Lagartero Mayan Ruins and Wetlands on the Edge of Mexico

If you drive about an hour south of Comitan de Dominguez towards the Guatemalan border crossing at La Mesilla, you will come across a left turn off for the Lagos de Colon, take it.

Panorama photo of ruins at Lagartero

The central plaza of Lagartero Mayan ruins in southern Chiapas Mexico. As always, click on any photo to enlarge it.

Kelly and I had to do some business at the border regarding the registration of our Mayan Tripmobile, so we decided to take some time and explore someplace new. After finishing our business we headed to the turn off for Lagos de Colon and the Mayan ruins of Lagartero.

Road in southern Mexico near Lagartero

A beautiful place between the mountains of Guatemala and the highlands of Chiapas.


The drive in to the site of Lagartero was through agricultural fields being tended to by local farmers, in a broad valley between the mountainy border of Guatemala and the highlands of Chiapas Mexico. After driving about 7 miles we came across a man sitting on the side of the road, near the entrance to a small town, who was collecting the 10 peso per person entrance fee to the Lagos de Colon and Lagartero ruins.

Shortly after paying the fee we came to a large community swimming pool type place and parking lot, we determined they were not the Lagos or the ruins, we kept driving. After passing through the small pueblo of Cristobal Colon we came on a right turn with an old sign for the ruins.

Lagartero Cristobal Colon lagos

The first of the rushing water we had to drive through. This was shot on the way out.

The road from here was all dirt. We passed by some small inviting cabanas for rent, we were told they are 400 pesos per night. Then we had to drive through a foot deep and fairly fast running section of river which had covered the road. At this point we could have parked and walked in over plank bridges, but it was still close to a mile into the site. Our trusty Tripmobile made it through with no problems at all.

The dirt road continued on through a beautiful corn field that had been planted recently. Then we drove into some trees and through another shallower river crossing. Shortly after that the road came to an end and we parked in the shade of the trees. The rest of the way in we had to cross several plank bridges over amazingly clear streams and inviting pools. The path continued and split a few times, we kept following the more center of the trails that seemed to be most used.

After parking we continued into Lagartero on a series of plank bridges over amazing pools and streams.

After a few hundred yards we came out into a clearing for the central complex of the Lagartero Mayan ruins. The ruins consist of 4 main temples surrounding a central plaza. There was an excavated, but not fully reconstructed, ball court and a few other structures. The beauty of this place was not in the grandeur of the temples, it was in their location between lakes and streams on an island surrounded by nature. In the sky white cranes flew by, while butterflies and dragon flies flew through the trees and grasses.


A view of the ruins over one of the Lagos de Colon. Supposedly there are crocodiles, but we saw none.


The stepped pyramids of the temple complex at Lagartero seemed quite old and of more primitive design than their neighbors in Chinkultic or Tenam Puente. From the research I’ve done the site was mostly used during the late and terminal classic era of the Mayan world, 700 – 1100 c.e. approximately.

The sacred old Ceiba tree standing watch over the ruins of Lagartero.


One of the most impressive things on the site was a giant Ceiba tree growing up out of a mound not far from the back of the largest temple. The cieba trees are sacred to the Mayans and judging by some charcoal near the tree, I believe that one is still the center of religious rituals.

A view looking out over Lagartero ruins towards the entrance.


Me standing on the altar of Lagartero with the largest temple behind me and the ancient Ceiba tree on the right.


We spent about and hour and a half wandering around the ruins and trails along the wetlands and lagoons. We could have spent all day just enjoying the amazing natural and ancient world surrounding us. We plan on returning for a night and exploring the waterfalls nearby, but that will be for another post.

Wetlands around Lagartero island and ruins. We were there in July during the rainy season, I have read it's more of a swamp during dry times.


Lagartero Mayan Ruins and Wetlands on the Edge of Mexico — 10 Comments

  1. My husband and I live in Guatemala and for our Visa runs usually go to Chiapas. We fell in love with los Lagos De Colon and area, and will continue to go back. We have never felt threatened or intimidated although we are obviously Americans. The area is incredible and the people are friendly and open to questions. This last trip (early February, 2015) we were invited to visit the “back yard” of a restaurant where we had just eaten majarro, a local fish that is farmed and caught fresh when you order it. We were shown the tanks of fish, the goats and even a baby brahma bull, as well as the usually chickens, ducks and turkeys that the family keeps.

    We will continue to go back, even after we have our residency, for a bit of a break from daily life as volunteers at a Mayan school. Thank you for sharing this part of the world with others. I would hate to see it become a “hot tourist spot” but know that we can help local economies by participating in local businesses and attractions. and by eating wonderful local fresh food. Enjoy.

  2. Hi guys,

    What a pleasant surprise to find a new blogpost this morning. I have read every word of your blog and poured over every stellar photo.

    Two years ago I went to Lago Atitlan to visit Paul Embleton in San Pedro and check out the area. I was there for the month of May; in that month there were endless tuk-tuk and red bus driver murders, a priest killed in the mountains for a cell phone, and the lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg was murdered. I never felt safe there and felt like kissing la tierra when I returned to MX.

    Last month I spent some time in Chiapas and fell in love. Since then mi pueblo has seen an escalation in violence and many of us are looking for another place to live. My exit strategy is San Cris or one of the pueblos below.

    I’m particularly interested in your outdoor activities and exploration of areas.

    Thanks for so much for all the good information I’ve been able to glean from your blog, I’ll be watching for new postings like a hawk.


    • Hi Marilyn, thank you so much for your kind words. My wife and I love San Cristobal. We also loved Comitan, but we found ourselves too bored being the only gringos in town. It’s a wonderful place, but I need a good local pub and a little more in the mix than was there.
      Sorry to hear about your experiences in San Pedro, that place has lost it’s some of its charm for Kelly and I as well.

      • Thanks, Dennis, your comments are so helpful for me as I make some decisions. I was afraid of that regarding Comitán, tho it does interest me. San Cris is great, but I’m more of a country person.

        The military arrived this morning to secure my pueblo, vamos a ver.

        I do have another question tho, sorry, hope you don’t mind. Do you guys feel safe out and about in the countryside by yourselves? Hiking around the lakes and canyons, ruins, etc? Are there others who like to explore like that too? Are they easy to hook up with?

        Thanks, Marilyn

        • Marilyn, where do you currently live? We feel safe out and about in Chiapas. We do go exploring, but are always mindful of local people and don’t take photos when it’s not welcomed, nor do we promote evangelical ideas. The Zapatista movement is strong in the country here, but they are not unfriendly to tourists. I know of several foreigners who live more out in the country near San Cristobal. This website has some homes for rent in the hills above San Cristobal, outside of town. We have made many new friends here, mostly Europeans, and I think it would not be too hard for you to as well, depending on your level of crazy expat-ism, if you know what I mean. Obviously you must speak Spanish and that is pretty important.

  3. Very interesting trek. Glad to see a photo of the plank crossing. I had imagined multiple planks forming a small bridge, not a single plank. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

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