In order to maximize the student’s cultural immersion, Instituto Jovel offers a variety of optional group tours to outlying villages and archaeological sites on weekends. Chiapas has beautiful nature trails, colorful indigenous markets and villages and impressive Mayan archeological sites and tours. These are an excellent way to become acquainted with the beauty and diversity of Chiapas.
Tours, which include transportation to the sites as well as the services of a guide, leave from the front door of the Instituto and last from four to ten hours. Students should bring their own refreshments and snacks, and wear comfortable walking shoes. The costs range from US$ 7.00 to US$25.00 per person per tour.
Zinacantan& San Juan Chamula, indigenous villages
San Juan Chamula, at 7 km distance from San Cristobal, is the best known indigenous village in Chiapas, mainly being famous for its unique blend of traditional Maya rituals and Catholicism to be seen in their church. The chapel is lit by hundreds of candles placed in front of statues of various saints and spread out on the church floor; the air is filled with the smoke and sweet smell of incense and there are groups of people kneeling on the floor amidst pine needles performing prayers and rituals.
Zinacantan, at another 4 km beyond San Juan Chamula is also a predominantly Tzotzil Maya community, but has its own traditions, its own rituals and its own traditional clothing, very different from San Juan Chamula, despite its proximity.
The trip to these two indigenous communities includes visits to the churches, the market and a visit to the home of a local family.
On the border with Guatemala, after a 2 hour drive from San Cristobal, are the Montebello Lakes (Lagos de Montebello). There are over 50 lakes here, with 8 of the lakes easily accessible. The lakes reflect turquoise, blues and greens, and coupled with the scenic backdrop of the surrounding mountains and forests, the area is great for a serene and relaxing day’s exploration.
Small boats and makeshift rafts, made from tree trunks tied together, are available for hire at most of the larger lakes, in case you want to go out on the water to get a view from the lakes themselves or to swim from the raft.
So, if you like swimming in natural waters, pack your swimming gear, though changing facilities are limited. The air is sweet and pure at Montebello Lakes, and even during busy times, you’ll be able to find a quiet corner to just sit and ponder, surrounded by some of nature’s most beautiful creations.
The Sumidero Canyon (Cañon del Sumidero) is located about 45 km from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Its cliffs are 900 meters above sea level and overlook the Grijalva River, which extends across the states of Chiapas and Tabasco and flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The result of a geological fault, the canyon’s importance and cultural symbolism for the people of Chiapas are so great that its silhouette is the base of the Coat of Arms of the state of Chiapas. The Sumidero Canyon is home to a great variety of wildlife including crocodiles and egrets.
Tonina, Maya Archaeological Site
Near the town of Ocosingo, a 2 hour ride from San Cristobal, the archeological site of Tonina is situated in the beautiful Valley of Ocosingo, forming an expansive vista to this intriguing site. Tonina’s interesting history is explained well at the new site museum.
Palenque, Maya Archaeological Site
At a distance of approximately 5 hours, the ancient Maya city of Palenque, with its beautiful jungle setting and exquisite architecture and decoration, is one of the marvels of Mexico. It contains some of the finest architecture, sculpture, roof comb and base-relief carvings the Maya produced and fascinates visitors from all over the world.
We’d be happy to help you arrange customized trips to any destination within Chiapas, either on your own or with a professional guide. Just contact us with your requests.