Adventures in Chiapas: Ascending El Chiflón Waterfalls

Last Updated on: 10th October 2023, 12:36 pm

El Chiflón Waterfalls are among Chiapas’ most striking natural wonders. And that’s saying a lot when Chiapas is already considered to be one of Mexico’s most beautiful states. 

As El Chiflón is a massive cascading waterfall, the experience doesn’t just consist of taking pictures at a single viewpoint before turning around. Rather, over the course of an hour or so, you’ll get to hike higher and higher, taking in different views of the various cascades along the way.

Most people visit the waterfalls on a long, grueling day trip (11 or 12 hours) from San Cristóbal de Las Casas, which also includes a stop at the Montebello Lakes. But if you have the time, it’s well worth basing yourself in the town of Comitán for a few days, from which you can easily visit both locations independently.

If you wish, you can also visit the El Chiflón waterfalls independently from San Cristóbal, which involves making a transfer in Comitán. Learn all about reaching El Chiflón Waterfalls, how to get to Comitán, and where to stay at the very end of the article.

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

WHAT TO BRING: While this day trip does involve a lot of uphill walking, the trail largely consists of concrete steps, so footwear is not that important.

If you plan on swimming, be sure to bring swimwear and a towel. But note that swimming is prohibited in most of the scenic sections of El Chiflón Waterfalls. At the time of my visit, visitors were only allowed to swim in a small section of the bottom portion, not far from the entrance. 

There are plenty of restaurants at the waterfalls, so there’s no need to bring food. But the cabanas near the bottom would be a great place for a picnic. 

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

Confusingly, there are actually two separate parks on either side of the cascades. The right side of the waterfall is said to be the more scenic overall. And that’s fortunate, as it’s near the park to the right that the colectivo from Comitán will drop you off (more below).

You then have to walk about 1 km to the main entrance, passing a plethora of restaurants along the way. Alternatively, you could hop in a moto taxi for around 10 pesos if you’re in a rush.

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

Entry to the park costs $50 MXN at the time of writing. And after walking past even more restaurants and various kiosks, you’ll finally reach the bottom of the waterfall.

It wasn’t clear to me at the time, but on the way back down, I realized that this is one of the only places where it’s possible to swim. Though empty at the time of my ascent, it was packed with local families upon my return.

If you’re traveling with a group and want to have a picnic, it’s also possible to rent waterside cabanas around here.

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls
Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

While the color of the water can vary based on season and light, I was lucky to find that even the bottom portion of El Chiflón Waterfalls had the gorgeous turquoise hue for which the cascades are known.

Different cascades of El Chiflón have different names. And as you walk along the trail, you’ll pass by useful signs pointing you in the direction of each. A short detour from the main trail brings you to the first cascade, Cascada Suspiro.

You’ll notice a platform over to the left, which is apparently only accessible for those who’ve entered the other park on the opposite side. But I’d argue that this view from up front is the better of the two.

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls
Cascada Suspiro

Next, return to the main trail and begin climbing further uphill. As mentioned, the ‘trail’ is really just concrete steps with a handrail. While you’ll still get a bit tired, this hike is accessible for nearly all fitness levels.

If you’re into zip lining, you’ll pass by a couple of different points from which you can glide down to a point on the other side. While I didn’t try myself, the rides start from around $150 MXN.

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

Approaching the next cascade, you’ll encounter one of many signs throughout the area reminding people not to swim.

This cascade is called Ala de Ángel, or Angel Wings. And in front of it is a large forested area which, combined with the wide waterfall in the background, makes for one of the most scenic portions of El Chiflón Waterfalls.

Cascada Ala de Ángel

It’s worth noting that I visited around the end of the dry season, during which I could walk along much of the forested area. But if you’re visiting at a wetter time of year, you may find most of this area submerged under flowing water.

Moving on and getting higher up the steps, it won’t be long before you catch your first glimpse of the largest cascade, Velo de Novia, in the distance.

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

But first, you’ll pass by more mesmerizing turquoise pools of water. As tempting as it may be to jump in, you’re bound to encounter more signs reminding you of the rules. 

For what it’s worth, I did see a few people swimming in the prohibited areas, and there didn’t seem to be any guards on site. But even during the dry season, the flowing water is surely much stronger than it appears.

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls
Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

Velo de Novia, or the Wedding Veil, could be considered El Chiflón Waterfalls’ main event. And it’s easy to see why. At 120 m high, it’s the tallest cascade in the park. And getting up close, it does indeed resemble a wedding veil.

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls
Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

Just be forewarned –  you can’t get up close while staying completely dry. While you won’t get soaked, you will get constantly splashed by the mist and spray from this massive cascade.

During my time on the platform, I pretty much had to wipe my camera lens dry after each shot. But I was rewarded for the trouble with a beautiful rainbow that had formed in the pool just below.

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls
Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

From the start of my ascent, it took me about 45 minutes to reach Velo de Novia. And this is where most visitors decide to turn around. But that would be a mistake.

While easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, there is indeed another staircase leading even higher. Continuing your ascent, you’ll get to see not just one, but two more cascades.

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls
Cascada Arcoiris
Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

After a bit more uphill walking, you’ll reach Cascada Arcoiris. The splashing water leaves the viewing platform in a constantly muddy state. But if you can find a relatively dry spot, you can stand and admire the vibrant hues of the pool below.

Arcoiris means ‘rainbow’ in Spanish, and I did indeed find another rainbow here!

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

Next, it’s time to climb even higher to the furthest accessible point of El Chiflón waterfalls. This cascade is known as Cascada Quinceañera. 

While I’m not sure of the connection with waterfalls, a quinceañera is a traditional celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday in Mexico.

