I love Mexico’s beautiful colonial towns and cities. And one of my favourites is San Cristobal de las Casas. So what’s special about this highland city? Everything! In fact, I discover something new every time I visit.
San Cristobal was founded by the Spanish in 1528. The town was named after Bartolomé de las Casas, a Dominican monk who arrived in Chiapas in 1545 and was appointed bishop. Bartolomé de las Casas was the most prominent Spanish defender of indigenous people in colonial times. And it is thanks to him that historical records were collected from those times.
A Town of Cultural diversity
The town is home to several distinct Maya groups, particularly the Tzotzil and Tzeltal people. In fact you are more likely to hear Maya languages spoken around town than Spanish! There are two important communities, Zinacantan and Chamula, which can be visited from San Cristobal. In Zinacantan, you can admire the colourful weaving the town is renowned for. While Chamula is famous for its unique church. And this is definitely not a traditional church! Inside, the locals perform pagan rituals including sacrifices and offerings. So, this a fascinating place to experience syncretism firsthand. What’s more, you need to see it to believe it, as no photos are allowed inside the premises!
Wander around San Cris -as locals call it
One of my favourite things to do is simply to wander the colonial cobblestone streets. Alternatively, grab a table at an outdoor terrace and watch families, young couples and friends assemble in the plaza. Or climb the stairs towards the Temple of San Cristobal to check out the views all the way to the mountains. And after the day’s exploration, venture out to one of the city’s excellent restaurants showcasing regional cuisine.
Interested in textiles? If so, San Cristobal has one of the most beautiful textiles museums in Mexico. Located inside the Ex-Convent of Santo Domingo, the museum showcases over 500 examples of handwoven textiles from Mexico and Central America.
The town is also the trading centre for the autonomous communities of Chiapas. It is here that the Zapatista communities trade and sell their coffee, chocolate, arts and crafts, wood, and textiles. And that is great news for shoppers! Because the excellent quality and fair trade certification of most products make this a great place for ethical souvenirs.
Enhance your experience with a sip of Pox
Lastly, your trip to San Cristobal won’t be complete until you try a sip of Pox. This traditional spirit is used for ceremonial purposes by Maya people and is made of corn, sugar cane and wheat. And in San Cristobal, they serve it with orange zest and dark chocolate truffle. Don’t miss a visit to the Posheria to sample this regional speciality. But be warned! Because, at over 50% proof, it definitely packs a punch!
Call us in to plan your holiday to Mexico. And if colonial architecture is your passion, check out our Colonial Splendour suggested itinerary. This multi-country journey includes some of Latin America’s most charming colonial towns and cities.