Handcrafts and kid friendly activities in San Cristobal de las Casas are not easy to find but this was my Mexico “happy place”. It really was the best place for Mayan handcrafts on our travels but not the most child friendly.
The town of San Cristobal de las Casas is truly a country idyll, surrounded by picturesque indigenous villages and slopping pine-covered mountains. The town itself is a maze of small cobbled streets and beautiful brightly colored old stone houses with a rich smattering of breathtakingly beautiful and kitschy churches. If like me you love a hippy dippy colorful esthetic packed with handmade, hand-woven, hand died and hand carved goodness, drenched in a rich dark aromatic coffee aroma this is your jam!
Most people travel to San Cristobal to visit the neighboring village of San Juan Chamula and visit the Museo de la Medicina Maya. I found both decidedly underwhelming. What I found totally fascinating was the incomparable Centro de Textiles de Mundo Maya which I will rank up there as one of my top 10 museums in the world the Canon del Sumidero, the stunning waters at Agua Azul and the fascinating Palenque Mayan temple. Palenque was by far one of the most interesting Mayan ruins I saw in Latin America. What I absorbed here the most was the rich and complicated indigenous culture of Mexico. Chiapas state which San Cristobal lies in is the second most indigenous populate region in Mexico and I found the vibrancy and energy of the tribes very moving.
SAN JUAN CHAMULA – Handcrafts and kid friendly activities in San Cristobal de las Casas
The town is of course surrounded by many villages. Its inhabitants living in traditional huts and practicing a mixture of recently introduced Christianity and its culturally correct pagan beliefs. The village of San Juan Chamula is a very vivid example of this. What I didn’t love was the intrusive nature of the visiting tourists. There is a herd mentality, a sort of slow and clumsy mammoth traipsing over the main square and up one totally souvenir lined street. It felt like a pagan mini Euro Disney. Not in a good way. I’m not sure how it could be improved I just know I didn’t really enjoy it. Sorry San Juan!
THE MUSEO DE LA MEDICINA MAYA – Handcrafts and kid friendly activities in San Cristobal de las Casas
One word. Depressing. I’m not sure if this is under new management or what the deal was. Maybe I just arrived on a bad day. The concept is fascinating. Working botanical and herbal gardens showcasing the plants ancient Mayans would have used for all their healing potions and rituals. The indoor museum was really interesting but the gardens were so run down I practically wanted to get down on my knees and start pulling up weeds and trust me I am no green fingered traveler! Maybe its seen better days. This wasn’t one of them.
CENTRO DE TEXTILES DE MUNDO MAYA – Handcrafts and kid friendly activities in San Cristobal de las Casas
Ah I don’t want to gush but wow. Firstly the setting could not be a more atmospheric backdrop. The cool stone arched halls of the Ex convent de Santo Domingo. Secondly the curation, the detailed and meticulous cataloguing and the diversity of the collection are breathtaking. If you’re even vaguely interested in textiles, handcrafts of just people making amazing things with their hand go to this place. Its great.
IGLESIA DE SAN CRISTOBALITO – Handcrafts and kid friendly activities in San Cristobal de las Casas
There are two vistas of this beautiful city, Iglesia de Guadalupe and Iglesia de San Cristobal. We chose the latter. No particular reason. Just did. The view really is amazing and despite the daunting climb with a toddler it seemed worth it. If you do have a busy the man at the pet shop at the bottom is very accommodating and will let you leave it behind the counter.
CASCADES DE AGUA AZUL – Handcrafts and kid friendly activities in San Cristobal de las Casas
This really is part of a tour or day trip. I’m not sure who we went with as it was organized by our Hostel. Yes Hostel. We stayed in our first ever Hostel. More about that in another post…The hike and pools are stunning. It’s a pretty concentrated area but it’s truly stunning. The colors are hard to capture and the atmosphere is so tranquil and invigorating its hard not to appreciate that water might actually have some healing powers. A feat of mother nature.
EL CANYON DEL SUMIDERO – Handcrafts and kid friendly activities in San Cristobal de las Casas
The canyon was formed millions of years ago around the same time as the Grand Canyon and with its 900m walls is really a breathtaking experience. The nature doesn’t disappoint with monkeys, crocodiles and some
incredible birds. There are some very unique natural formations here with beautifully colored pink caves and even a christmas tree waterfall. “Cascada Árbol de Navidad”. Oscar hated the whole experience. Hated the life jacket and hated the boat which incidentally has no awning (take hats!). I loved it but it wasn’t the most enjoyable due to above mentioned hate. He did like the monkeys and the crocodiles but I’m not sure that made up for the rest of the experience. Not one for the younger traveler. There are lots of tours going here although I opted to get a bus for a slight price reduction. Its not really worth it. You have to change buses and its kind of a pain. Also the most costly part is the actual boat trip down the canyon and unless your a really good swimmer and have a great relationship with crocodiles there is no way to avoid that.
I really spent the bulk of my time shopping in the streets and markets of San Cristobal rather than in actual shops although there are many. I felt like this was where I was meeting the most interesting people and seeing the most original work. Plaza De La Paz often holds a night market at weekends with a small fairground for children. This was particularly interesting and the embroidery here was the best I have ever seen. Most of the artisans were from surrounding villages. The market at the Ex convent El Santo Domingo is also really good and permanent. You have to hunt around but there are about 10 amazing artisans here. I was a little reserved with the photographs here as most really don’t like their pictures taken. Instead here are a few items I found and love. The boiled wool toys I could have bought in every color they are just so fun.
♥ WHERE WE ATE – Natura Organic Cafe http://naturacafeorganico.com