Sumidero Canyon – One of Mexico’s Dramatic Places to Visit

Sumidero Canyon Chiapas Mexico

In the Chiapas State of Mexico there is one dramatic place to visit that was created around the same time as the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River in the US – Sumidero Canyon.  It is a geological fault that is believed to have been formed millions of years ago.  It is stunning and an incredible sight to see, no wonder it is the 2nd most popular place to visit after Palenque in the State of Chiapas. The Grijalva River runs through the canyon, turning at times 90 degrees and at other times widens to 2km.  The awe-inspiring limestone walls reach up to over 900 metres in height and are spectacular as you travel through the 13km long passage.


There is more to Sumidero Canyon than just the river and walls

Sumidero Canyon Mexico

Boarding our boat for the 2 hour journey

After an hours drive from San Cristobal de Las Casas we arrived at the dock for our 2-hour boat ride down the Canyon.

On arrival, we were kitted out with life jackets and a wristband.  There is an entrance fee that has to be paid to the National Park of MXN30 per person.  As we entered the canyon there was a high tower on our right-hand side, the boat slowed down and we all had to raise our right arm to show our wristbands.

Sumidero Canyon Chiapas State Mexico

Our American Crocodile friend not impressed with the attention

As we rounded a small bend the boat started to slow down and drift towards the river bank on the left-hand side.  Sleepily an American crocodile opened one eye, eyed us up and down (as if to say oh not, not again) and went back to sleep again.  He was a big one! One that you would not want to come to close to at any time.  Showtime! He turned around came gliding towards us just enough to scare most of us on the boat, flipped his tail and went back to his beach to doze.  Just what we all needed, a bit of excitement for the morning.

There are over 150 species of birds in the canyon and our driver pointed them out as we sailed down the river (unfortunately he could only speak Spanish so we were lost on the type of bird that he was pointing out).

Slowing down again he pointed upward to the trees and there swinging from side to side were a couple of spider monkeys.  Why are spider monkeys called ‘spider monkeys’?  If you look at them hanging upside down from their tails they look like spiders with their arms and legs hanging down.

Apart from the rainforest, the National Park has orchids, pine trees, and palms as well as many other varieties of plants growing profusely.

Arbol de Navidad or the Christmas Tree Waterfall

Sumidero Canyon Chiapas Mexico

The lower part of the Christmas Tree Waterfall

The boat slowed down again and drifted towards the right this time.  Jutting out from one of the sheer limestone cliffs was what the driver called the Christmas Tree Waterfall.  The branches were covered in moss which apparently is a result of the waterfall deposits.  It really does look like a Christmas Tree.

Cave of Colours

Sumidero Canyon Chiapas Mexico

Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe at the Cave of Colours

Further down the river we slowed down and headed towards a small cave that from the distance sparkled in pink colors.  In fact, it did sparkle, the pink colors were made up of several mineral deposits including magnesium and potassium.  The cave also contained the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and those who worship her climb up to the cave from their boats via a ladder with fresh flowers and light candles to worship.

Chicoasen Dam

Sumidero Canyon Chiapas Mexico

Statue of the Workers of the Dam

Towards the north end of the Canyon, we sail into the Chicoasen Dam one of Mexico’s most important dams for the storage and generation of hydroelectricity power for the country.  It opened in 1981. There are statutes here dedicated to the workers of the dam.

All good things must come to an end as the boat turns around and we headed back to dock, the driver looked out for any creatures that may be lurking in the trees or on the beaches.  But that is not the end of the tour we still have an hour or two visiting the colonial village of Chiapa de Corzo.

Chiapa de Corzo

Chiapa de Corzo Chiapas Mexico

Side street leading onto the Plaza

Just 15km from Tuxtla Gutierrez is the oldest colonial town in Mexico – Chiapa de Corzo.  It is situated on the northern banks of the Grijalva River.  Chiapa de Corzo is an important town in the history of Chiapas State, apparently, an early Mesoamerican Tomb Burial has been found in the area plus one of the earliest forms of hieroglyphic writings.  This would date that the early inhabitants arrived around 1400BCE.

Mexico has designated many towns to be “Pueblos Magicos” magic towns and Chiapa is one of them.

The town was founded by the Spanish in 1523 and the town itself is centered around a Main Plaza which is typical of Spanish towns.

Sumidero Canyon Chiapas Mexico

The Moorish Fountain La Pila

In the middle of the Main Plaza is the 16th-century Moorish-style La Pila Fountain.  All the bricks are laid out in a diamond style.  It is a fun meeting place for the local students at lunchtime.

