Visiting the Sumidero Canyon (Cañón del Sumidero) is a highlight of most people’s trip to Chiapas. Next to visiting San Cristobal de Las Casas and the archeological site at Palenque, it is one of the most popular things to do in this region.
The Sumidero Canyon Chiapas
This dramatic canyon occupies an area close to the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez. Some of its towering walls started forming more than 70 million years ago.
This makes the United States Grand Canyon (which started forming around 4 or 5 million years ago), a baby canyon in comparison! However, once upon a time, this part of Chiapas consisted of nothing more than a shallow sea.
It wasn’t until 15 million years ago that waters from the Rio Grijalva started running northwards through the canyon. Since then, the canyon has existed in its current form. The canyon’s walls reach as much as 1km in height, and it extends across a length of 13km.
Today, the Sumidero Canyon is one of the most stunning natural attractions in Mexico. It was recognized as a national park in 1980 and various species of birds, mammals and fish live in this region, many of which are native to this part of Mexico.
If you are renting a car in Mexico, you can travel to Sumidero Canyon independently. However, the most popular way to visit is to do so by participating in a guided tour. All of the information that you may need for planning your Chiapas adventure is discussed in this guide.
Visiting Sumidero Canyon
There are two main ways that you can experience the Sumidero Canyon. You can opt to take a boat tour or you can opt to explore the canyon on foot and hike up to one of the lookout points.
The best way to visit the canyon is to do both! A number of reputable local tour companies offer excursions to the canyon that include a pick-up and drop-off at your hotel.
Most depart from either San Cristobal de las Casas or from Tuxtla Gutierrez and they usually include a brief visit to the charming Pueblo Magico of Chiapa de Corzo too. Exploring with a guide is great because it enables you to obtain more information, history, and context to the things that you see.
It also takes a lot of the stress out of planning your trip. This way you don’t have to worry about public transport schedules or how you are going to get from A to B.
Better still? Exploring with a Chiapas local means that you have an expert on hand to ask for recommendations for your trip. Someone that knows the region really well can advise you on the best places to visit in Chiapas, the best restaurants, what to do in each town, etc.
Get to the Sumidero Canyon from Chiapa de Corzo
If you are already staying in Chiapa de Corzo, it is easy to get to the embarkation point for Sumidero Canyon boat tours from here. This lovely little town dates back to 1528, making it one of the oldest towns in the Americas.
It is often overlooked from most people’s Chiapas itineraries but it is very deserved a day or two’s exploration. Colectivos (shared minivans) depart from the Zocalo square near La Pila fountain at frequent intervals throughout the day.
It is tricky to find schedule information online (welcome to Mexico!) and timetables can change at a moment’s notice. Ask around in town/at your hotel for the precise departure times the day before you plan on traveling.
These colectivos take you to the Cahuare Pier on the outskirts of town from where you can organize a boat through the canyon. A ticket costs only 13 pesos each way.
Alternatively, you will easily be able to organize a cab from the center of Chiapa de Corzo to Cahuare Pier. This should only really cost you a few pesos, although it is a good idea to have your hotel/Airbnb organize the cab for you.
Cab drivers are often a law unto themselves the world over and in Chiapas they are no different! If you get into a random cab on the street, they are likely to assume that as a tourist you do not know the correct going rate of things and overcharge you. Hotels typically have a number of trusted cab drivers that they can refer you to.
Get to the Sumidero Canyon from San Cristobal de las Casas
If you are traveling to the Sumidero Canyon from San Cristobal de las Casas, your best option is to take an organized tour. There is no direct bus that runs from San Cristobal to the Cahuare Pier or to Chiapa de Corzo so traveling here by public transport is a little tricky.
If you want to travel independently, you can take the San Cristobal to Tuxtla Gutierrez bus. Although there is no official stop, if you let the bus driver know that you want to go to Chiapa de Corzo for the Sumidero Canyon, they should drop you off at the side of the road on the outskirts of town. From there, you can get a colectivo into town or to the pier.
The other option is to take the bus all the way to Tuxtla Gutierrez and then organize a tour from there. However, Tuxtla Gutierrez isn’t a particularly beautiful or interesting city so you might as well just take a tour from San Cristobal!
Buses between San Cristobal de las Casas and Tuxtla Gutierrez run at frequent intervals throughout the day. ADO and OCC are the two bus companies that operate on this route and both are reliable.
The first bus departs from San Cristobal at 06.30 am and the last one departs at 22.15 pm. You can purchase tickets online in advance via ADO or Busbud, or in person at the ticket office.
You can also take a taxi from San Cristobal de las Casas to Chiapa de Corzo. This is likely to cost around 750 pesos ($38) and the journey should take just over an hour.
Sumidero Canyon tours from San Cristobal de las Casas
A number of reputable Sumidero Canyon tours that depart from San Cristobal de las Casas are detailed below for your consideration. It is advisable to reserve your place online in advance to avoid disappointment.
