PLACES OF POWER

Mexico 2016 | TOURISM | PHOTO ESSAY: CHIAPAS

Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost state, has a growing number of tourism attractions. Home to 12 of the country's 62 officially recognized indigenous groups, it has a vibrant and multicultural atmosphere, and its lush environment provides plenty of opportunities for ecotourism. As the sector grows in international prominence, Chiapas' many options should help it become a centerpiece of Mexican tourism.

Chiapas' history stretches back several millennia. Today, it is home to several of Mexico's most historically significant ruins, including the Palenque archaeological site. Located five miles outside the city of the same name, Palenque was once a religious center that spanned almost 25sqm. Designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987, it is considered one of the foremost examples of Mayan architecture and design. The rainforest surrounding it includes the 100-foot Misol-Ha waterfall.

There are several attractive sites from Mexico's colonial history in Chiapas, too, including San Cristóbal de las Casas. One of Mexico's best-preserved colonial towns, it has long been an international destination for its Spanish architecture and artisan shops. The town's cathedral is a central attraction, but there are a number of smaller temples and museums that are appealing tourist destinations. The town is surrounded by a number of indigenous villages, coffee plantations, and haciendas that have recently become sites for new avenues of eco- and gastro-tourism. Indigenous groups are far from historical relics in Chiapas; towns like San Juan Chamula, home to the Tzotzil Maya, maintain an identity as a place where indigenous dress and customs reign supreme. It is this interaction between the past and the present that will continue to make Chiapas an attractive site for international tourism in the years to come.