is at a minimum. With no parking lots and only street parking, you might have to park blocks away and walk there, might be easier to take a bus or cab. We danced for hours and even got noticed by the guy on the microphone who came down to ask us where we were from and if we were having a good time to the cheers of everyone in the park. It was one of the best things we have done in Tuxtla, truly a night to remember. Everyone in the park was accommodating and kind, and this activity is a must if you are anywhere near Tuxtla.
2) Miradores Canon Del Sumidero - Lookouts of the Canyon Sumidero
The drive to the Miradores of the Sumidero Canyon ( the number one attraction in Tuxtla according to TripAdvisor) is breathtaking and definitely worth the nominal fee to enter the drive. Once entering the park, you will get amazing views of the city below as you wind your way up the mountain to the first of five unique viewpoints called "La Ceiba".
This viewpoint you can see the valley walls of the gorge below and the city of Tuxtla in the distance. The Grijalva River below doesn't seem that far away and the concrete overlook has semi-obstructed views from some trees growing up from the canyon below. Some information signs (in Spanish) and some great trees for shade, as well as a concrete "playground" of stepped terraces make this an interesting stop. You still feel like you are in the canyon at this viewpoint however, as it's lower down the mountain.
The next viewpoint is called "La Coyota" and this is where you begin to see the steep canyon walls and how small the river looks below. The walls here are steep and you are literally perched on the edge. The walk from the parking lot to the viewpoint is short. When you look down, you can see tiny little speed boats running up and down the river carrying tourists on river tours. The canyon is spectacular in how immense it is from this viewpoint. Definitely a great view!
At the viewpoint "Roblar" you walk along along a gravel/ stone between trees and shrubs, which finally winds its way to the lookout. The viewpoint is another great view of the canyon and as you are getting higher up into the mountain, you can begin to see more of the surrounding landscape as well. It's quite a walk to the viewpoint from the parking lot but the views are worth the hike. The path is easy to walk, however if you have problems walking longer distances, you might want to skip this one.
The viewpoint "El Tepehuaje", the fourth of the route is quite possibly our favorite viewpoint. There are concrete picnic tables here and lots of places to sit and relax. The views from this lookout are also some of our favorites. The huge walls of the canyon and perspective you see from this vantage point, really shows the depth of this canyon. Surrounded by sheer cliffs and rocky outcroppings with the green hills and river below are some of the most dramatic of the drive up the Sumidero.
The viewpoint "The Chiapa", is the last on the stop and home to the visitor's center. It was closed by the time we got there. This is the highest viewpoint of the canyon at around 3000 feet, but were not sure if it's the best view. The visitor center and lookouts are a bit far from the edge of the canyon, however the views of the surrounding terrain are incredible. There are also some nice gardens around the visitor center to sit an relax as well.
3) Boat Ride Down The Grijalva River - Sumidero Canyon
The views from the top of the Sumidero Canyon were incredible, but now it's time to view the canyon from the Grijalva River on a boat tour. We highly recommend this tour! It's incredible to view the canyon walls from the river and you really see the majesty of this canyon. The awe-inspiring limestone walls reach up to over 1000 metres (3000 feet) in height and are spectacular as you travel through the 13km long passage.
One of the first things we saw was one of the endangered species of the canyon... the American Crocodile. There were a few basking in the sun on the banks of the river and seeing this animal from the boat was incredible. The walls of the canyon began getting steeper and steeper the longer we rode down the unimaginably green river. Limestone cliffs,birds in the trees, monkeys swinging around all added to the allure.
From one of the sheer limestone cliffs, was what the driver called the Christmas Tree Waterfall. The outcroppings of the limestone was covered in moss making the water cascading down look like a Christmas tree. The driver drove the boat below the falls and offered an amazing view of the cascading water that is difficult to see until you get right below it. It's almost a mist and not so much a gushing waterfall, but I suppose that's what allows for the moss to grow into its shape.
The next stop on the river tour was the Cave of Colors. We entered the mouth of cave and noticed the pink and green colors of the wall and the Statue of the Virgin Guadalupe Shrine perched on the walls. The mineral deposits including magnesium and potassium are what create these colors.
