Mayan ruins, jungle trekking, and river cruising!
Our adventure in Mexico's Chiapas state is a wonderfully fun education in Mayan history and civilization, rainforest ecology, and the mysteries of time.
Chiapas was once a Mayan refuge, and you'll pay heed to history at the exquisite ruins of Palenque and Yaxchilán, great and lovely cities of the past that remain as testaments to the glories of the Maya. A visit to San Cristóbal de las Casas, a tranquil colonial town set in a beautiful mountain valley, will provide contrast to the ancient architecture and culture of the Mayans.
You'll enjoy an active exploration of Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, whose biodiversity is simply amazing—the vastest in all Mexico, with 341 bird species (nearly a third of Mexico's total), 3,400 plant species, and more than a hundred different mammals, including jaguar and tapir. To fully appreciate its greatness, you'll take boating trips along the reserve's many rivers, canoe through tranquil turquoise waters, and hike jungle paths while scarlet macaws screech overhead. And what better way to round out the adventure than with an exploration of the dazzling waterfalls and turquoise pools of Agua Azul National Park!
2 days hiking, jungle exploration, river travel, easy touring, 1 day easy rafting (Class II/III rapids-paddle boat only)
- Explore Montes Azules—the largest biosphere reserve in Mexico
- Three fun river journeys down the "freeways" of Mayan civilization: cruise the Lacantún River, self-float on the Tzendales, and motor canoe on the Usumacinta!
- Visit the ancient Mayan sites of Yaxchilán and Palenque, thriving city-states of the 7th and 8th centuries
Duration: 8 days Start Location: Tuxtla Gutiérrez End Location: VillahermosaDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Tuxtla Gutiérrez
Your guide will meet you at the Tuxtla Gutiérrez Airport . From here, we will visit the Cañon del Sumidero National Park, which is home to the Usumacinta River, and hosts some of the most spectacular views in the region. We then transfer to San Cristóbal de las Casas and arrive at Na Bolom, a beautiful hotel and museum, where the Archeological School of Harvard is said to have been founded.
Day 2 : Half day tour Chamula, Zinacantan and San Cristobal
Today, we’ll wander among the churches, buildings, and markets of this lovely town. We’ll visit the Cathedral of San Cristóbal, with its rich baroque façade; the 300-year-old “House of the Mermaid” (Casa Sirena), the oldest house in San Cristóbal; the Santo Domingo Temple and ex-convent, where embroideries and beautiful handicrafts are made; the Municipal Palace; San Cristóbal market; and much more. We’ll also visit San Juan Chamula, a ceremonial center of the Tzotzil people dating from the 16th century and San Lorenzo Zinacantan, literally means "land of bats" where 98% of the population speak Tzotzil (a Mayan Language).
Day 3 : Lagunas de Montebello and Chinkultic Archeological Site on route
Today we leave San Cristóbal, and will drive to Comitán de Domínguez, then we will transfer to the Montebello Lagoons National Park. We will take a short trek around these mystic lakes which are famous for their original and unique coloration. These lakes vary from turquoise blue to jade green and dark black. You will also experience the wide variety of endemic species belonging to this region of the jungle. Then we will continue to our hotel El Parador Santa María, a 19thcentury hacienda which has been maintained in its original state. We will get a glimpse of the past and what life was like during the coffee, sugar and henequen (a type of agave) bonanza of the early 1900s which made this region world famous.
Day 4 : Transfer to Montes Azules - Las Guacamayas
Transfer to Las Guacamayas n the southern edge of the Parque Natural Montes Azules in southern Chiapas, across the Lacantún River, where a center has been established for the protection of the Scarlet Macaw, the Guacamaya. Afternoon hike and bird watching (macaws).
Day 5 : Tour of Montes Azules Reserve
On an amazing jungle hike, you’ll ramble past huge 200-foot ceiba trees to an unrestored, mystical archaeological Mayan site discovered just 20 years ago. Continue to some enchanting waterfalls where you can swim and cool off. We'll board motorboats and head to the Montes Azules Investigation Center, a local conservation effort that has been largely responsible, along with the inhabitants of the area, for the preservation of this magnificent biosphere. We’ll have a chance to chat with the investigators and conservationists from all around the world that work there.
Day 6 : Yaxchilán and Bonampak
The river we raft on is the Lacanjà river. It is not a rapid river, so the descent is more like a scenic tour through waterfalls and backwaters, which will take us deep inside the lush vegetation of the tropical forest. On our tour, we will visit Mayan archeological sites and, with a little luck, we might see some animals of the jungle. We start our descents from the Rio Lacanja Camp, in the Lacandon community of Lacanja-Chansayab.
