Two of the main stops for any overlander or tourist in Chiapas are San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque. The direct highway that connects the two, 199, has a number of roadblocks set up by the Zapatistas.
Though harmless, what we had read led us to think they were just frustrating and possibly expensive to pay your way through. We weren’t worried about the blocks, but interested in what our alternatives were. After only half an hour with the Lonely Planet, we decided that not only was Highway 307 an option, it was the better choice. Waterfalls, lakes, and jungle ruins, all on the less traveled path. And to add to that, our friends from Spanish school in Guanajuato, Tyler and Megan (and their dog Marley), were planning to take this route around the same time. Decision made!
Out of San Cristobal, we took a long, bumpy road to Cascadas el Chiflón. Topes, the bane of every overlander’s existence, were in frequent and frustrating on the route. When we finally spotted the Cascadas from the road, it looked like an oasis! There are a series of waterfalls and vibrant blue river at the bottom. Lots of steps to the top, but worth it for those views!
We spent the night tucked to the side of the parking lot, along the river. It was a surprisingly peaceful place to spend a Friday night. It was the first of many nights camping with our new friends Tyler and Megan. In the morning, we headed off to the Lagos de Montebello National Park. First we did a short (8k) 5 lakes hike. The views were spectacular! A number of people were swimming in the lakes, but the water was cold and we weren’t brave enough.
We spent two nights at Lago de Tziscao, right on the Guatemalan border. It’s so close to Guatemala that you can be at the unmanned border in about 2 km. Rachel went for a morning run to the border and back – run through two countries in just 3 miles! The camp site was beautiful, clean and bug free. The weather was comfortable – not too hot or cold, and not too muggy – an Overlander’s Paradise!
Our caravan continued on to beautiful waterfalls at Las Nubes. We took a short hike through the jungle to a stunning viewpoint and swam in the cold water below one of the falls on our way down. The water must have looked refreshing because Mitzi jumped in for a swim as well! She regretted her choice immediately 😀
The next stop on our tour along the 307 was actually a shortcut at the Guacamaya Ecotourism Center. We camped next door to a beautiful resort and were able to enjoy the amenities and tour offers while only paying a fraction of the price at our camp. This was our first up close encounter with monkeys! We saw many Spider Monkeys playing around camp and could hear the Howler Monkeys at night. In the morning we took a boat tour to observe wildlife – Crocodiles, Toucans, monkeys and various birds that live in the jungle here.
After our morning tour, we packed up and finished our shortcut and made it back to the 307. Our next night was in Frontera Corozal. After booking a boat for Yaxchilán we went to bed early in preparation for our morning boat. Yaxchilán was so impressive it deserves a blog post of its own!