Further down the river and at the end was the Chicoasen Dam. The waterway opened up to a wonderful green bay with the hydroelectric plant at its end. There were vendors in boats selling fruits, snacks, water and beer, where you can get some refreshment before turning back upriver. There is also a huge statue of workers dedicated to those who work and have worked on the dam. This dam is the source of electricity for Tuxtla and most of Chiapas.
The ride back was fast and fun. The sun was behind us and really illuminated the walls of the canyon as we zoomed back to the dock. It was a great boat ride and beautiful views of the Sumidero Canyon.
4) Chiapa De Corzo
Chiapa de Corzo, 15 km from Tuxtla Gutiérrez is one of the oldest towns in Mexico. Chiapa has been occupied since at least 1400 BC, with it's earliest inscriptions dating back to 700 BC and 200 CE. The earliest form of hieroglyphic writing and the earliest Mesoamerican tomb burial have all been found here. Chiapa is also the site of the first Spanish city founded in Chiapas in 1528. In the middle of the central plaza you see La Pila Fountain. At the time we were there, it was under some renovations. Built in 1562 the brick structure was at one point used as a huge fountain and a watchtower. Near the plaza you find Santo Domingo Church. Built in the late 16th century, this building is one of the best preserved in all of Chiapas from the 16th century and has Gothic, Renaissance and Neoclassical architectural influences. Its main bell tower has one of the largest bells in the country.
The town is charming and quaint. The main square has places to get coffee, tons of artisan shops and even an Oxxo. There is also a sculpture of the famous marimba player Zeferino Nandayapa. We took some time to snap some pictures with Zeferino before heading back to Tuxtla.
5) San Cristobal De Las Casas
Last but not least is one of our favorite towns in Mexico... San Cristóbal de las Casas. About an hour from Tuxtla Gutierrez lies the mountain town rife with colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. At 7200 feet above sea level, the drive up is spectacular as you wind up the highway into the alpine landscape. The city itself is simply special. The moment you arrive you know it's special. There is a strong indigenous culture in this town with traditionally dressed ladies selling everything from bread to panchos. In the downtown area, you can walk down the many "peatonales" (walking streets). The main plaza (Plaza 31 de Marzo, simply called the Zócalo.) in the center of town comes to life at night with indigenous people selling everything from scarfs to bobbleheads and everything in between. The architecture in this town is nothing short of amazing. With more catholic cathedrals than you can count, cobblestone walking streets, and colonial buildings galore, this place is a architectural dream.
We stayed outside of town and camped at a place called Rancho San Nicolas. This place was great! We pitched our tent there, and met some great people! It was far enough from town that we felt peace and quiet, but close enough to head into town and engage in our favorite pastime... people watching. We absolutely loved just sitting on one of the many walkling streets and sipping on a beer as the world went by. We also found a great place to eat with amazing quesadillas called La Lupa Al Pastor. They had a great taco/quesadilla topping bar where once you ordered your al pastor food, you could garnish it with dozens of different salsas and condiments.
Another great place was near the Arch Del Carmen at night. Street vendors setup at night and we tried some of the street food and then found a few stalls selling some hot drink, ladled out of a large metal container. We don't remember what it was called, but it was a mulled hot fruit cocktail served in a glass of dubious sterility. We sat there hobnobbing with the locals drinking the mystery drink without a tourist in sight. What an amazing city, no wonder so many expats from other countries never leave.
Change In Perspective
We really loved Tuxtla! We got the jeep fixed too... sort of. (a year later once returning home, we found out they put the gears in backwards when the transmission broke again in Iowa) After months of driving around Central America with a broken transmission it was comforting to know we could drive forward and backwards. It took longer than we wanted we had to stay in a hotel the entire time, however we enjoyed our time Tuxtla and we wouldn't have ever passed by this place had we not had a reason to be there.
Sometimes travel is like this. You find the nicest little gems in the most unexpected places. The Sumidero was one of these places. We had never heard of it until we started asking around town what there was to do. Marimba park was another incredible gem! We will always remember this experience. Dancing in the park to marimba music along side of locals was a cultural experience rarely found. That is what it is all about... finding these gems and exploration. There is so much to do in this world!