Chiapas is an important part of Mexico’s diverse and varied identity and an ideal place to learn about Mayan culture and explore some of the countries most beautiful natural settings. Local festivals, exquisite Mayan ruins, surprising colonial cities, diverse nature offerings and a rich blend of colonial and indigenous cultures makes trips to this region fascinating travel experiences.
Journey Mexico crafts private, custom made itineraries for sophisticated travelers, plan your next Chiapas trip here.
Journey Mexico’s expert private guides are the very best; it is not uncommon for them to hold degrees in art history, archeology, anthropology or biological sciences. Of course, our guides are also charming and personable; undoubtedly you will consider them your friend by the time you leave us! We understand the demanding service that luxury travelers require.
– Kathy Bluestone, March 2015
– Mark Jones, February 2015
Arrival to Tuxtla Gutierrez
Upon arrival to the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport, you will be met outside baggage claim by a Journey Mexico representative with your name clearly indicated. We will meet for dinner in the lobby at 7:00 p.m. and follow with a short orientation on itinerary and general guidelines. Bienvenidos a Chiapas! (D)
Sumidero Canyon and San Cristobal de las Casas
After breakfast, we will the drive towards Chiapa de Corzo and the Sumidero Canyon. We arrive to the embarcadero (the boat dock) to board a speedy launch for a trip through the majestic rock walls of the Sumidero Canyon, towering thousands of feet above us. If we are lucky we may see fauna such as crocodiles, spider monkeys, cormorants, and herons. We return to the boat dock where we then continue into the highlands and finally to our charming colonial hotel in San Cristóbal de las Casas. Dinner is in group tonight on the town at one of the many excellent eateries for local fare. (B, L, D)
San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán
Cultural walking in the Sierra Madre Sur and visit to the modern day Maya villages of San Juan Chamula & Zinacantán After breakfast today, we will embark on a cultural walking journey through the Chiapan country side. We will transport by vehicle to San Juan Chamula and visit the main church, the indigenous cemetery, and the town center before setting out on foot towards San Lorenzo Zinacantan. After leaving the main road, we enter into the beautiful whispering pine forests before arriving to a beautiful overlook from where we can see our next destination San Lorenzo Zinacantan. After a few pictures from this excellent vantage point, we descend into the village to learn more about the history and traditions of the highland Maya and in particular the inhabitants of this interesting town. We will visit our friends, traditional back-strap weavers, and sample hand made tortillas and the local home brewed fire-water before heading back to our beautiful lodging in the center of San Cristobal de las Casas in the late afternoon with free time to wander the cobbled stone streets. Dinner is on your own tonight at one of the many fine local restaurants. (B, L, D)
Misol Ha and Palenque
We will meet in the hotel lobby after breakfast and depart from San Cristóbal de las Casas then navigate the Southern Sierra Madre descending from alpine forests into the steamy lowland jungles of Palenque. In addition to the incredible setting, this national park is also hosts some of the most interesting and diverse bird species in all of Mexico. The limestone sedimentation causes this beaucolic network of streams, rivers, and cascades to turn a dazzling aqua-marine blue, thus giving the name Agua Azul or “Blue Water” during the dry season. We will hike up the river searching out our own private swimming holes and enjoy a picnic lunch before returning to our vehicle and continuing on to Misol Ha for more waterfall wonders. This single jump falls is impressive in the rainy or dry season; the projection of the water allows us to actually walk behind the curtain of water for a unique perspective of the lush river valley from behind the rushing wall of water. For the adventurous, we can continue behind the water fall and check out a river and cave system nestled into the vertical river canyon walls. Spelunking into the shallow tunnel system allows us to see the marvels of the underground river system and geological formations that run in a vast network throughout the limestone shelf of the Yucatan Peninsula. We reach Palenque in the late afternoon and check in to our hotel. We will enjoy dinner in the hotel dinning room. (B, L, D)
Lacandon Jungle, Yaxchilán and Bonampak
Today we will visit some of the least visited and most impressive sites in the Mayan world. We set out early to Yaxchilán, which is renowned as much for its incredible setting as it is for its ornamented building facades, roof combs, and impressive stone lintels that depict battles and ceremonial events. Yaxchilán straddles a U bend in the Usumacinta River, which is the natural border between Mexico and Guatemala. This ancient city’s unique position on the mighty Usumacinta allowed it to control trade throughout the region, making it one of the most important sites in the Mayan world. The inscriptions here teach us about the legendary ruling clan – the Jaguar dynasty. As you explore the ruins, the calls of the large troops of howler monkeys remind you just how far from modern civilization you are and how powerfully alive the Lacandón forest remains. We return to Palenque stopping at another fascinating and well guarded secret of the Lacandón forest, Bonampak. Bonampak was nowhere near as important a settlement as Yaxchilán, as it was very much under the sphere of influence of its more powerful and well-populated neighbor. However, Bonampak is famous for its astonishing frescoes inside the modest looking Templo de las Pinturas (Bonampak means “painted walls” in Maya, the native language still used by the inhabitants of this isolated region). From the consecration of heirs to the throne to vivid depictions of battles and bizarre rituals of torture and blood letting, these frescoes are unmatched throughout the Mayan world. After time to take in these surprising illustrations, we continue back to Palenque to our lovely hotel in the late afternoon. During dinner together, we will recount the days adventure and brief on preparations for the following days activities. (B,L,D)
