When we think of San Cristobal de Las Casas we picture a Spanish colonial town set amongst the mountains in southern Mexico.
We remember the 18 hour* bus ride to get there from Panajchel, Guatemala and the amazing people we met in the place we called home for a little under three weeks and these are the reasons you’d love it too…
The Weather. Yes it rains most afternoons but the mornings are warm and perfect for exploring and activities like belly dancing (classes are run every Wednesday by Virjinia at the Na Bolom Cultural Centre).
The Culture. Several Indigenous groups call this region home, selling their handmade crafts or home grown produce in the markets at very reasonable prices. For example, a weekly shop of vegetables, meat, eggs, cheese, rice and or pasta set us back around AUD $30.
For a more authentic look at the customs and traditions of these people, head to san Juan Chamula roughly 10km from town. Here the locals have blended Catholicism with Mayan customs which you can witness by visiting the church. The church while open to tourists (for a fee), completely prohibits photography of any kind so leave the camera in your bag.
Unlike other churches around the world, there is no presiding priest or pews. Statues of Saints still line the walls however it is believed the Mayans pray to these as representatives of their own deities and not those of the Catholic origin. The floor is strewn with pine needles and it is not uncommon to see worshippers drinking Pox (pronounced posh) and Coca Cola to encourage burping in order to expel evil spirits from the body. Candles are lit and in many cases eggs and live chickens are used as sacrifices for the healing ceremony.
Back in town, you can also visit the Mayan Medicine Museum complete with home birthing video for an inside look at how ailments are treated traditionally by Curanderos (medicine men). Needless to say, I am in no more of a hurry to get knocked up any time soon!
Religion. Like many Mexican towns there are an abundance of churches in San Cristobal. The Iglesia of Guadalupe is worth the uphill walk, while the Cathedral and Templo y Convento Santo Domingo are easily accessible in town.
The Tapas. I’ve been addicted to these tasty morsels since visiting Spain a few years back and San Cristobal’s selection of places to tuck in to these treats doesn’t disappoint. My favourites were El Cau where Chef Karen treated us to mouth-watering delights and La Vina de Bacco where the house wine is gold class.
And finally the people. During our stay and participation in the Workaway exchange program at Planet Hostel (call 01 967 678 5775 for reservations), we were lucky to not only make friends with our fellow travellers but also with the hostel staff and management who made us feel more like family then employees.
*The bus ride between Panajchel & San Cristobal is normally 10-11 hours. We were however, delayed by a village protest for 7 hours.
Where have you visited that has felt like a ‘home away from home’? Leave your comments below.
Videos by Global Runaways