3 Ways to Discover Chiapas, Mexico
From a Maya immersion tour deep in the Lacondon jungle to a hacienda-hopping equestrian adventure in the Cintalapa ranchland, discover one of Mexico's most magical and least-known regions with three YourLifeIsATrip.com insiders: editorJudith Fein, photographer Paul Ross, and publisher Ellen Barone.
1. MAYA PAST & PRESENT
by Judith Fein
Searching for Maya history, archeology, cosmology and contemporary life, travel journalist Judith Fein explores Chiapas with archeologist and tour guide Yolanda Ruanova.
What lured me to Chiapas? Maya ruins, living Maya and San Cristobal de las Casas. I wanted to be transported back to the Classic Maya period, which began in 200 C.E. and lasted until the empire collapsed six to seven hundred years later. I longed to walk through vast, abandoned cities that were hacked out of the jungle, and gaze up at monumental pyramids, stone palaces, temples, tombs and brilliantly-carved stone stelae. I wanted to walk along paths once reserved for royalty, and contemplate the cosmology and science of a highly sophisticated, pre-Colombian society.
Palenque was as huge, impressive and complex as I had imagined. The murals at Bonampak looked as though they had recently been painted, and the nobility, slaves and priests depicted were still alive. The approach to Yaxchilan was by boat, and, in the high-altitude palaces, I could almost hear the squealing of kids playing and smell the flowers in the gardens.
I longed to know more about the ancient Maya: what did they eat, how did they dress when they were not attending or performing rituals, what was their magic, what did it feel like to go to a ball game, and did they accept or bristle when they were subjected to their leaders’ rigid hierarchical rule?
When I met today’s Maya, in their traditional villages, I got hints of the lives of their ancestors. Some of the men still knew how to prepare the sacred drink, balche. Women drilled seeds individually to make necklaces, sometimes holding the seeds with their toes. Markets were bustling and colorful, and, in the church at San Juan Chamula, healers sat or squatted on pine needles, performing healings with candles, eggs and the occasional sacrificed chicken. Alas, my friends, photos were not allowed.
In San Cristobal, I took a tour of sacred art, ate regional specialties and sampled unusual drinks like Posh (a sugar cane and corn alcohol drink from the Highlands, where native Tsotzil Maya enjoy its powerful kick); Tascalate (a tasty beverage made from roasted corn spiced with cinnamon, achiote and cacao seeds); and refreshing Chia water—which is lemonade served with chia seeds.
Then I left the attractions of animated tourist centers and walked to neighborhoods where Maya people wore traditional clothes, shopped in local markets, created vibrant weavings, and gave me a precious glimpse into the world they came from and the survival skills they have developed to move forward into the future.
2. MAYA FACES & PLACES
by Paul Ross
Meet Maya people and explore ancient Maya sites in the heart of exotic Chiapas with photographer Paul Ross.
3. BACKCOUNTRY ADVENTURE
by Ellen Barone
Travel behind the lens with photojournalist Ellen Barone in the highlands of southwestern Mexico for an equestrian adventure with Enduro Ecuestre, an equestrian outfitter based in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Read more about this adventure in Ellen's recent article: Horse Sense - Learning to Trust On A Mexico Equestrian Adventure.
IF YOU GO:
Travel information on attractions, activities, and accommodations within Chiapas is available at, www.tourismochiapas.gob.mx
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Judith Fein is an award-winning travel journalist who has contributed to more than 90 publications. She blogs for Psychology Today, the Huffington Post, is the author of LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel, and the editor and co-founder of www.YourLifeIsATrip.com. Her website is http://www.GlobalAdventure.us.
Paul Ross is a Santa Fe-based photographer and writer. See more of his work at www.globaladventure.us.
Ellen Barone is a respected resource for travelers seeking travel advice, vacation tips, gear and gadget reviews, and trusted recommendations. From the best hotels to exotic new destinations, her popular website, EllenBarone.com helps travelers plan memorable journeys and discover the world.