Tabasco and Chiapas

Shutterstock/46618606/Dave RockThe states of Tabasco and Chiapas merge to form a geographical block that separates Mexico from Guatemala and the Yucatán Peninsula. Until recently, low-lying, jungly Tabasco was considered an oil state with little appeal for tourists, but oil wealth has brought Villahermosa, the state capital, a certain self-assurance and vibrancy, and the parks, nature reserves and huge meandering rivers in the eastern and southern regions of the state are beginning to attract visitors. Its lands once gave rise to the first great civilization of Mesoamerica, the Olmec, whose influence was felt through vast zones of Mexico and further afield.

In Chiapas, the land of the Classic Maya (whose descendants still inhabit the highland villages today), the attractions are better known: San Cristóbal de las Casas is the end of the line for many travellers who base themselves in this delightful colonial and indigenous town while they soak up the atmosphere and explore the jungle waterfalls; the dramatic Sumidero Canyon; the multi-coloured lakes of Lagunas de Montebello, and - a definite Mexico highlight - the ruins at Palenque, with a jungle setting that is arguably the most atmospheric and beautiful of all the Maya sites in the country. Chiapas is also a good entry point for Guatemala. You can head straight for northern Guatemala and the ruins of Tikal or take the popular route through the western highlands and idyllic Lake Atitlán.

Although in some ways Chiapas has fallen victim to the progress bug, it nevertheless seems impervious to the intrusion of outsiders. The Lost World feel remains, created by indigenous inhabitants, many still using traditional dress and keeping their customs alive in the villages, giving everything a timeless feel. The appalling treatment the population has suffered over centuries was the fundamental cause of the rebellion on 1 January 1994, which led to the occupation of San Cristóbal by the revolutionaries of the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) and their continuing struggle in and beyond the boundaries of Chiapas.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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