When visitors decide to make the trek south to Mexico’s lush, tropical state of Chiapas, it is usually to experience some of the country’s most iconic archeological sites and local cuisine. With the state’s famous, ancient Mayan city of Palenque and the nearby ruins of Monte Albán (located in the neighboring state of Oaxaca) as some of the region’s greatest attractions, visitors rarely take the time to experience some of the states hidden treasures – it’s magical towns, known locally as “pueblos magicos”, and historic cities. One such city is that of Tuxtla Gutierrez.
Now a busy, modern metropolis and transportation hub, the city of Tuxtla, Mexico is as close to a big city as you’re going to find when visiting the southern state of Chiapas. While most visitors simply pass through on their way to other destinations, this hidden gem has its own beauty to share with the world. Although its style may not be as flashy and bold as other cities throughout the republic, Tuxtla Gutierrez is a tranquil, worthwhile, and welcoming place to visit. Becoming the state capital in 1892, this present-day commercial and manufacturing center is home to its own unique history and provides visitors with an array of fun, family-friendly activities such as trips to local museums, nature parks, and neighboring towns.
So, when planning your next visit to the south, be sure to reserve a day or two to explore all that this intriguing and particular city has to offer. To help you get started, consider these fun, family-friendly activities, and begin an adventure that the entire family will never forget!
Tuxtla City Tour
Those who opt to explore the unfamiliar city of Tuxtla Gutierrez won’t have to go far before running into some sort of lively entertainment, delicious meal, or beautiful plaza. Simply put, the best way to explore the city is on foot and starting at the city center, (el centro) known as Plaza Civica (Civil Plaza). Standing tall at its center visitors will find the gorgeous Catedral de San Marcos (Saint Mark’s Cathedral ), which was named after the city’s patron saint, Saint Mark the Evangelist. This whitewashed, neoclassical structure with its beautiful facade modeled after colonial times is a must see. You are sure to hear the sounds of its 48 bells as they ring out a tune at the top of each hour.
As you take your “paseo” (stroll) through the city streets, you are sure to run into multiple, impressively manicured plaza gardens. One such plaza is that of Jardín de la Marimba (Marimba Garden). Here you will find locals who come to enjoy the regional cuisine and nightly marimba performances, especially on weekends. With open space and numerous restaurants and cafes, you are sure to see people dancing around the central bandstand and relishing in the moment.
When your hunger strikes, consider grabbing a taco at Taquitos Casa Blanca – a local taco joint that has made a name for itself by serving no-frills, filling, cheap, and delicious tacos. Or, if you prefer that the family have a full blown dining experience, check out Cafeteria del Parque – offering light, traditional Mexican meals, good espresso, creamy cakes, and lots of air-conditioning, this is the prime location for the family to relax while satiating their appetite.
Typical regional cuisine may be a hard sell to the kids, however, if you decide to expand their pallets, consider trying La Pichanchas, Gugo, or Café de Chiapas. At these locations, you will experience traditional plates such as , ningüijute (seed-based pork mole), cochito horned (roasted suckling pig), and chispola (a stew of beef and vegetable).
While historic tours are available in almost every city, this city is one to explore on foot. So, get to steppin! Get out and explore all that this noteworthy city has to offer.
Regional Anthropology and History Museum
One of the most efficient ways to learn about an unfamiliar city is to visit one of its local museums. Luckily for you, Tuxtla Gutierrez is home to a few visit-worthy museums, including the famous Museo Regional de Antropologia e Historia (Regional Anthropology and History Museum). As the city’s largest museum, it boasts exhibits that contain more than 200 fossils, ranging from 10,000 to 300 million years old.
Equipped with a temporary exhibition hall and two permanent galleries, the museum offers visitors a look into the country’s past, as it disseminates an overview of the development of the ancient Maya, Olmec, and Zoque cultures – first presenting the prehistoric peoples of Chiapas and then covering historical and ethnographic aspects starting from the 16th century through the present. This particular museum is said to contain one of the most valuable archaeological collections in the country. This is a great opportunity for the entire family to learn about Mexico’s fascinating and complex history as a nation.
ZOOMAT and Dr. Faustino Miranda Botanical Garden
As a zoo that sets itself apart from any other in Mexico, the Zoologico Miguel Alvarez del Toro (Miguel Alvarez Zoo) was built around the principle of respect towards living beings and nature. Keeping animals that are native to the land and seeking to recreate their natural habitat, the zoo not only provides a home for these lovely creatures but also helps to restore their native lands.
Located in a nature reserve known as El Zapotal, this zoo is one of the few that exhibits endemic fauna. While this is a great activity for kids, the entire family is sure to have a blast! Visitors can expect to see wild species such as boars, deer, goats, curassows, ocellated turkeys, jaguars, peacocks, raptors, coyotes, monkeys, a variety of birds, and reptiles. Equipped with a gift shop, cafetería, and even a crocodile museum, this zoo experience is sure to impress.
After the excitement of the zoo, perhaps a stroll through the peaceful Dr. Faustino Miranda Botanical Garden will help to restore your internal peace. Showcasing a wealth of vegetation that exists throughout Chiapas, this breathtaking garden focuses on preserving the endemic and endangered species found throughout the region. Covering an area of over 10 acres (4 hectares), the garden is home to multiple walkways, woodland areas, flower displays, and waterways. Take your family a stroll through nature that you will never forget!
Do you have a family full of adventurers? Not to worry! Nestled between the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez and the neighboring town of Chiapa de Cozo, visitors can find one of Mexico’s most spectacular natural wonders – Sumidero Canyon. A geological fault created millions of years ago, the Sumidero Canyon is considered one of the most breathtaking sites in all of Mexico. With the Grijalva River at its base, walls towering 2,952 feet (900 meters) into the sky, and mesmerizing natural structures, visitors are sure to be left absolutely stunned.
During your excursion, be sure to visit some of the canyon’s most well-known attractions such as the “Cueva de Colores” (Cave of Colors) and the “Cascada Arbol de Navidad” (Christmas Tree Waterfall). And keep your eyes open! When taking the Sumidero canyon boat trip, be on the lookout for the abundant wildlife, including monkeys, exotic birds, crocodiles, jaguarondi, ocelot, white-tailed deer, anteaters, and king vultures among others. Tours to this one-of-kind nature park can be organized to-and-from the city of Tuxtla, making it easily accessible to those in the city. This is an experience you don’t want to miss.
Mexico is full of surprises. While the majority of travelers flock to the country’s most famous resorts, ask yourself, “what else does this mysterious country have to offer?” Only then will you begin to find its many hidden gems, like the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez. Now, when your family asks you what to do in Tuxtla, you’ll already have the answer: walk its historic streets, enjoy its rich food, visit its enlightening museums, and explore its impeccable nature.