Palenque and Villahermosa
After breakfast today, we will be treated to a privately guided visit to the stunning archaeological site of Palenque including the Templo de las Inscripciones, one of the most renowned burial monuments in the Americas. Palenque was an important power center during the height of Mayan civilization that dates back to 100 BC. It is still unclear what led to the important city state’s fall around 800 BC. Nestled deep in jungles at the foot of the Sierra Madre del Sur, Palenque’s setting is as memorable as the site is important for the light it sheds on Mayan traditions, rituals, ceremonies, and spirituality. It is located on the western edge of the Maya empire near the important commercial hub of Villahermosa. The archaeological site left behind are very well preserved and maintained by local people as well as anthropologists. The setting of this site is truly unforgettable. In the morning, we will explore the central temple complexes of this site. After lunch, we head eastwards to the Gulf of Mexico and the bustling economic center of Villahermosa. We will visit the La Venta museum where we will learn about the Olmec civilization that has its first traces close to 3,000 years ago! The facility also houses a zoo, where we can see some of the native species from Veracruz state and others from further a field in the Mexican republic. After time to relax, we will regroup for our last group dinner and farewell fiesta at one of the many excellent restaurants in this thriving city. Optional salsa dancing into the wee hours for the hearty.
Departure from Villahermosa
Today is departure day. We will transfer you to the Villahermosa airport according to your flight schedule for your onward flights home. Please discuss your flights before booking with one of our staff. Please let us know if you would like to extend your stay in Mexico.
Arrival to Chiapas
You will be picked up at the airport in Tuxtla Gutierrez and taken on a private boat trip of the Sumidero Canyon in route to your hotel in the colonial highland town of San Cristobal de las Casas.
Overnight: Casa Mexicana
San Juan Chamula, Zinacantan and San Cristobal de las Casas
Private Tour San Juan Chamula, Zinacantan and San Cristobal de las Casas
You will be met by your guide in the hotel lobby at 9:00 AM for a half day excursion (6-8 hours) to the indigenous towns of San Juan Chamula, San Lorenzo Zinacantan as well as a tour of the highlands colonial city of San Cristobal.
Overnight: Casa Mexicana
Montebello Lakes & Chinkultic Archeological Site
Today enjoy a privately guided Tour to Lagos de Montebello. The lakes themselves are well worth experiencing; they all reflect turquoise blues and greens, and coupled with the scenic backdrop of the surrounding mountains and forests; the area is great for a whole day’s exploration. The lakes have a calm, serene and relaxing feel to them; the air is sweet and pure, and even during busy times, because of its size, you’ll always be able to find a quiet corner to just sit and ponder, surrounded by some of nature’s most wonderful creations.
Overnight: Parador Santa Maria
Las Guacamayas & Las Nubes
You will be privately transferred to Las Guacamayas. On the way, stop at Las Nubes, a turqoise paradise of cascading waters. In the afternoon, we will go on a hike for bird watching (macaws). Overnight: Las Guacamayas
Rafting in Lacanja River
The river we raft on is the Lacanjà river. It is not a rapid river, so the descent is more like a scenic tour through waterfalls and backwaters, which will take us deep inside the lush vegetation of the tropical forest. On our tour, we will visit Mayan archaeological sites and, with a little luck, we might see some animals of the jungle. We start our descents from the Rio Lacanja Camp, in the Lacandon community of Lacanja-Chansayab. Overnight: Explora, Exoturismos y Aventura, Ya’ax Cabin
Palenque, Yaxchilan and Bonampak
For an unforgettable excursion (10-11 hours) to the remote Mayan archaeological sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak located deep in the Lacandon Jungle. This tour includes the round trip boat trip (approximately 1 hour in total).
Overnight: Chan-Kah Resort Village
Palenque and Misol Ha Waterfall
Today You will be met by your guide in the hotel lobby at 9:00am AM for a private excursion to Palenque s a ruin city that is part of the Maya civilization that dates back to 100 BC to its fall around 800 BC. It is located on the western edge of the Maya empire near the present-day city of Chiapas, Mexico. The ruins left behind are very well preserved and maintained by local people as well as anthropologists. You will also visit the waterfall of Misol Ha which is a spectacular ±35 meter (115 ft.) waterfall that is a must see for visitors to the Palenque Chiapas region. Under the overhang a trail leads to the far side and a small cave that goes back about 300 meters to a waterfall inside the cave. Even swimming in the surface pool is permitted during times of low flow, however when the rains come flow increases dramatically.
