The fourth-largest city in Chiapas, Comitán is 88km from San Cristóbal, southeast along the Panamerican Highway through scintillating scenery. Strategically poised on a rocky hillside, the city of 85,000 is surrounded by rolling farms and wild countryside in which orchids bloom. Once past the scrappier outskirts, the city has an elegant colonial core and a small but absorbing market, as well as a mellow timetable, with many businesses still observing an afternoon siesta. Travellers often pause here before heading for the border with Guatemala or deeper into the wild at the Lagos de Montebello or the Lacandón forest.
Once a major Maya population centre (the ruins of Bonampak and Yaxchilán, even Palenque, are not far, as the parrot flies), Comitán was originally known as Balún Canán (“Nine Stars”, or “Guardians”), but was renamed Comitán (“Place of Potters” in Náhuatl) when it came under Aztec control. At 1560m, it’s not as high as San Cristóbal but can still be more refreshing than the sweltering lowlands; make sure your hotel has blankets.