“There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.” Orson Welles
The Chiapan city of San Cristóbal de las Casas was founded in the early 1500’s after the Spanish decided their previous settlement at a lower elevation in the region was too hot. Being in the highlands, temperatures rarely rise high enough to be uncomfortable, but expect some cozy nights if you visit in the winter.
The city is an oasis of block after block of original Spanish colonial buildings complete with red-tile roofs and colorful facades.
This is all complemented by a multitude of squares, churches and vistas, which appear seemingly at every glance and is made all the more complete with the presence of the area’s rather large indigenous population, who come to town dressed fully in their native dress to sell their goods in the markets or on the streets.
Above all else, the city is a tourist haven, with many travelers making it their permanent home. This is much reflected in the city’s diverse array of boutiques, restaurants and amenities catering to the tourist.
You can of course find as much local food as you wish, but say you’ve been on the road for a few weeks and would love a nice pasta dish or even a Thai curry-the city can deliver.
Want to take in an international film or hang out in a hip wine bar? No problem.
The city is also a good place to get in some shopping. The indigenous peoples of the nearby region are a regular site on the city streets, as they come and go plying their various trades.
Many of them produce high-quality textiles of all varieties, which can fetch a good price on the street or in the market. Blankets, clothes, table coverings, woven baskets-it’s all here.
At night, the mute city lights and hazy mountain climate combine to give the streets a quaint and cozy feeling. Once the night crowds begin to fade and the streets become more barren, the entire downtown district takes on a special aura of peacefulness.
After a brief hike up a flight of stairs, you reach the Church of Guadalupe, where you can witness a commanding view over the city in each direction, including the mostly pedestrian way, Guadalupe Street below.
It’s also a good place to people watch, spying on local families as well as the occasional burned out hippy starring into the sun.
Make sure you reserve at least a few days to truly explore the city and just get out and walk about to see all it has to offer.