Mountains & Markets & Mayan Temples
- Price from:
- 186 GBP /person
- 01273 322046
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- Credit Card
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- 5 days
- Location Start:
- Location Finish:
- San Cristobal de las Casas
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Last updated: 02/19/2009
Explore the tropical jungle and the spectacular ruins of Palenque. Then visit the colourful streets of San Cristobal, the heart of Mexican Indian culture high in the Chiapas highlands.
You'll be able to tell you're getting close to Palenque when the countryside becomes more tropical and hilly and road becomes smaller and bendier.
You'll be staying in a hotel with pool in lush tropical surroundings, close to the bus station and within walking distance of the village. It's very peaceful here with the exception of tropical birds and the occasional howler monkeys making their presence known in the canopy overhead. Palenque village is 7km from the ruins and as it's frequented mainly by tourists it's a good place to check your email, do some laundry or send some postcards. It's very hot and humid here though so unless you love saunas we suggest you find an air-conditioned restaurant for dinner, for example Las Tinajas.
Palenque - Agua Azul - San Cristobal
At 8am you'll be picked up at the hotel for the short drive to the most awe-inspiring Mayan ruins in Mexico. Make sure you bring plenty of water as you'll be sweating buckets. It can get very hot even this early in the morning!
Palenque lies deep in the heart of the jungle and is one of the few Mayan cities which gave discoverers an insight into the history of the Mayans thanks to the amazingly well-preserved hieroglyphs that were found here. Wandering among the temples and houses of this city you will learn about dynasties, conquests, wealth and destruction. You'll also come across one of the most sensational discoveries of the Mayan world: the tomb of King Pacal.After about four hours exploring the complex you'll be ready to escape the heat and seek the cool comfort of the air-conditioned minibus waiting for you at the entrance.An hour later you'll find yourself standing waist deep in the cool waters of the Agua Azul waterfall. The river drops about 1000m over a distance of 2km in a number of 'steps', causing several small waterfalls. In rainy season (July - October) the waterfalls swell and come crashing down, though they do lose their beautiful turquoise colour. You'll have about 3 hours to splash around or perhaps take the path that leads up along the waterfalls. It's hot, but the views over the waterfalls are amazing.At 4pm you'll board the minibus back at the entrance for a bumpy 5-hour drive to San Cristobal de las Casas. Driving up through the colourful little streets uphill you'll reach your posada. The patio has comfortable rocking chairs and hammocks and the rooms are cheerfully decorated.Because San Cristobal is quite high up in the hills the evenings can get quite chilly so you'll need a sweater or a jacket. A tequila or margarita in one of the local bars usually does the trick too.
San Cristobal, excursion Chamula
Your stay in San Cristobal wouldn't be complete without a visit to San Juan Chamula, a small highland village home to the Tzotzil Indians. The villagers live by a curious set of customs dating back to the Spanish invaders, when the traditional local customs became entwined with Catholic practices. The village has some unfamiliar legislation which you won't be aware of (for example, you need to register when you visit) which is why we have arranged a tour with a local guide. That way you can gain a full understanding of this fascinating place.You'll meet the guide at 9am in the square in front of the big cathedral. Many travellers first do a tour of San Cristobal before visiting Chamula so in order to beat the crowds, drive to Chamula early.The church in Chamula may look inconspicuous from the outside, inside it's a different story; instead of benches the floor is covered in pine needles which, together with the incense fill the church with an intoxicating aroma. People are seated on the ground around a shaman (priest) who on hearing the predicament calls on the higher spirits to offer the best advice. This could be sacrificing a chicken (or perhaps bottle of Coke; it makes you burp which allegedly purifies the body).The Tzotzil are very shy and distant, unlike the inhabitants of Zinacantan where you will go next. It's quieter and the local families make a living selling their crafts, textiles or tortillas. They love showing you how they live. Around 2.30pm you'll be back in San Cristobal, in time to visit the local market.
San Cristobal, optional: Sumidero Canyon
Today is free for you to spend as you like in San Cristobal. The cool morning air is wonderful so if you're feeling sporty, go horse-riding or hiking in the surrounding hills. In the afternoon you can visit the market; there's a traditional local market where you can wander among little Indian ladies and men with cowboy hats and stalls piled high with fresh fruit and vegetables and there's a tourist market selling hand-made clothes, belts, jumpers etc.A little further afield is the Sumidero Canyon. You can take a boat trip along the canyon river with its towering 1000m cliffs and spot crocodiles, monkeys and various water birds. From San Cristobal it's a 1Â½-hour drive along a bendy, bumpy road to Chiapa de Corzo, the starting point of the boat trip.You can buy your ticket on the spot (approx US$8.-) and once the boat is full you'll set off. The boat (max 14 people) stops off at several breeding spots and a moss-covered 'Christmas Tree', and of course at the sighting of any crocodiles or monkeys. The trip lasts around 2 hours. Bring a warm sweater, it can get quite cold when the boat gathers speed. You'll leave San Cristobal around 8am, returning around 1.30pm.In the centre of San Cristobal you'll see a friendly mix of Mexicans, Indians and travellers. Spend the afternoon wandering round the colourful winding streets that slowly lead uphill through the city. The higher you get, the more beautiful the view: bright sunlight reflects on the green mountains against a background of threatening clouds.
San Cristobal, departure
This module finishes this morning after you check out of your hotel.
- Inclusions -
- Accommodation, scheduled bus Campeche - Palenque, minibus hotel - ruins - waterfall (incl. admission) - San Cristobal. Excursion to Chamula with guide
- Exclusions -
- Meals, admission to Palenque (approx. US $4).
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