The Sumidero Canyon is one of the offer you’ll see walking through the town of San Cristobal de las Casas. You will find several agencies offering day trips in the beautiful Chiapas area.
Guided tours cost no less than 300 pesos and you must comply with predefined timetables. If you don’t have a car, the only way will be to rely on the colectivos or these preset packages. If you have rented a car, you can do everything on your own.
Among the various excursions offered you will find:
- Sumidero Canyon
- Agua Azul and Misol Hà waterfalls
- Montebello Lagoon
- San Juan Chamula
- Bonampak e Yaxchilan
- Horseback riding
Most of them are activities that I included in the best things to do in Mexico. Excursions like the one to Agua Azul Falls and the visit to Bonampak and Yaxchilan last a whole day and are definitely lengthy and challenging. Having seen the waterfalls of Agua Azul and Misol Hà in the stretch between Palenque and San Cristobal, the other excursions that appealed to me the most were the Sumidero Canyon, San Juan Chamula and Montebello Lagoon. I decided to drop the latter because it was too far away and I planned to do the first two in complete autonomy.
Excursion to Sumidero Canyon
Every respectable road trip to Mexico needs some excursions. This is, indeed, ideal also because it is quite easy to do it independently.
The Sumidero Canyon are gorges in which the river of the same name flows. They are very particular because, in some sections, the rock walls are as high as one kilometre. Imagine how spectacular the views in this canyon are. You will feel so small before nature that it shows its grandeur.
How to get to Sumidero Canyon
Before discussing the excursion, I must explain how to reach the pier from where the boats leave for the canyon.
Starting from San Cristobal you have to follow the ring road / highway (I still do not understand what it was) that leads to Chapa de Corzo. This road is always downhill, you will be passing from 2100 meters of San Cristobal to about 400 meters of Chapa de Corzo in about 40 minutes.
When you get to the tollgate you’ll have to pay 30 pesos, and so far so good. The thing that surprised me is the way the bar works. Whole families live at the tollbooth. The women show a piece of cardboard with the words “30 pesos” on it. The men raise the bar manually once the toll is paid. I can’t tell you if the “Mexican Highway Company” hired them all or if there are particular company policies such that the tollbooths can bring the whole family to work, the fact is that there was something odd. Maybe the tollbooth is simply in occupation or it’s disused and the local people use it to make money. Don’t worry about this little weirdness, at the toll station they basically have a party, everyone is happy and joyful, just pay the 30 pesos (as if it was a normal toll) and they will raise the bar for you.
From the tollgate to the centre of Chapa de Corzo the distance is about 4/5 km. Once there you will easily find parking inside the classic quadrilateral of Mexican squares. Another 1 km on foot and you will reach the pier.
I will show you the map so that you can see where the pier is.
How much does Sumidero Canyon cost and where to buy tickets
Near the pier under the arcades you will find the ticket office and a waiting room with a television. Once you have bought the ticket you can sit comfortably and wait for your turn. In fact the boats leave when there are enough participants to occupy all the seats. Each ticket is identified by the number of the boat written by pen. When it will be time to leave, the departure will be announced by the loudspeaker and you can queue up.
That said, it seems that there is an endless crowd, but in reality these boats carry up to fifteen people. This means that the Chapa de Corzo is well managed.
Note: if you need it, remember that there is NO WiFi in the waiting room.
The cost of the ticket is 160 pesos plus 30 pesos fee. The total price is 190 pesos each. (August 2016 prices)
How the hike to Sumidero Canyon takes place
While you are in line, you will receive life jackets on your right. For safety reasons, everyone must have their own. On your left, instead, you will have the option to buy peanuts of all kinds that you can soak up with kilos and other various sauces.
You will then be “loaded” on the boat and you will set off for the 38 kilometers and about 1 hour of sailing along the river. Same goes for the return trip, another 38 kilometres.
The Mexican boy in charge of the boat will be your guide and will explain every particular aspect of the gorges.
The pier is obviously located a few kilometers before the canyon, here the depth of the river reaches 8 meters, the setting is very different along the course of the river. In the highest part of the gorges, i.e. 1 kilometre of wall, the depth reaches 100 metres.
This sailing ends at the dam where an electric power station has also been built. Here the height of the river reaches 250 metres.
Pros and cons of the excursion
Sumidero Canyon is one of the best attractions in the Chiapas area. It is fascinating to get around the gorges and see the crocodiles sunbathing and the dozens and dozens of birds that populate the banks of the river. You will enter an ecosystem that should be preserved both from a tourist and naturalistic point of view.
Although it is an excursion that I recommend to everyone, I can only remain dumbfounded in front of the dirt that floats and is carried by the current along the entire course of the river. A tourist who was on the boat with me explicitly asked why there was so much “basura” in the water.
The Mexican boy’s reply was obviously a palliative. Helped by the fact that the day before there had been a heavy storm, he replied that the cause was that the watercourse, becoming bigger due to the heavy rains, had brought with it the garbage lying on the banks. Actually, as I explained in the Mexico travel tips, here there is a strong lack of interest in this aspect and the local people do not care about the environment.
Going to the Sumidero Canyon alone without a guided excursion will save you a few pesos. The main reason why I recommend you to be self-sufficient is not so much for the cost as for flexibility. You can go there whenever you want, at your own pace and above all you can plan to do other excursions after or before the Sumidero.
I suggest you to combine it with a visit to San Juan Chamula village.