Tuxtla Gutierrez is the capital and the largest city in Chiapas. It is the most developed and populated city of the state, and acts as a busy government, commercial and services-oriented center. Tuxtla (as it is commonly known) also had one of the fastest growing rates in Mexico in the last 40 years.
However, despite this development, Tuxtla still retains strong roots to its past. Once a powerful seat of Mayan civilization, the jungles and lakelands of modern-day Chiapas harbor a wealth of impressive Mayan ruins.
The most important archaeological site in Chiapas is Palenque, a 10-square mile site dating back to between 300 and 900 AD, dramatically situated in the Tumbala mountains. A UNESCO World Heritage site and National Park, Palenque’s highlights are its exquisitely preserved temples and pyramid tombs, most notably the Temples of the Crosses and the Temple of the Inscriptions, which includes the grand burial chamber of King Pakal.
In the south of the state, close to the Guatemalan border, the Mayan sites of Bonampak and Yaxchilan lie in equally organic surroundings, with rainforest trails weaving between the ruins and howler monkeys swinging overhead. Adventure tours are often done through day excursions, and each site has its own distinctive appeal. Yaxchilan, perched on the banks of the Usumacinta River, is reachable only by boat and is known for its ornamental roof combs and elaborate stuccos, whereas the smaller site of Bonampak is famous for its colorful murals.
A number of smaller Mayan sites also abound in the Chiapas region, and are best explored on nature tours with the help of a local guide. The partially excavated site of Tonina is a series of terraced residences found on route to Palenque; the hilltop city of Tenam Puente and the burial mounds of Lagartero both make easy side trips from Comitan; and additional ruins can be found at Comalcalco, Lacanja and Izapa.