- Sumidero Canyon excursion from San Cristobal de las Casas
- Full day trip of Sumidero National Park from San Cristobal de las Casas
- Sumidero Canyon, Chiapa de Corzo and San Cristobal day tour
Get to the Sumidero Canyon from Tuxtla Gutierrez
The Ángel Albino Corzo international airport near Tuxtla Gutierrez is the closest airport to the Sumidero Canyon. Several flights per day run between other Mexican cities and Tuxtla Gutierrez – including Mexico City, Cancun, and Merida.
If you are heading straight to the Sumidero Canyon from Tuxtla Gutierrez international airport, you can take an airport cab directly to the canyon. This will cost you approximately 400 pesos one way (circa $20).
If you are in Tuxtla Gutirrez city center, you can either book a place on an organized tour that picks you up from a hotel in the area, or you can take a cab. If you take a cab, you can expect to pay around 400-450 pesos ($20-23).
Sumidero Canyon tours from Tuxtla Gutierrez
- Sumidero Canyon National Park full day trip from Tuxtla Gutierrez
- From Tuxtla Gutierrez: Sumidero Canyon & San Cristobal day tour
- Sumidero Canyon, Chiapa de Corzo & San Cristobal day tour
- Sumidero Canyon & Chiapa de Corzo day tour from Tuxtla Gutierrez
Organizing Sumidero Canyon boat trips independently
If you prefer not to participate in an organized tour and you want to explore the canyon independently, you can pay for your entrance to the park and for your boat tour on arrival. Do keep in mind, however, that the costs of visiting independently are pretty much the same as the cost of visiting on a tour.
When you arrive at Sumidero Canyon, you need to pay an entrance fee of 36 pesos per person to enter the national park and another fee of 270 pesos for the boat ride. The boats seat 20 people and you will need to wait for it to be full before you can set off.
You shouldn’t have to wait long though. There are usually plenty of people waiting to board the boats, particularly at weekends. Life jackets are provided for all passengers and the boat tour takes approximately 2 hours.
Things to see in the Sumidero Canyon
From the Cahuare pier, your boat ride will take you on a slow and scenic journey toward the Chicoasén dam.
Sumidero Canyon FAQs
Do you still have burning, unanswered questions about visiting the Sumidero Canyon? Hopefully, your queries will be resolved with the FAQs detailed below!
Where is the Sumidero Canyon?
The Sumidero Canyon is located in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas, close to the Guatemala border. It is just north of the town of Chiapa de Corzo. Crocodiles, ocelots, spider monkeys, iguanas, and raccoons call the canyon home.
The area is also famous for its diverse variety of colorful butterflies. Your guide will make small detours here and there to allow you to observe the local wildlife in its natural habitat (while maintaining a respectful distance).
Along the route, you will pass by several gorgeous waterfalls. Arguably the most stunning of the group is one known as the Christmas tree falls.
Similarly, keep your eyes open for the Cave of Colors. This is a natural chapel with pink tones on the walls due to the various minerals present in the rocks. A Virgin of Guadalupe has been placed within and on the 12th of December each year, hundreds of people from across Chiapas board boats and come on a pilgrimage to pay their respects at the shrine.
After finishing up your boat tour, be sure to hike up to one of the five miradors (viewpoints) to enjoy panoramas over the canyon. The Los Chiapa viewpoint is also home to a restaurant where you can indulge in traditional Chiapescan cuisine while overlooking the canyon.
Are there crocodiles in Chiapas Mexico?
Several species of crocodiles can be found across Mexico, including in the state of Chiapas. The American crocodile is the name of the species that live in the Sumidero Canyon.
What to wear for visiting the Sumidero Canyon
It can get very hot in and around the Sumidero Canyon and you can expect temperatures here that range between 82 and 96 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the time of year that you visit. There is no shade or escape from the sun when you are out on a boat so be sure to come prepared with a hat, some sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen.
Light, breathable clothes are a must. It is also worth noting that Chiapas is a mountainous state and the climate conditions vary significantly depending on the altitude of the specific place that you visit.
San Cristobal is nestled in the mountains and sees substantially cooler temperatures than towns and cities that are located at lower altitudes. Comitan de Dominguez, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Palenque and Chiapa de Corzo are all much hotter. You essentially need to pack for different seasons to travel to different parts of Chiapas!
Rain is a real possibility at any time of year here, but especially during the rainy season (late May to October). If you are traveling during this time, it is a good idea to also pack a light rain mac, just in case.
Amenities in and around the Sumidero Canyon
There are bathrooms at the entrance to the National Park. You will also pull up to a “floating bodega” (marketplace on a boat) during your Sumidero Canyon tour.
You can buy all manner of Mexican drinks, snacks and light bites here that you would be able to buy at a convenience store. Still, it is a good idea to take plenty of water with you for your visit as it does get very hot here and you will be out in the sun a lot.
Have you been to the Sumidero Canyon? What was your impression?
Alternatively, if you are planning your first trip to Chiapas and wider Mexico, you may enjoy reading this post on Mexico travel tips to know before you go.
Safe travels! Have a wonderful time in Mexico! Buen Viaje! xo