Mexico Connect
Forums  > Areas > Southern Mexico

Hound Dog

May 10, 2009, 2:52 PM

Post #1 of 3 (4019 views)


Driving From San Cristóbal de Las Casas to Lake Chapala

Can't Post | Private Reply
I will report on three alternatives here as time permits.

This is the most direct route from the Chiapas Highlands to Lake Chapala (Lakeside). Between 1,400 and 1,500 kilometers. About 19 hours driving time over mostly good toll roads. This route takes you from San Cristóbal through Tuxtla Gutierrez and then by Minatitlan, the area known generally as The Tuxtlas (Santiago Tuxtla, San Andres Tuxtla and Lake Catemaco - a very wothwhile side trip off of the cuota perhaps for lunch at the lake), the beautiful valley along the urban corridor from Córdoba through Fortin de Las Flores to Orizaba and then up the mountain to the high Puebla plain and through Mexico City toward (but skirting)Toluca, Atlacomulco, Lake Cuitzeo, Ocotlan and then on into the Chapala area.

We usually stay overnight at Fortin de Las Flores at the Las Magnolias B&B because we take along our dogs and the B&B has a fine rustic cabin we stay in but there are some very nice hotels in Orizaba we like as well including a colonial style Holiday Inn right in the center of town surrounded by lots of good restaurants. Driving time from San Cristóbal to Fortin - about seven hours if no diversions. If one does not have dogs, one can drive on to Puebla and that splits the drive into two equadistant legs. If one goes on to Puebla, we recommend staying at either the new Holiday Inn or Fiesta Inn on the freeway that skirts the city since it is quite a long drive from the freeway to central Puebla and one can stay on the freeway and take a taxi into centro for dinner saving about 30 minutes of driving time altogether.

While it´s a long drive, one can make it from Fortin or Orizaba the next day in about 12 hours including the normally one hour drive through Mexico City from Ixtapaluca on the east to Santa Fe on the west. Some hints about driving through Mexico City:
* If it´s a week day, make sure you can drive in the city on that day and be cautious about driving on a Saturday as some Saturdays are not allowed. Remember that you cannot drive through the city with out-of-state plates before 11:00AM on any day except Sunday so if you stay in Puebla, don´t even think of driving through Mexico City before 11:00AM unless it´s a Sunday.
* Avoid the perifericos if you can (DF cops love to fish for out-of-state suckers out there) and drive through the ample boulevards that will take you through the heart of town. Roughly speaking, you will enter the city along Calzado Ignacio Zaragosa to Rio de La Piedad to Viaducto to Miguel Aleman to Avenida Constituyentes to the Mexico City-Toluca Cuota at Santa Fe - a striking and modern suburb with splendid and architecturally unique high rises and with many fine restaurants and high-end department stores and exclusive residential areas. Once you see the Santa Fe toll booth you are out of the megalopolis and on your way to Michoacan.

More tomorrow.

(This post was edited by Hound Dog on May 10, 2009, 5:08 PM)


May 10, 2009, 3:38 PM

Post #2 of 3 (4014 views)


Re: [Hound Dog] Driving From San Cristóbal de Las Casas to Lake Chapala

Can't Post | Private Reply
Excellent information and a very useful description; thanks!

Hound Dog

May 10, 2009, 6:01 PM

Post #3 of 3 (3999 views)


Re: [Hound Dog] Driving From San Cristóbal de Las Casas to Lake Chapala

Can't Post | Private Reply
A wee bit more information on the drive through Veracruz State to Lake Chapala from San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

When you drive down the escarpment from San Cristóbal to the Chiapas state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez you descend about 6,000 feet in the space of 45 kilometers in a time of less than 45 minutes. Before they opened this cuota a couple of years ago this was a most arduous if mind-blowingly beautiful drive over a twisting and dangerous two lane road filled with slow truck traffic and impatient passing drivers making the journey quite dangerous. Before the new cuota opened, the drive took over two hours.

The new and spectacular cuota from the alpine reaches of San Cristóbal at 7,000 feet to semi-tropical Tuxtla Gutierrez on the Chiapas Depression at about 1,200 feet was supposed to open about a year or two before it actually opened but when you drive this route you will note a bridge called Puente San Cristóbal that crosses a deep and forbidding gorge and what happened is that the original bridge - an engineering marvel or so it seemed - was built on unstable footings and was unpassable so had to be rebuilt which they did over the span of about two years and to ensure that the new bridge was viewed as safe by locals traversing the thing they had the Bishop of San Cristóbal perform an elaborate blessing of the new and improved Puente San Cristóbal and this ceremony was attended by thousands of Coletos and other Chiapanecos who now at least try to assume that, with the bishop´s blessing (and, I kid you not that the Bishopry of San Cristóbal is locally important indeed since that is historically the seat of the traditional Catholic Church in those parts when Tuxtla Gutierrez was a wide and irrelevant spot in the road) so all of us, whether of the Catholic or Presbyterian faiths cross that bridge with the utmost certainty that it will not collapse while we are traversing it except to say that that does not mean we are going to linger thereupon for longer that necessary if you get my drift.

When you reach the end of the cuota east of Tuxtla you will be in the lovely town of Chiapa de Corzo on the beautiful Rio Grijalva just at the beginning of the Sumidero Canyon and a finer small town there is not than that so if you are spending time in Chiapas this should be a destination for you. Fun sights and fine restaurants abound around there and they have some splendid annual fiestas but this thread is about our journey to Lake Chapala so that comes later. Just remember that once you leave Chiapa de Corzo you will cross a high bridge over the Rio Grijalva and off to your right you will catch a glimpse of the canyon.

Tuxtla Gitierrez is a very large city now and reputed to be the fastest growing big city in Mexico with a population of about 1,000,000 people. You can cross this huge and crowded city by driving through the center of town - a huge mistake it you are simply driving throgh the place - or you can skirt the city on either the Libramiento Sur or the Libramiento Norte. Take the Libramiento norte but if you screw up and take the Libramiento Sur do not fret but just proceed until you are through the city and remember this too shall pass.

When you get to the west of Tuxtla Gutierrez be careful to get on the new cuota for Veracruz and Mexico City. Old signage will lead you toward Oaxaca City which used to be the main road to the capital and, believe me, that drive (which I will discuss later as an alternative fun trip) is a lot longer than the new cuota that will take you to Minatitlan and other destinations in Veracruz State before taking you to Mexico City.

Before I go a word about the much maligned (in travel books) tropical city of Tuxtla Gutierrez. I love this huge and bustling tropical metropolis that is right out of a Graham Greene novel. Perhaps it´s my imagination run wild with misconceptions of what Havana or Santo Domingo or San Juan or some other decadent and fun loving tropical city should look and feel like. How can you dislike a town whose main plaza is known as Marimba Park where free marimba concerts are held every weekend while locals sit around eating ice cream or drinking beer and enjoying the pleasant cool tropical evenings? How can you dislike a town where everybody jaywalks and the libramientos are known locally as the "other cemetary" and people drive in chaotic but workable distraction and many folks are short and fat and ridiculed by the overcompensating snobbish Highlanders as redneck morons and eating and drinking and dancing are local sports. This regional city is filled with great restaurants - a hell of a lot better than the precious restaurants in self-deluded San Cristobal - featuring fine local fare and great bars and dance clubs and what more do you want? Plan to spend some time in this wild and fun big city, on your Chiapas vacation. You will not regret this.

(This post was edited by Hound Dog on May 10, 2009, 6:37 PM)
Search for (advanced search) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.4