South of Tabasco’s capital, the foothills of the Sierra de Chiapas are heavy with banana plantations, while higher up, thick forest remains and the roadside pools and wetlands are as wild as ever. The highlights of this region include numerous caves and grottoes, as well as several accessible spas, created by tectonic activity, in the main town of Teapa.
Fifty-nine kilometres to the south of Villahermosa, the small, friendly town of TEAPA is a lovely base for visiting nearby caves and hot-spring spas. The springs are sulphuric but soothing, and popular on weekends; during the week, they’re often empty. At the spectacular Grutas del Coconá, 4km northeast of Tepea, eight chambers are open to tourists, as is a small museum displaying pre-Hispanic artefacts found inside. A stroll through takes about 45 minutes. The caves are surprisingly humid, and lined with oddly shaped stalactites and stalagmites.
To escape the humidity of the lowlands, head up the valley of the Río Oxolotán to the Sierra Puana, Tabasco’s “hill country”. This is an extraordinarily picturesque area, with quiet colonial towns set in beautiful wooded valleys, and a turquoise river laden with sulphur. The main destination is TAPIJULAPA, a beautiful whitewashed village with narrow cobbled streets that could, at first glance, be mistaken for a mountain town in Spain. Dubbed a Pueblo Mágico by the federal government, it’s celebrated for wicker craftspeople, who have workshops all over town, and it’s the starting point for a beautiful natural park. From the edge of the village, the main street, López Portillo, leads downhill to a pretty little plaza. At weekends, local women serve exceptionally delicious tamales and other inexpensive food in the large civic building.