The first part of the river is a series of waterfalls, which takes about an hour. There are small waterfalls (less than a meter high) and a few big ones (up to 2,50 mts. high). We will then row for another hour until approaching the archeological site of Lacanjà, which is 15 min. away from the edge of the river by hiking in the jungle. We will then reach the Moctuniha waterfalls, where we'll swim and have our lunch. We will get back to the camp by hiking among the dense foliage of the high evergreen forest.
Later on, we'll visit the remote Mayan archeological sites of Yaxchilan and we arrive at the breathtaking Mayan ruins of Yaxchilán, close to the Guatemala frontier. The entrance maze to the ruins is right out of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and eventually leads into the huge courtyard. In the time of the Maya, invaders taking a wrong turn in this maze would be met with warriors wielding spears!
Once inside, the elaborate designs of “Temple 33” and “The Four Doors Temple” are astonishing, and you'll likely see spider and howler monkeys swinging from branches above the ruins. There is also a large stone crocodile next to one of the monuments, so you can pay it some respect after your crocodile adventure the night before! After a leisurely tour and lunch, we continue our journey to the ancient Maya site of Palenque, set among the steamy lowland jungle. We'll continue to Bonampak about 20 miles south of Yaxchilan and famous for the extraordinary mural paintings tha covers entirely the walls of one of its buildings.
Day 7 : Palenque – Villahermosa
Today we’ll spend the day at the ruins of Palenque, considered one of the most important Mayan archaeological zones in the world, whose various temples and buildings have been explored since the 19th century. Some of the more important are “The Palace,” distinguished for its amazing and distinctive tower, the “Temple of the Sun,” “Temple of the Cross,” and the peculiar “Temple of Inscriptions.” Within the “Temple of Inscriptions” is the tomb of Pakal, discovered in 1952. Pakal was an ancient ruler of this city, and his identity was confirmed by an amazingly carved sarcophagus and funeral wardrobe.
We'll transfer to Villahermosa for overnight.
Day 8 : Depart Villahermosa
Depart at any time today, but check out will be around noon. The guides will recommend local attractions and can act as escorts while you await your departure.
DATES: Best time to go: January - April, October - December Departures: No group departures scheduled. Private departures are available on the dates of your choice, pending availablity. Call us for details.
$2,995 (6-9 members)
Rates quoted are per person, based on sharing double accommodations.
$800 single supplement
Bring the Kids!
Hotel Quinta Real Villahermosa
Ideally located within minutes of revered ancient Mayan cities and the industrial and commercial centers of Tabasco, this hotel is a majestic jewel of neoclassical architecture in the style of a Tabesquena Hacienda. Experience elegantly appointed Villahermosa hotel suites, offering classic colonial-style decor and contemporary, modern amenities.
Las GuacamayasMontes Azules,
An ecological center located in front of the Natural Reserve of the Biosphere Montes Azules (Blue Mountains). This Center is ideal for lovers of nature and here it is possible to observe birds in their natural surroundings, to do trekking in the jungle, explore flora and fauna unique to the region, go touring in boats on the rivers Lacantun and Tzeldales. What about nature paths of 1200 hectares of jungle that give you the opportunity to observe in their natural habitat, species like: Howler Monkeys, the red Guacamaya, the white tail deer, the toucan and the white falcon, among others.
Boutique Hotel Quinta ChanabnalPalenque, Chiapas
Only three kilometers from the archaeological site of Palenque, this luxury resort evokes a Mayan palace complex of the Classic Period. Traditional pre-Hispanic design, updated with modern sophistication, awaits the discerning traveler at Boutique Hotel Quinta Chanabnal. Amidst luxuriant jungle flora our swimming pools recall the typical waterfalls found in the ruins of Palenque. It recreates an exquisite Pre-hispanic atmosphere based on historic and archaeological data, allowing you to live the Maya World in full without sacrificing any modern luxury.
Hotel B¨oSan Cristobal de Las Casas
The word b¨o suggests a new and fresh way of looking at San Cristobal de las Casas. It is a concept with its own identity, a re-examination of what hotel keeping should be, where design creates integrated spaces which, at the same time, express what is both a private home and a hotel.
When you are in this magical and mystical town of San Cristobal de las Casas the traditions and roots of the region are evident in every detail of our hotel. Each room provides a pleasing sense of harmony and well-being with nature.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.