The air was clear as we walked along the small streets, old Volkswagen beetles curved the corners and the bright sun lit up the yellow and red buildings, portraying a great contrast to the deep blue sky. The rich smell of roasted coffee filled our noses, colorful papel picados were stretched across the roads to celebrate the holy Christmas season. It was simply magic…
Magic towns or Pueblo Mágicos is an initiative started by the Mexican tourism board to promote smaller towns around the country that provide its visitors a “magical” experience through the richness of their culture, natural beauty and historical relevance. During our last trip to Mexico we had a great opportunity to visit such a town and went to the beautiful pueblo of San Cristóbal de las Casas.
Located in heart of the central highlands of the state of Chiapas in Southern Mexico, this town provides you everything that you can possibly be looking for when searching for some true Mexican culture. Cradled at an altitude of around 2.200 meters, San Cristóbal des las Casas has a mild, subtropical highland climate. The city scene is dominated by picturesque Spanish colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, red roof tops and colorful buildings.
We were immediately struck by the bright colors of the town, highly dominated by the intense yellow and red which can be seen in most of the constructions. One of the most representative buildings is the Catedral de San Cristóbal de las Casas located at the main square which acts as a focal point for many locals and tourists alike. The town still is very traditional with many local vendors and farmers offerings their merchandise and goods along the streets. There are many small cafes and restaurants that serve a mix of traditional and local foods in combination with modern cuisine. One of our favorite places to have a nice coffee and a great breakfast is at the Carajillo Café. We loved the interior and the atmosphere – definitely a nice place to drop by when you are in town.
No visit to San Cristóbal de las Casas is completed without an excursion to San Juan Chamula, a small town located just about 10 kilometers away. Remarkable about this town is that it still is a stronghold of true indigenous culture. It is an autonomous state, they have their own law and police and justice is applied according to their beliefs. You can only visit with a guide who will inform you about the rules and rituals that take place here. We were able to visit the Church of San Juan, a place of true, mystical and very different religious practices. We were not allowed to take pictures inside – what I can recall is that we saw the walls covered in yellow chrysanthemums flowers, candles lit in front of wooden saint statues, the floor covered in green pine needles and a thick fog of incense in the air. There was also a healer who wrung the neck of a chicken until it was dead and held it up high in the air.
Yes, all this happened in a church.
What an experience!
We spent some great days exploring the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas and really enjoyed our stay here. The visit to the old, traditional and indigenous town of San Juan Chamula was a unique experience and definitely a one-of-a-kind trip.