I had heard so many good things about San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico, so of course, I had to spend around a week there with my dog, Penny — as I road trip through Mexico for the better part of 2022 and 2023!
And I wished I had more time, because: while small, San Cris feels like a place I could just sink into. It feels livable; a great place to travel on a budget in Mexico. I saw and met a ton of travelers, mostly European (which surprised me, having encountered a much higher percentage of American and Canadian tourists everywhere else in Mexico). There is lively nightlife and bustling cafe culture, and the indigenous culture shines brightly. And there are so many restaurants and coffee shops I wanted to try, and not enough meals in the day!
Some fun facts about “San Cris,” founded by the Spaniards in 1528
- It’s one of 132 pueblos mágicos, magical towns in Mexico given a special designation by the Mexican government for their cultural significance
- The city is known for coffee, chocolate, multicultural food options (including vegetarian), architecture, textiles, indigenous traditions, and nearby caves
- I was surprised by the number of tourists — there are a lot of European hippie backpacker types (the city is not frequented by that many Americans, or so I’m told)
- It’s colorful, safe, and overall, prices seem on the lower end of the spectrum for Mexico (although there’s BOUGIE here too, in terms of upscale restaurants and hotels)
- It’s LOUD (TONS of celebratory cannons that terrify Penny to no end) and holy cow is it COLD at night!
- And it vaguely reminds me of a combination of Oaxaca, Bernal, and a hint of Real de Catorce
Oh, and there’s also a Coca-Cola plant nearby. Who knew?
What to eat and what to do in San Cristóbal de las Casas
Drink coffee! Most of Mexico’s coffee crop comes from Chiapas. For a small city, there are about 100 coffee shops to choose from — skip the Starbucks!
Eat Chiapan chocolate. Cacao Nativa is one of the “bigger” establishments in San Cristóbal, but there are several chocolatiers to try if you’re feeling decadent. (Photo 1)
Eat breakfast at Oh La La Pasteleria, a pseudo-French brunch spot. I had a desayuno combo with a cappuccino, fresh orange juice, a fluffy chocolate croissant, fresh fruit, and delicious quiche for about $8USD (don’t judge me, I have a healthy appetite for delicious and cost-effective food)! There’s a large selection of other French pastries and desserts. (Photo 2)
For an authentic Mexican breakfast, Restaurante La Lupe is delicious and colorful, and oftentimes there are marimbas playing outside. (Photo 3)
For something sweet, wander the Mercado de Dulces y Artesanías Ámbar for souvenirs and snacks.
Eat vegetarian! For a small town, there are a lot of options for veggie lovers. I had a seitan caesar salad at Te Quiero Verde, and the portion was hearty!
Walk up the stairs to Mirador San Antonio for a view of the city (best during sunrise) — there’s a church at the top — and head up to La Maldita, a restaurant with the best view from the opposite direction for sunset. (Photo 6)
For an elevated take on local cuisine (and a yummy lavender margarita), linger over dinner at Tierra y Cielo Restaurante. (Photo 7)
Buy artisanal goods, toys, or homemade sweet rolls at Plaza de la Paz from the indigenous women (often accompanied by their children), and hang out in the town square, Plaza 31 de Marzo, lined by restaurants and leafy trees.
Day and night, stroll festive pedestrian streets Miguel Hidalgo and Real de Guadalupe, and scope out your dining, drinking, and people-watching options. (Photos 8 & 9)
Drink wine at La Viña de Bacco. Each glass of vino comes with a bruschetta slice and there’s oftentimes (loud) live music in the street just outside. El Cau Vinos y Tapas (Photo 10) is another fantastic, vibey spot with super affordable wine.
Drink pox: pox is to Chiapas what mezcal is to Oaxaca. Try the strong alcoholic drink (pronounced POSH) derived from corn at one of the local bars, and sip it, don’t slam it! I tasted it at La Popular. (Photo 11)
Tours, excursions, and things to do departing from San Cristobal de las Casas
No trip to San Cristobal is complete without seeing one of the main attractions, the epic Sumidero canyon and national park, and nearby pueblo mágico Chiapa de Corzo! If you’re wondering if the canyon is dog-friendly, it unfortunately is not. (Hopefully, this blog article will come up for others googling the question, because nothing came up for me when I searched!) I could not enter the national park even if my pet stayed in the car, and I stopped at two embarcaderos (boat launch sites), and they both said even on the boat, no pets were allowed. Save yourself the trouble and drive to Chiapa de Corzo and look for a tourism guide to direct you to a boat that will take you on a shorter (one-hour instead of two) tour, OR, leave your dog in the hotel and take a tour. (Luckily, I’ve got some dog-friendly hotel recommendations below!) If you choose to drive yourself, there is a toll between San Cristóbal and Chiapa de Corzo that costs 80 pesos each way.
El Arcotete is dog-friendly and scenic, and a lovely place to spend an afternoon. If you’re going sans pet and want to do zip-lining, let them know when you get there — it’s very affordable!
Heading towards Guatemala are some other breathtaking natural sites — Cascada El Chiflón and Montebello Lakes, Mexico’s “most beautiful” lake district.
One of Mexico’s many Mayan archaeological sites, Tonina is a hidden gem, less frequented by tourists because of its remote jungle setting.
Where to stay in San Cristóbal de las Casas
The below hotels accept pets and are located right in town 🙂
- HIGH-END HOTEL (5 stars): Hotel Bo
- MID-RANGE HOTEL (4 stars): Hotel Helverica
- BUDGET (3 stars): Casa Flor de Vida
Got a favorite spot in or around San Cristobal to recommend to my readers? Leave a comment!
And if you are spending time in San Cristóbal, my friends, well then you definitely have to visit Palenque afterwards! Should I write another itinerary?!? (Here’s a sneak peak, below!) 😘 Buen viaje, amigos!
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