Mother Nature displays all her amazing beauty at the waterfalls of El Chiflón, located about 30 kilometers outside of Comitan de Dominguez or two hours away from San Cristobal de las Casas. The drive from Comitan is on roads that are in pretty good condition except for some sudden and sometimes unexpected groupings of potholes. I am pretty good at spotting potholes and the giant often invisible speed bumps called “topes” here, but I was caught off guard one time (maybe twice, but who’s counting) on this road. It resulted in no more than a good jouncing about, I was lucky it wasn’t just a few more jounces or I would have been looking for a tire wheel tranny muffler shop. The interesting thing is that these types of services are usually located right next to the largest and hardest to see topes. Topes are an enduring source of enterprise in Mexico, potholes are just too transitional to sufficiently capitalize on. If I was to spot a repair shop right next to a large set of potholes, I would tend to suspect the potholes might not be there naturally.
The entrance is well marked, actually the entrances, one on each side of the river. There is regular bus service from both San Cristobal and Comitan to these falls, they are close enough to Comitan that even a cab can be affordable. We drove into what seemed to be the main entrance on the right side of the river as you go in. It’s worth noting that we saw tents set up on the other side of the river and there seemed to be camping allowed there. As you drive in you go through a toll booth where they collect twenty pesos per person. TRAVEL TIP – When you see the $ sign in Mexico it means pesos not dollars. There is a parking lot for buses right after you drive in, if you have your own car then keep driving and you will be directed to a lot right next to the restrooms and showers very near the walking entrance. If the lot is full and you end up parking out by the buses you can take a tuk-tuk in to the walking entrance and save your energy for the walk up to the last falls on the trail.
Once inside the park the first part of the trail is flat along the crystal clear river with spaces to picnic, Bar-B-Q and hang a hammock. The day we went during Easter week there were quite a few large multi-generational families already set up in the picnic spots. From elderly grandparents to little babies everyone was having a friendly all out here in the beauty of nature together kind of day. We were the only gringos in the park that day and felt perfectly welcomed and at home, as is usual in our Chiapas travels.
About a half hour hike in from the walking entrance is the tallest of the falls called Cascada Velo de Novia, or Bridal Vail Falls. These falls are 360 feet tall and spectacular, as is this whole place. There’s a good looking zip-line, a snack bar and a beer stand here. We plan on going back to zip-line, I believe a celebratory beer will be in order afterward. The trail continues up to three more falls and gets steeper past this point. We went to the top without much trouble, I was glad to have a bottle of water with me and we paused to catch our breath whenever necessary. We went at the end of dry season so my guess is that the falls are even more spectacular in the summer during the rainy season.
El Chiflón is near the small community of San Cristobalito which is part of a cooperative of 30 small communities that operate the services and maintain the park. This cooperative is associated with the Zapatista organization OCEZ which I featured in an earlier post. Without getting too much into the politics of this country, of which I am a guest, Kelly and I have had numerous encounters with people in Chiapas who identify themselves with the Zapatista movement and every time they have been some of the nicest people and most pleasant encounters you could ever expect. I get a real sense that everyone from the Zapatistas to the police and military are aware of how important the tourist dollars are to this states economy. The crime and drug wars of Mexico featured almost daily in the American press are not happening here, though not crime free (where is?), we have felt safe and welcomed the entire 4 months we have been in Chiapas.