An elegant town of about seventy thousand, CHIAPA DE CORZO overlooks the Río Grijalva. As it’s barely twenty minutes east of Tuxtla, it makes a scenic alternative to the big city. It’s best known as the starting point for boat rides through the Cañón del Sumidero, and has quite a tourist scene during Mexican holiday times. The first Spanish city in Chiapas, it was officially founded in 1528, though it had already been an important centre in pre-Classic times. A stele found here bears the oldest Long Count date yet discovered, corresponding to December 7, 36 BC. The ruins that remain are on private land behind the Nestlé plant, at the far end of 21 de Octubre on the edge of town.

Cañon del Sumidero

On the highway east from Chiapa de Corzo towards San Cristóbal, you catch occasional glimpses of the Río Grijalva and the lower reaches of one of Mexico’s deepest canyons, with walls up to 1000m high in some places. Its rock walls are sprinkled with patches of bright green vegetation and odd rock formations, and carved out with shallow caves. A drive along the rim passes miradores (lookout points) that are unnervingly close to the edge – the most dramatic is at Las Coyotas. A boat ride up the river from Chiapa de Corzo is just as awe-inspiring, snaking through the whole gorge up to the Chicoasén Dam, which forms a lake at the northern end. Along the way are several waterfalls, including the remarkable El Árbol de Navidad, where calcareous formations covered in algae resemble a Christmas tree. Crocodiles and spider monkeys can often be spotted, along with pelicans, egrets and cormorants.

The one drawback to the water-level view from the boat is the undeniable amount of rubbish in the water that collects along the stagnant edges of the canyons. It’s periodically rounded up and disposed of, but it’s particularly bad during the rainy season, when the water is highest. But this shouldn’t deter you from seeing the greatest geological wonder in Chiapas.

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