Arrive to the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport, meet your guide and transfer to Chiapa de Corzo and the Sumidero Canyon for a motor boat trip through the majestic rock walls of the Sumidero Canyon towering thousands of feet above the river. Enjoy opportunities for wildlife viewing, such as crocodiles, cormorants, spider monkeys, and herons. Return to the dock and continue into the highlands to the quaint town of San Cristobal de las Casas and settle into the charming colonial hotel.
Despite current discussion about the disappearance of the Maya civilization, you will find Maya culture very much alive here. Today you explore San Cristobal de las Casas and surrounding Maya villages with your local guide. Begin the day in San Cristobal, admiring the beauty of the colonial streets and alleys lined with red-roof tiles and white-washed walls. Depart by vehicle to Zinacantan, a Tzotzil Maya village outside of San Cristobal, known for its flowers and as the only source of salt in the Chiapas Highlands. Continue to San Juan Chamula, a town famous for its church that is adorned with images and artifacts representing a unique blend of Maya and Catholic beliefs.
Today visit Amatenango del Valle, a village of potters high on a hill overlooking the fertile valley. Female artisans here use traditional methods and open their shops and homes for a first-hand experience of their techniques. Peruse their handicrafts and hear their stories and beliefs that are integral to this ancient art form. Return to San Cristobal de las Casas in the afternoon for dinner.
Depart San Cristobal after breakfast for a two hour drive to the Maya site of Tonina. Known as the Place of the Celestial Captives, see numerous sculptures and images of captives thought to be the captured rulers of rivaling Palenque, before their execution. Explore the many temples and terraces of Tonina with your guide. Continue to Palenque in the afternoon and overnight.
Palenque was an important power center during the height of Mayan civilization that dates back to 100 BC. It is still unclear what led to the important city state’s fall around 900 AD. Nestled deep in jungles at the foot of the Sierra Madre del Sur, Palenque’s setting is as memorable as the site is important for the light it sheds on Maya traditions, ritual, ceremony and spirituality. A massive complex spread over 15 sq. km., only the central area has been excavated. Peruse the Templo de Las Inscripciones, a burial monument that is Palenque’s tallest building, and El Palacio, the residence of Palenque’s rulers built in stages from 400 AD until 900 AD and restored in 1955. The palace’s tower is believed to have been constructed so Maya royalty and priests could watch the falling sun during the winter solstice.
After Palenque, continue to the Mishol-Ha Waterfall that cascades 115 feet into a pool surrounded by lush, green vegetation. An optional path winds behind the main falls that acts as a curtain and leads into a cave. Be prepared to get wet, but it is a nice break from the tropical heat. Bring your swimsuit and take a swim in designated areas during low flows.
A two hour drive brings you to Villahermosa, the capital and economic center of the state of Tabasco. Visit the Parque-Museo La Venta to learn about the Olmec civilization. The "People from the Region of Rubber" lived here from 1500 BC to 300 BC and are characterized as influencing the subsequent Mesoamerican societies. Evidence of this is in the Olmec's practice of ritual bloodletting and playing of ball games. The museum contains colossal stone heads that were moved by archaeologists from La Venta to Villahermosa to protect them due to La Venta's oil exploration. A zoo is home to native species from Tabasco including jaguars, ocelots, spider monkeys, deer, and other birds (including scarlet macaws and toucans) and reptiles.
Transfer to the airport for your flight to your next destination in Mexico to continue your Mexico tour or to return home.