Outside of San Cristobal there is a whole ton of things to do that are most often reached with a day trip tour. With the gift of time we decided it would be more fun to go out to some of the smaller towns surrounding the bigger city so we could avoid tours and still see the beautiful nature and ancient ruins. I have written about my feelings on tours, sometimes they are the necessary evil, but if given the choice we love to strike out on our own. Taking a cheap ADO bus out to Comitan de Dominguez was simple and gave us a great launching point for El Chiflon and Lagos de Colon.
El Chiflon is home to a set of waterfalls culminating in the waterfall Velo de Novia (Bride’s Veil). To get out to El Chiflon we simply hopped in a taxi and asked them to bring us to the colectivo for El Chiflon. From there we hopped on the colectivo and headed out. Once you get to the park entrance the colectivo stops and asks if you want to walk the 2 km uphill to the entrance or pay another 10 pesos for a ride. We elected to pay the extra pesos to avoid the hot walk. Once we arrived, we were reminded of Erawan waterfalls outside of Kanchanaburi in Thailand, in that there were sets of waterfalls starting with a small wading pool picnic area before starting to head up to the more dramatic waterfalls.
The first couple waterfalls were amazing aqua blue peppered with little fish and bugs in the rivers which tapered our appetite to go swim, although there were plenty of folks doing it. Something about jungle waterfalls just makes me happy.
As we worked our way up, still feeling under the weather, we stopped often and drank tons of water. A short 1 to 2 kilometers will get you to the base of the 394-foot waterfall. A platform is set up at the base of the falls which is damp with spray. Closing your eyes at the top gives you the feeling of walking into a walk-in freezer as the spray from the roaring water blasts.
The process to leave was just as simple only you now walk the 2 km back to the main road. We caught the colectivo right where we had stopped and had been given the option for a ride up to the entrance. There was a gentleman at a booth who can help point you in the right direction if you are unsure, as I was.
Our second excursion took us out to the Lagos de Colon, which is roughly one and half hours outside of Comitan, nestled next to the Guatemalan border. For most tours the operators try to work in as many sites as they can. The spread-out nature of the attractions could mean you are 1-2 hours in the car between attractions. Once you get to the attractions you are limited to a quick 30 minutes and you cannot help but feel rushed. I think the other reason why it appeals to us is the need to communicate with strangers and our sense of adventure. A lot of our trip has been seeking unknown and these kinds of experiences scratch that itch.
Lagos de Colon was a little more complex than El Chiflon to get to and required some Spanish skills plus some gumption. The colectivo drops you at a taxi station about 25 minutes away from Lagos de Colon. From here you wait for a taxi, or a taxi colectivo, to bring you down. When the taxi arrived, we said we wanted to wait for others so we could go down as a colectivo thus making it cheaper. Unfortunately, the next people to arrive were a group of 4, so the taxi driver took them and pointed us towards a couple of guys in a red truck who could bring us down at colectivo price. Yet again we hopped into an unmarked taxi vehicle, was it smart? Both times we have taken the chance it has been a fun experience. The two men cracked beers immediately as we started off, bullshitting along the way. They offered us beers as well and it felt like we were part of their little small-town family, listening to music and talking. For 25 pesos for a ride plus a beer? Ya I will take that every day!
Once at the Lagos de Colon we were blown away by the beauty of the lakes. The color and clarity of the water resulted in wild images of inversion. Trees that had fallen into the lake were reflected by trees hanging over the lake creating unique visual deceptions. After exploring the lakes, we got a bite to eat at the restaurant that is onsite and then walked off towards El Lagartero, the melting pyramids.
Walking along the road to El Lagartero takes about 15-20 minutes and there wasn’t good signage. We wondered out loud if this was the time Matt and Mandy wandered into the jungle never to be seen again. Eventually we saw a sign and found the entrance. We had gotten a late start on this journey unfortunately and the last colectivo heading back to Comitan left around 4pm which only gave us only 15 minutes at El Lagartero.
We came, we climbed the pyramid, we walked the site, and we left in 15 minutes. Record time. The pyramids themselves were incredible, unlike any in all of Mexico. The base of the pyramids are sinking into the ground of the island that they are on which gives the pyramid the likeness of butter melting on a hot day.
The way out of Lagos de Colon was similar as we hitched a ride in a colectivo out to the taxi station, then caught the colectivo back to Comitan, an adventure for sure, but well worth it.
We were very happy with our decision to use Comitan as a home base. If you are traveling through San Cristobal and are short on time, a tour is probably what you will need to do. BUT if you have a week or two and don’t mind a little travel, we recommend getting off the beaten path and taking colectivos to these sites out of Comitan!