Chiapas with Traditions Mexico

By Lilla Wise
This item appears on page 30 of the February 2015 issue.
Mayan ruins at Palenque. Photos by Lilla Wise

My husband and I love to travel in Mexico, with its combination of ruins, colonial cities, regional food, art and celebrations. We weren’t familiar with Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state, but a summary of a 10-day, 9-night tour sounded interesting, so we took the “Cultura Maya Roots & Celebration” tour with Traditions Mexico (Oaxaca, Mexico; phone 011 52 [951] 571 3695,, March 22-31, 2014.

Itinerary features included the legendary stone heads of the Olmec, Mayan ruins at Palenque and Toniná, visits to highland Mayan villages, six nights in the colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, and pre-Easter ceremonies and celebrations.

Although Traditions Mexico is a US firm, based in Oregon, all of the company’s tours are in Mexico. Owner Eric Mindling spends half of the year in Oaxaca and half in Oregon but was always easy to contact via email.

At the time, the land-only price with three to five participants was $2,650 each; there were five in our group. The price included nine nights of accommodation, two to three meals a day, local guides where needed and all admissions. We paid extra for airport/hotel transfers and booked our own air from Washington Dulles International Airport.

The trip exceeded even our high expectations. Traveling in a very comfortable 12-passenger van (which carried purified water for refilling our water bottles), our small group journeyed from the lowland jungles to the uplands, where Mayan customs are still alive. Our “head honcho,” Eric, and our highlands guide, Chip Morris, made it possible for us to see and participate in activities that very few visitors get to do.

An anthropologist, researcher and author who has lived in the highlands for more than 40 years, Chip is an expert on Chiapan highland Mayan textiles. He was welcomed in the Mayan villages and so were we.

Lenten procession in Zinacantán.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was the Parading of the Saints in the village of Zinacantán. Wooden statues of the saints were taken out of the church to have a look at how the Maya are keeping the world, and the people do their best to show that the world is a happy place.

The procession was held in the church plaza and began with fireworks. Pine needles and flower petals were scattered in the path of the procession. Then marchers carried the cross and paraded the saints before returning them to their places in the church. 

We returned to Zinacantán for the Sunday market and were invited into a weaver’s home for tortillas and sweet coffee. Our days in San Cristóbal were filled with a great mix of guided activities and free time to explore, eat and shop.

Our accommodations were very good, and Eric made sure the meals we ate were not only safe but representative of local fare. Between Eric, Chip and Eric’s assistant, Marina, we were very well cared for.


Annandale, VA