Overnight: Chan-Kah Resort Village
Palenque to Villahermosa
You will be met by your guide in the hotel lobby at 9:00 AM for an excursion to world renowned La Venta museum which is home to some of Mexico’s most treasured artifacts from the ancient Olmec culture. You will then continue on to Villahermosa for the night.
Overnight: Camino Real Villahermosa
Playa del Carmen
The day is yours to enjoy Playa del Carmen at your own pace.
Departure from Villahermosa
Arrival to Cancun
Welcome! Upon arrival at Cancun International airport, you will be taken to your hotel where your trip leader awaits. After a quick orientation, you are free to roam Cancun.
Overnight: Marriott Casa Magna Cancun
Today, we travel to Merida. En route, we will stop at the Mayan Indian market where you can see contemporary and traditional arts and crafts. Next we head to the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, one of the most important sites in the Mayan culture. During the Maya-Toltec period, Chichen Itza quickly developed into a major ceremonial center. The temple of Kukulcan-Quetzalcoatl is one of the outstanding structures that we will visit from this period. After lunch, we move on to the beautiful capital of the Yucatan, Merida. Your afternoon will be free to enjoy the many shops, museums, and plazas of this charming colonial city, home to the descendants of Mayan civilizations.
Celestun and Merida
Early today you will meet your guide at the hotel lobby and a privately guided excursion to the biosphere reserve of Celestun, famous for its river or ria with beautiful flamingo colonies, fresh water springs, and calm beaches. More than 350 species have been identified in this reserve, of which many are permanent residents. Enjoy a private boat ride and admire the magnificent of nature.
After free time for lunch you will head back to Merida City tour to enjoy a historic city tour including the colonial architecture, churches, and monuments of this thriving Yucatan city you can optionally end with a short “Calesa” ride (not included).
Campeche and Uxmal
Early today after breakfast you will depart from Merida to enjoy a morning sightseeing tour of Uxmal where intricately carved temple facades pay homage to Chac, the Mayan rain god. A traditional Mayan lunch is available with chicken or pork and wrapped in bananas leaves. We continue our journey to the coastal city of Campeche, the first port city founded by Spanish conquistadors in the Yucatan peninsula.
Campeche and Palenque
We will tour Campeche´s famous landmarks by trolley, including the colonial forts and the museum. In the early afternoon, we will continue our Mayan Journey along the cost of the Gulf of Mexico to the ancient Mayan city of Palenque.
Yaxchitlán and Bonampak
Early today you will depart from Palenque for a transfer to Bonampak. At arrival you will visit the fascinating and well guarded secret of the Lacandón Forest, famous for its astonishing frescoes inside the modest looking Templo de las Pinturas. After time to take in these surprising illustrations, we continue our adventure to some of the least visited and most impressive sites in the Mayan world, Yaxchitlán renowned as much for its incredible setting, as it is for its ornamented building facades, roof combs and impressive stone lintels that depict battles and ceremonial events. In a boat ride you will learn Yaxchitlán straddles a U bend in the Usumacinta River, which is the natural border between Mexico and Guatemala. As you explore the ruins the calls of the large troops of howler monkeys remind you just how far from modern civilization you are and how powerfully alive the Lacandón forest remains. After time to take in these surprising illustrations, we head back to Palenque arriving to our lovely hotel in the late afternoon.
Palenque and Chetumal
This morning, we enjoy a sightseeing tour of the ancient city of Palenque. This great archaeological site lies in the southern state of Chiapas. Marvel at the magnificent pyramid known as the Temple of the Inscriptions and enjoy the breathtaking vistas of this unique ecosystem. We then cross the vast Yucatan Peninsula, passing ancients cities of the Maya before arriving at the Caribbean coast in Quintana Roo. Our Journey continues to the capital of Quintana Roo, Chetumal, a tranquil city that retains much of the Caribbean flavour of old.
Cenote Azul and Tulum
This morning, we will make a stop at the largest of Mexico´s Cenotes (exposed limestone waterhole), Cenote Azul, to take a dip in the refreshing waters. We continue on to Tulum, with its dramatic cliff location overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Its location makes it a unique place among the 50,000 archaeological sites in Mexico. After Tulum, we head north up the coast to Playa del Carmen, where the feel and spirit of the Caribbean is in the air. Relax at the beach, shop, or take a walk along Fifth Avenue, while the sunset transforms the street into a colorful spectacle.
Playa del Carmen
The day is yours to enjoy Playa del Carmen at your own pace.
Departure from Cancun
After breakfast, we have one last morning to pick up souvenirs and soak up the sun. We depart for Cancun at noon for your onward flights home.