We decided to visit San Cristobal de las Casas while we were traveling around Mexico because it sounded absolutely charming. Lonely Planet describes it this way:
"Set in a gorgeous highland valley surrounded by pine forest, the colonial city of San Cristóbal (cris-toh-bal) has been a popular travelers’ destination for decades. It’s a pleasure to explore San Cristóbal’s cobbled streets and markets, soaking up the unique ambience and the wonderfully clear highland light. This medium-sized city also boasts a comfortable blend of city and countryside, with restored century-old houses giving way to grazing animals and fields of corn."
We were looking forward to the highland terrain with lower humidity and cooler temperatures than we've grown used to. It would be a brief taste of autumn -- and much cooler than winter in Belize! So, on December 13, we left Palenque behind on a bus bound for San Cristobal. Even though both cities are in the Chiapas state of Mexico, San Cristobal sits at an elevation of 7200 feet, while Palenque is only at 200 feet, so we would be doing quite a bit of climbing on this day.
We bought our tickets the day before at the ADO station, though we would actually be taking an OCC bus to San Cristobal, as OCC serves this part of Mexico. It is equivalent to the ADO first-class bus.
Typing in our names when buying tickets
Palenque ADO Station
I think I was attracting a little attention as I used my new Galaxy Tab to read in the bus terminal (see below). There was no wi-fi, but I was reading a book using the Kindle app. This was our first trip with the tablet, and it worked out really well. We had no room for a full-size laptop in our packs, and while on previous short trips we've managed without a computer, on a sixteen-day trip, we didn't feel comfortable without some form of communication device. The tablet allowed us to check bus schedules, restaurant ratings, and even make some reservations for our return trip -- not to mention to keep up with all those pesky emails that pile up on a trip. And I didn't have to carry a book along as I had several free ones loaded on the Kindle app.
The men at the desk had just loaded a washing machine up on the counter to go on the bus!
Although the bus ride from Palenque to San Cristobal is only about 130 miles, it takes approximately five and a half hours due to the mountain roads. It was a beautiful drive, but Barry and I both felt quite queasy during the middle part of the trip where there were many hairpin turns and bumps. Fortunately, we didn't have to run for the rest room, but it was an icky feeling and not something we anticipated in advance.
I would have liked to check out this road-side clothing stand. I just love these embroidered Mexican dresses and blouses!
At last, the road straightened out, and we were both feeling fine again by the time we arrived in San Cristobal.
The walk from the bus station was little less than a mile. And as anticipated, this city was very charming, though bigger than we had realized. Including the surrounding area, approximately 250,000 people call San Cristobal home.
We stayed at the Hotel Diego de Mazariegos
, which is spread over two old colonial buildings and is gorgeous. We would spend three nights here before beginning our journey back to Belize. The price was $69 US per night, an amazing deal, I thought.
Inside the pretty courtyard
Our room -- 309
Our room was super charming with high, beamed ceiling, two beds, a table and chairs, and even a fireplace! We didn't use it, though; that seemed like too much work (and we had no matches). I felt like we were in a castle.
Our castle-like digs
We also had a great patio out the back of our room, though we really didn't get to use it. During the two full days we had in town, we kept so busy we were rarely in the room during the day.
The patio view
And on a sunnier, but cooler, day
The hotel even provided a little shopping opportunity for me. I bought a pair of earrings and a bracelet for good price from a friendly little man who manned this booth in the evening. He was one of the few people we met in San Cristobal who spoke excellent English.
Please stay tuned for much, much more from San Cristobal...this may just have been my very favorite city of the five that we visited (thought it's awfully hard to pick)!