Routes to Guatemala

There are two main border crossings into Guatemala: at Ciudad Cuauhtémoc (La Mesilla in Guatemala), reached via Route 190 from San Cristóbal de las Casas, and the other at Tapachula along the coastal Route 200 from the neighbouring state of Oaxaca. Another option is to cross the border by boat, east of Palenque, along the rivers Usumacinta or San Pedro. Finally, you can cross at Ciudad Hidalgo, to access the Guatemalan Pacific coast.

Comitán

Ninety kilometres from San Cristóbal is Comitán de Domínguez, a small but handsome colonial city 80 km from the Guatemalan border. It's a tranquil and elevated place, offering cool respite from the stifling lowlands and a good place to relax before or after visiting Guatemala. There's a handful of small museums including the
Museo de Arte Hermila Domínguez de Castellanos
, with a collection of modern art; and
Casa Museo Belisario Domínguez
, filled with memorabilia and dedicated to a local doctor who was assassinated after speaking out against President Huerta.

Lagunas de Montebello and Chinkultic

Six kilometres south of Comitán take a right turn for the Maya ruins of
Tenán Puente
, situated in a forest; there is a shortcut on foot. In 1996 the tomb of a Maya nobleman (AD 1000) was discovered here. The buildings at Tenán have been more restored than those at Chinkultic . A road branches off the Pan-American Highway, 16 km further on, to a very beautiful region of multi-coloured lakes and caves, the
Lagunas de Montebello
(a national park). Off the road to
Montebello
, 30 km from the Pan-American Highway, lie the ruins of
Chinkultic
,
with temples, ball court, carved stone stelae and a
cenote
(sinkhole, good swimming) in beautiful surroundings; from the signpost the ruins are about 3 km along a dirt road. Watch and ask for the very small sign and gate where the road to the ruins starts (about 1 km back along the main road, towards Comitán from
Doña María's
, don't attempt any shortcuts); worth visiting when passing.

Tziscao

Tziscao is 9 km along the road leading right from the park entrance, which is 3 km before Bosque Azul. A trip to the Lagunas de Siete Colores from Comitán can be done in a day (note that the less-accessible lakes are hard to get to even if staying in the vicinity). The
Bosque Azul
area is now a reserve. The area is noted for its orchids and birdlife, including the famous
quetzal
, but it gets very busy at weekends and holidays. There are small caves nearby.

Ciudad Cuauhtémoc

South of San Cristóbal and heading for Guatemala, follow the 170-km paved road via
Teopisca
to
Comitán de Domínguez
. From Comitán the road winds down to the Guatemalan border at Ciudad Cuauhtémoc via La Trinitaria.

Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, despite its name, is not a city, but just a few buildings; the OCC bus station is opposite immigration. Be sure to surrender your tourist card and get your exit stamp at Mexican immigration in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc before boarding a pick-up for Guatemalan immigration; you will only have to go back if you don't. Beyond the Guatemalan post at La Mesilla, a beautiful stretch of road leads 85 km to Huehuetenango. This route is far more interesting than the one through Tapachula; the border crossing at Ciudad Cuauhtémoc is also reported to be easier than that at Talismán.

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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