Those who make it to the top will likely find themselves alone, while a dilapidated wooden bench is there if you need to rest your legs. And don’t forget to turn around for a nice view of rural Chiapas down below.

While I’d come prepared to swim, I ultimately decided against it after realizing that the most scenic portions were off-limits (I had been expecting something similar to Kuang Si Falls, Laos). 

But even if you do swim, I’d save it for the end, as you’ll want to see the cascades before the crowds start arriving around noon.

Visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls

A Brief Guide to Comitán

As with nearby San Cristóbal, the southern Chiapas town of Comitán has also been designated by the Mexican government as a Pueblo Mágico, or ‘Magic Town.’ 

Officially known as Comitán de Domínguez, it’s the fourth largest city in the state, and the town center is home to a number of museums you may want to check out if you have the time.

Comitán Guide

Comitán’s most scenic section is its central park, overlooked by the yellow Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, completed in the 17th century. And most of the town’s major landmarks are all within short walking distance of the main plaza.

Comitán Guide
Casa Museo Doctor Belisario Dominguez
Comitán Guide

Among Comitán’s most notable museums is the Casa Museo Doctor Belisario Dominguez, the former home of the influential physician and politician at the time of the Mexican Revolution.

Comitán Guide
Museo Rosario Castellanos
Comitán Guide
The City Museum
Comitán Guide
The Archaeology Museum

Other museums include the Museo Rosario Castellanos, dedicated to the influential poet and author, and the City Museum, which provides an in-depth overview of Comitán’s history (Spanish only).

Comitán is situated nearby numerous Mayan archaeological sites, and findings from the ruins can be found at the local Archaeology Museum (9:00-15:00, closed Mon.) Unfortunately, the region’s main site, Tenam Puente, was closed at the time of my trip.

Comitan Guide
Templo de San José

But if it weren’t for its location nearby El Chiflón Waterfalls and the Montebello Lakes, would Comitán be worth going out of your way for? Frankly speaking, no.

I made my best effort to see all I could in Comitán and had originally planned on creating a dedicated guide for it. But while it’s not a bad place, I found it rather dull and wouldn’t consider it a destination in its own right.

In contrast to San Cristóbal, Comitán’s colonial landmarks are confined to a tiny area, outside of which you’ll find ordinary concrete buildings and bad traffic. In short, Comitán is not the next big thing for travel in Chiapas, though it still makes for a convenient base.

Additional Info

Many people visit El Chiflón during tours from San Cristóbal de Las Casas which also include the Montebello Lakes, such as this one. The tour, however, is extremely long, which is why it would be wise to base yourself in Comitán if you can.

If you are based in Comitán, here’s how to go about this day trip (you can also do this independently from San Cristóbal without Montebello Lakes added in):

Transport to the El Chiflón waterfalls is handled by a company called Transporte La Angostura, whose station is situated along Highway 190 at the edge of town.

If you’ve just arrived from San Cristóbal, this is the same street as the OCC bus terminal and the other colectivo companies, so you can easily walk there in under 10 minutes. If you’re staying in Comitán, the Transporte La Angostura station is about 20 minutes on foot from the central square.

Transporte La Angostura have their own warehouse-like building where you’ll find various vehicles parked inside. Tell someone you’re headed to El Chiflón and they’ll direct you to the right vehicle. Colectivos are said to depart roughly every 30 minutes or so.

The journey should cost around $40 MXN per person (though prices are steadily rising due to inflation) and the journey should last a little under an hour.

As mentioned above, they’ll drop you off on the highway about 1 km from the main entrance to El Chiflón. Technically, this is the ‘Cascada de Cadenas El Chiflon’ park on the right/southeast side of the waterfall, while there’s a separate park on the other side.

On the way back, simply return to where you got off that morning and wait for the Comitán-bound vehicle to arrive.

Most people will be reaching Comitán from San Cristóbal de las Casas. As I travel with a decent amount of luggage, I prefer to take coach buses when I can. But when attempting to buy a ticket at the OCC/ADO station, they told me that the bus to Comitán originates all the way in Cancún. As such, the staff warned me, it tended to be late by an hour or more each time.

And so I decided to go outside and check out the colectivo options. There seem to be a couple of different companies running buses to Comitán. Luckily, it was no problem to travel with all of my luggage. Colectivos in Mexico often lack trunks, but they placed everyone’s luggage in the front after all the passengers had boarded.

It wasn’t the most comfortable ride, but most importantly, I got there safely with all my belongings intact. The journey lasted just a couple of hours.

If you’re visiting El Chiflón Waterfalls as a day trip from San Cristóbal, I would recommend a colectivo over the coach bus, as they depart much more frequently.

For those traveling to Chiapas from Oaxaca, note that there is a direct bus between Oaxaca city and Comitán (which will also pass through San Cristóbal). Depending on your itinerary, it may be more efficient to start your Chiapas travels in Comitán before later taking a bus north to San Cristóbal.

As mentioned above, Comitán’s nicest section is the central park area and the few blocks surrounding it. If you’re looking to soak up the atmosphere of the place for a few days, that’s the area you want to stay. Top-rated hotels here include Hotel Jardín de Tereza and Hotel Lunada.

But keep in mind that the town center is about 20 minutes on foot from Highway 190, where many of the bus and colectivo stations are.

As I was mainly using Comitán as a base for travel but also wanted to explore the town center, I decided to look for somewhere halfway in between the highway and central square.

What I found was Hotel Lirice Colonial, which was a simple and affordable place for a decent price. With all taxes included, I only ended up paying $190 MXN a night (about $10 USD).

For that price, I got my own private room with a private bathroom, while the Wifi worked better than expected.

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