Chiapas Mexico

16th Century Santa Domingo de Guzman Church

The 16th century Santa Domingo de Guzman church is also famous in Chiapa.  It is one of the best-preserved churches in the state and the main bell tower houses the largest bells in Mexico.

Chiapas Mexico

Souvenir shops Chiapa de Corzo

If you want to buy some Mexican souvenirs we would recommend buying them here than in touristy San Cristobal de Las Casas.  The same souvenirs can be purchased but at a lower price.

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Sumidero Canyon

How to get to Sumidero Canyon and Chiapa de Corzo

We were staying in San Cristobal de Las Casasat the Hotel Villas Casa Morada and booked a local tour with Jalapeno Tours to Sumidero Canyon and the oldest colonial city of Chiapa de Corzo.

Sumidero Canyon

The tour departed at 9 am for the 1-hour drive to the starting point close to the village of Chiapa de Corzo from the Al Grano Cafe in San Cristobal de Las Casas.

The tour was well organized from start to finish.

After the boat tour, it was a short drive to Chiapa de Corzo.  We had an hour to visit the town, eat in one of the local restaurants or at the market before heading back to San Cristobal de Las Casas arriving around 2 pm.

Tour Cost: per person MXN 220 per person

Where to Stay in San Cristobal de las Casas

Hotels Combine have access to over 100 accommodation sites and can offer the best deals on all types of accommodation in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Sumidero Canyon

We have written an ebook on our travels throughout Mexico.

Sumidero Canyon

Other Blog Posts you may enjoy on this region of Mexico:

San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan

Hotel Villas Casa Morado

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  • MATTrail says:

    During my travel in Mexico I focused on the canyon and it was very good choice. I could see the crocodile next to me – it made my day.

  • Stephanie says:

    I can’t believe people actually climb up to the shrine of the Lady of Guadeloupe, from the photo it looks terrifying! The alligator encounter seems nearly as terrifying, but must have made the trip all the more exciting, it’s probably easier to look back now and laugh than when you were in the moment. Chiapa de Corzo definitely looks like a magic town judging by your description and the photos. I think this post has inspired me to go beyond the “touristic” places when traveling, thanks a bunch!

  • Lisa says:

    I’m so gutted I missed seeing this when I was last in Mexico. Sumidero Canyon is clearly a place not to be missed, and with incredible wildlife there too. The Christmas tree waterfall is stunning, I would probably take photos from every angle if I visit!

  • Bianca says:

    Mexico is full of amazing places to visit. Sadly I still havent but this Sumidero Canyon looks like a place I would enjoy visiting.

    • Hi Bianca
      Thanks for your comments. Hopefully you will be able to visit one day, Chiapas State has so much to offer the traveller.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

  • Bhushavali says:

    Mexico is up in my wish list, esp for it’s Mayan civilization places incl Chicken Itza. I dunno when I’ll get to visit here but I’ll definitely make sure to include Sumidero Canyon too in the itinerary. I’m sure as they call them, they’re magical. Esp., the Cave of Colors is just wow. I’d love to climb it and pay a visit to Virgin Mary!

  • Kate says:

    How amazing that you were able to see a crocodile! And the Christmas tree waterfall is so beautiful! I love the natural formations you found at Sumidero! And that the tour included time at Chiapa de Corzo, so that you get a blend of cultural and natural.

  • umiko says:

    The natures you saw along the canyon look wonderful. I can picture how slippery it is to climb to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Chiapa de Corzo itself looks like a laid back town. I think buying souvenirs from this town is a smart choice rather than from the touristy San Cristobal de Las Casas.

    • Hi Umiko
      Thanks for your comments. The Sumidero Canyon is such a beautiful place to visit and well worth the tour from San Cristobal de las Casas.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

  • Martha says:

    Chiapa de Corzo has been on my bucket list for ages. I love the regal architecture and the authentic vibe of the city. I think this is often overlooked in favor of Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Definitely hoping to get there ASAP. Also, that crocodile is massive — YIKES!

    • Hi Martha
      Thanks for your comments. Yep, that croc was massive, would not want to run into him at any other time. Hope you can visit there one day.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

  • This 2 hour boat ride down the canyon, in a river infested with crocodiles sounds amazing to me. Also, the caves look like a nice place to explore. I haven’t ever heard of Sumidero Canyon and haven’t been to Mexico at all but its on my bucket list. Hope to get there soon as possible.

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