|SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS|
Located in the jungles of the tropical southern highlands, San Cristobal de las Casas is a small appealing town with a lot of charm, a lot of Indian influence and some pretty amazing architecture. There are no giant factories, industrial zones or other pollution producing enterprises, this is the edge of the rainforest and the indigenous culture is prevalent throughout the region. As a matter of fact this whole region has really changed very little (in comparison to other areas in Mexico) over the years. This is a city of pastel buildings and homes, tranquil plazas, market places, art galleries and many small malls selling typical crafts and clothing.
The cathedral, located on one side of the main town plaza, was begun in 1528. The Church of San Francisco located on Calle Libertad, near the center of town, was once part of a Franciscan Monastery. With a simple façade and roof of tiles and wooden beams, this church holds an incredible collection of colonial art. The Santo Domingo Church and Ex-Convent is an elaborate baroque building, built on the site of the original adobe church that dates to 1547. Featuring a glowing pink façade and extravagant ornamentation, the golden carvings and paintings in its interior make it the city's most beautiful church. The Ex-Convent of Santo Domingo now houses an excellent museum of Mayan culture, and serves as a market place there the local indigenous artisans set up there wares. Always ask permission before taking photos of local Indians as many believe that photos are harmful to their souls.
The city is surrounded by archaeological treasures and indigenous villages which produce a wealth of crafts. Each village clings to its own colorful history, culture and traditions a touch of mystery. In the quaint streets and the surrounding villages the regional Indians still wear traditional clothing and sell their wares, ranging from crafts and textiles with intricate coloring and designs, to fruits, flowers and vegetables. Tours to the outlying villages are easily arranged, as are hikes into the cloud forest. Other areas of interest available to tour are Agua Azul, a mesmerizing lake with beautiful waterfalls, there is an incredibly picturesque string of lakes known as Lagunas de Montebello and just 6 miles from the city you can find the San Cristobal Recreational Park with its interesting caverns. Horse back tours are also available. For tour information inquire at the tourist office located a block from the main plaza.
Palenque, six hours to the north of San Cristobal de las Casas by bus, is one of Mexico's most impressive archaeological compounds. Palenque is set in the lush green jungle of the rain forest and is an incredible experience for anyone even slightly interested in archaeology. There is a modern visitors center, a museum, a restaurant, an interesting library and folk art shops. There is a small town nearby with all ranges of accommodations for those who may wish to spend more than one day.