Mexico // Chiapas and Tabasco //

Visiting Chamula and Zinacantán


Almost everyone who stays in San Cristóbal visits the Tzotzil Maya villages of San Juan Chamula and San Lorenzo de Zinacantán. Both places have retained much of their unique cultural identity, including a religion that is a blend of traditional animist belief and Catholicism. The church at Chamula, in particular, is one of the most moving sights in Mexico.

It’s hard not to feel a sense of intrusion in these settings, where you may be a spectator at some intense religious ritual. Though an organized tour (very easy to arrange in San Cristóbal) can feel a little rushed and contrived, paradoxically it may make you feel like less of a gate-crasher – your presence in the church is made a bit more ‘official’, and the guides can explain some of the rituals. Tours depart at 9.30am, visit both villages and return to San Cristóbal around 2pm (there is little difference between companies).

If you do come on your own, you’ll feel less conspicuous in busy tourist times (Aug primarily), when there’s more of a Mexican tourist crowd, and a festive atmosphere. Inexpensive combis leave frequently for Chamula, Zinacantán and other villages from Edgar Robledo, just north of the market in San Cristóbal. There are no combis between Chamula and Zinacantán.

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