Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico
I only spent 3 days in Tuxtla, the capital and largest city in Chiapas, and during the first day all I did was go to dodgy bars and restaurants. I don’t remember their names and I wouldn’t recommend them to you anyway, unless you like drinking with strange people in ugly environs, like I do. So, after what was really only two days I can’t say I know the city too well, but all the same I had some nice times.
If you fly into Chiapas then be prepared to pay for a long taxi ride. I spent 200-some pesos to get to the center of Tuxtla. It is an official cab which you arrange inside the airport. Afterwards I learned that the trick is to fill the cab with people and you can split the cost. Or you can take the cab to the nearest small town and then get in a colectivo, one of the little vans that serve as public transportation.
I did what I always do – walk around and look at rooms. There were a lot of hotels concentrated around the north side of the zocalo – which is called Parque Central – opposite the cathedral. The cheapest were about 150 pesos for some real dumps, but I found a decent, clean one with a private, cold-water bathroom for 156. It was called Hotel Casablanca.
Another habit of mine is to eat in markets. The strategy is to choose the little restaurant or stall which is the most crowded. Even if there are no seats, wait for it. I ate seafood in the Tuxtla market – a massive shrimp salad for 70 pesos. The market is very close to Parque Central and easy to find. Otherwise I just ate fruit on the street – beautiful mangos in particular. Tuxtla Gutierrez isn´t a town that caters to international tourists, so you will find restaurants like those in the rest of Mexico – taco joints, tortas, etc.
It’s all very compact and laid out in a grid – however the directions you receive to go anywhere are quite confusing because all the streets are numbered and named with their cardinal direction or either Calle or Avenida. For example, in Parque Central the cross streets are Avenida Central and Calle Central. To go anywhere you can take colectivos, little vans, which all leave from different parts of centro. So, you might get directions like 2 Sur Oriente y 4 Oriente.
It isn’t colonial or oriented towards tourists like San Cristobal de las Casas, but I found Tuxtla very pleasant and authentic in a way that better reflects modern Mexico and its everyday life.
How nice to visit a zoo with the same animals and environment as the surrounding forest! The zoo is devoted solely to native animals of Chiapas and for the most part they seemed to have plenty of space in their own environment, which is the natural environment of the zoo itself. You could see the big land rodent tepescinte (or paca) running freely through the park. Large groups of birds flew about, stealing food from the captive animals and releasing deafening cries. There were two types of monkeys – spider and howler, many kinds of cats including jaguars, and innumerable birds, including my favorite, the mysterious Quetzal.
You get there by taking a colectivo a few blocks southeast of the market that is clearly marked Zoomat. Colectivo rides within city limits are 5 pesos.
CANON DE SUMIDERO
Visible from the outskirts of the city (or the roof of my hotel), the Canon is a massive break in the mountain range to the north of the city. It is a national park and seems to only be accessible by boats that leave from the nearby town Chiapa de Corzo. The boat ride was 160 pesos for a very worthwhile two hours. At one point the cliffs reach a thousand meters high! We saw adult and baby crocodiles, groups of monkeys, and towering views of the canyon walls. We went all the way through the canyon to the big dam on the other side of the mountain range.
The little city, Chiapa de Corzo, is colonial and very pretty as well. The colectivo from Tuxtla to there was from a station on the road two blocks southeast of Avenida Central. The exact location was 2 A Sur Oriente 5 A Oriente Sur.
TO SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS
After my time in Tuxtla I took a bus to San Cristobal. I left from a little station that was a colectivo ride out of centro, and the bus was 40 pesos for the less than an hour trip. I don´t really know how I got to the station and I saw small stations for San Cristobal in many parts of the city, so I think getting directions to any of them would be easy.
From the bus station in San Cristobal, the walk to the Zocalo is only about 10 minutes, and then the search for cheap accommodation begins! I’m in San Cristobal now and loving it. More on that later…
Looking for more information about Chiapas? Please check out my guidebook Your Chiapas Adventure: San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque, Mexico. You’ll save the small price the first time you follow my advice for transportation, hotels, restaurants, or museums.
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