From archaeological wonders of Maya to Sumidero Canyon

December 31, 2013

When it comes to foreign tours Indians may not have shown a preference to the North American country of Mexico. However, Mexico has been considered among the most visited countries in the world by the World Tourism Organization. It is the most visited country in North America after the US.

It has been nearing two weeks since I am in Mexico. The city is fascinating with its unique and intriguing culture, festivals, archaeological ruins, colonial cities and structures, beach resorts and beautiful natural vegetation. In the last one week I am in Chiapas, one of the southern most states of Mexico and the state offers a bonanza for a visitor with its magnetic pull of multiple attractions. Chiapas is a beautiful state with its natural green hills that often resemble our western ghats. Though rich in resources like petroleum it is an impoverished and neglected state. Needless to say the Zapatista armed uprising of 1994 a peasant based movement had its roots in the poverty stricken province of Chiapas.

A rare sight of a pair of crocodiles at the Sumidero Canyon

A view of Sumidero Canyon

Sumidero Canyon wall

Agua Azul waterfall

Another view of the Canyon

Birds perching on a tree at the Canyon

Enjoying a launch ride at Sumidero Canyon

Enjoying Agua Azul on a rainy day

Historical La Pila fountain at San Cristobal

Cathedral at San Cristobal

At the Pyramid at Palenque

Misol Ha Falls in Sañto De Agua

One of the pyramids at Palenque

Palace of Maya kings at Palenque who ruled southern parts of Mexico

The Arch of Carmen

The canyon forming what looks like a Christmas Tree

The colonial city of San Cristobal

The grand pulpit of St Domingo (on the right)

The lavish altar of St Domingo

The Great Canyon at the starting point

The oldest ruin of Palenque

The sacred tree of Mayas at Palenque

Tourists at Palenque

Women of an indigenous tribe in their traditional attire

The state is a delight to visitors be it the waterfalls of Misol Ha or Agua Azul, the remnants of the ancient Mayan civilization at Palenque, the colonial hubs like San Christobal or the Chiapa De Corzo where one can enjoy the beauty and magnificence of the Sumidero canyon.

Agua Azul and Mosoh Ha are the water attractions, both short distances on the way to Palenque, the resplendent city with its Mayan ruins. Agua Azul is supposed to be a dazzling turquoise waterfall (Azul means blue) amidst verdant jungle. When I visited the place it was raining heavily and the water was reddish white but with its power magnified. Still its real beauty cannot be caught with any other camera than the lens of your eyes.

Just another 20 kms off Palenque is Misol Ha waterfall that cascades from a height of about 35 meters. This was one of the lacations Arnold´s movie The Predator. Since it is rainy season the waterfall was in its magnificent best. Surrounded by lush green vegetation it is quite a sublime place to enjoy nature in her resplendent best. I had to beat a hasty retreat from here as it was getting cloudier.

Palenque is one of the important and highly visited tourist destinations of Chiapas and gives us a glimpse of the .impressive Mayan civilization that flourished in Southern Mexico and Central American countries for about six centuries before disintegrating in about 900 AD. The Palenque ruins are dated back to 226 BC. These ruins look as if they stand right in the middle of the jungle as there is a dense forest overlooking some of the ruins. It is believed that these ruins were wrapped up in the thick jungles and were excavated and restored.

The Palenque ruins are spread over 15 sq kms stretch of land and each architecture is a beauty with its exquisite style and sumptuousness. On entering the place one is stunned by a array of architectural marvels. But the structure that beholds your attention is the Templo de las inscripciones, the tallest of the Palenque buildings and is the tomb of King Pakal, under whose reign the city rose to prominence. .

Across this tallest wonder stands the El Palacio, the huge and stunning palace of the Mayan kings. This huge structure is divided into four main courtyards, a labyrinth of steps and myriad corridors. The palace built by several generations was used by the Mayan aristocracy for bureaucratic functions and ceremonies. The palace has numerous sculptures and bas-relief carvings. The most unique feature of the palace is the four storey observatory tower. With a length of 97X73 meters it is the largest building complex in Palenque. The surprising feature of these architectural wonders are said to be built without metal tools and stands as a testimony to the craftsmanship of Mayan architects.

There are other structures like Templo de la Calavera (temple of the skull), Temple of the Cross and many more fascinating structures which cast a spell on the visitors making one ask for more. I had to return from Palenque with a heavy heart after spending nearly 3 hours. There are many foreign visitors exploring these ruins and local handicrafts are sold to cater to these visitors.
Next in the line to visit was the colonial city San Cristobal surrounded by pine forests and decked with impressive churches, breathtaking cathedrals, colonial cafes, restaurants and plazas. San Cristobal is located in one of the most deeply rooted indigenous area of the state.
San Cristobal was once the capital of Chiapas and was the main base of Spanish colonists in the 16th century. San Christabol is a bustling city flocked by tourists and is decked with an array of shopping plazas, bars and hotels. The famous cathedral of San Cristobal is known for its architectural beauty.

The 18th century church of St Domingo is San Cristobal´s most attractive church with its interiors lavishly glided and its golden pulpit is quite breathtaking. There is also the other architectural marvel The Arco de El Carmen which dates back to the 17th century. It is known for its unique arch, said to be one of its kind in Mexico. One can shop for handicrafts and jewelery of amber stones sold in its numerous shops. I stayed at San Cristobal overnight and early morning we moved to Chapa De Corzo about 45 minutes drive from San Cristobal. It is the site of the first Spanish city founded in Chiapas in 1528.

After watching the historic La Pila Fountain the main square I moved to watch the Sumidero Canyan. This spectacular fissure on earth is to be watched with a boat to enjoy its breathtaking scenic beauty. The boats take tourists on a two hour drive along the long walls of the canyon tower overhead. It is a feast to the eyes to watch this stunning beauty of caves, dramatic cliffs and some rare birds and wildlife. The canyon has vertical walls that tower almost 1000 meters at some places. History tells us that hundreds of Chiapans hurled into the canyon rather than surrender to Spanish invaders in 1528. This canyon was formed by cracks in the earth´s crust along with the erosion by the Grijalva river and the process of its formation had begun 35 million years ago.

We were fortunate to see a pair of crocodile resting on a stone just above the water and also a giant chameleon.

On the way back saw a group of indigenous men and women with their traditional dress swarming a market place. These group of women with their traditional attire was quite an eye catcher.

More about Mexico in the next article!


Florine Roche Recent Archives:


By Florine Roche
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Comment on this article

  • Devaraj, Mysore

    Thu, Jan 02 2014

    Wonderful pictures.Good information.

  • Jimmy Noronha, Bellore/Lucknow

    Thu, Jan 02 2014

    The sites are beautiful and such sporadic stints abroad add exhilaration to our lives as it recently did to me after a visit to some breathtaking places close at hand in Bhopal. Of course seeing places abroad works wonders to our lives, we can as well end up seeing some beautiful places close at hand in our own country. However, for some reason or other, the Governments hardly ever attach any importance to such wealth of history hidden here. I enjoyed seeing the pictures and reading the write-up. Thanks.

  • Lydia Lobo, Kadri

    Tue, Dec 31 2013

    Wow.... Breathtaking pics. I am sure you had a ball visiting these places.

    Enjoy your visit to Mexico sweetie...

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