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San Juan Chamula
San Juan Chamula

San Juan Chamula

San Juan Chamula, Mexico

The Basics

Most often visited on a half- or full-day tour from either San Cristóbal de las Casas or Tuxtla Gutiérrez, San Juan Chamula is best explored in the company of a local guide as San Juan Chamula locals are understandably wary of visitors and protective of their customs.

Combine your trip to Chamula and visit to the church with a stop at nearby Zinacantán, another Tzotzil village where you can give tortilla-making and weaving a go. Highlights of both villages—typically featured on multi-day Chiapas and Mexico tour itineraries—are the locally made handicrafts, often embroidered with Zapatista figures and phrases.

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Things to Know Before You Go

  • Do not take photos of people in San Juan Chamula without their express consent and respect their decision if they refuse you.

  • There’s a small fee to enter the church and photography is strictly prohibited; you will be thrown out and made to delete photos if caught taking them.

  • As most people in San Juan Chamula speak Tzotzil, it’s best to visit with a local guide to overcome the language barrier.

  • Visit San Juan Chamula alongside nearby Zinacantán to make the most of your stay in the region.

  • Take small bills and loose change if you plan on buying anything in Chamula, as large bills and cards won’t be accepted.

  • San Juan Chamula is not easily accessible for wheelchair users, due to narrow sidewalks and uneven ground.

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How to Get There

San Juan Chamula is situated just 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) northwest of San Cristóbal de las Casas and 42 miles (67 kilometers) from Chiapas’ state capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez. While you can reach San Juan Chamula by colectivo (shared minibus) from San Cristóbal, it’s easiest to arrive by private vehicle. Most people choose to get there as part of a guided excursion that includes round-trip transportation.

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When to Get There

San Juan Chamula is accessible year-round and you’ll always find street food vendors and artisans selling their handmade goods. Keep in mind that the rainy season hits Chiapas from roughly May to October each year, with rainfall often occurring in the afternoons. Chamula is also at altitude and therefore cooler in the mornings, evenings, and winter months. Whenever you visit, it’s best to do so with a local guide.

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Just 5 miles (8 kilometers) from San Juan Chamula, sits the Tzotzil Maya village of Zinacantán, a popular stopping point on half- or full-day tours of the Chiapas Highlands region from either San Cristóbal de las Casas or Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Known for being almost entirely Tzotzil-speaking, Zinacantán is popular for its handicrafts and indigenous traditions, some of which can be witnessed on a guided tour of the village.

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