About Canon del Sumidero National Park
A few miles east of Tuxtla Gutierrez is the spectacular Cañon Sumidero, (Sumidero Canyon) created by the mighty Rio Grijalva which runs northwards through it.
Before the completion of the dam here, the canyon’s walls were even higher than they are now. Before the dam, the waters running through it were not navigable, even for the most skilled boatmen.
Once the river was dammed, the water levels rose dramatically, creating an extremely deep and serene river which tour boats and taxi boats navigate with ease. The Chicoasen hydroelectric dam, opened in 1981, is today one of Mexico’s most important sources of electric power.
Travel to one of the Miradores (vantage points) if you want to get a bird’s-eye view of the canyon; but if you really want to experience it properly, take a boat ride. The most common embarkation point is at Chiapa de Corzo, a short drive from Tuxtla Gutierrez.
The 2-3 hour round trip on the boat will take you on a spectacular journey through the canyon, with some of the walls towering 2,500 feet above you. The wildlife on display is spectacular, and your boat may take you on a tour past one or two caves in the area.
A new Ecological Park has been opened inside the canyon. The only way to get to the park is to take a boat there. The park offers a range of activity-based eco-attractions including the opportunity to visit the wildlife sanctuary, see local flora and fauna as well as a number of physical and sporting activities such as kayaking, mountain biking, abseiling, zip-line, swimming and more. See Key Attractions for full details and photo gallery.
The Sumidero Canyon is a truly spectacular experience which should not be missed when you are traveling in this area.
Key Attractions at Canon del Sumidero National Park
The River Tour
The river journey begins near Chiapa de Corzo at the Cauhuare embarkation point. Depending on the time of year (school vacation times are busier) you may have to line up to wait for a boat, or you may have to wait around for a short while until enough people arrive to fill up a boat at quieter times. In either case, the wait is never too long. You should buy your tickets from the counter near the entrance before proceeding to the pier. The boats operate in daylight hours, with the first boat leaving around 8 a.m. and the last around 4:30 p.m.
You should consider a visit to the Ecological Park (see below) – be sure to let the boatman know if you want to disembark there; although a stop is almost certain these days, as the park’s attractions become better known and word spreads about it.
The boat ride could take as long as three hours, so if you are not planning a stop at the Ecological Park, take plenty of drinking water. Also take sun screen and a hat if it’s hot (insect repellent may also be useful).
The distance from Chiapa de Corzo to the hydroelectric dam is around 23 miles (35 km). As you progress through the canyon, you’ll start to see the walls towering above you: at their highest point, from the surface of the water you will look up at walls a staggering 2,640 feet (800 m) high.
There are some caves and interesting rock formations that the boatman will highlight on the trip. One of the most interesting is the “Christmas Tree”, which is actually created by moss hanging on one of the rock faces. If you visit during the rainy season, you will be able to see how the water trickles down the ‘branches’ of the tree!
There’s plenty of wildlife, both flora and fauna, to admire during the trip. Herons, vultures, egrets, kingfishers and perhaps a few crocodiles which also live on the river!
The river opens out at the end of the journey, just before the dam. The boat will take up you to the closest point allowed by the floating barriers and turn around. It is here where the river is deepest: the water underneath you reaches a depths of over 860 feet (260 m).
On the way back, the boat will stop at the Ecological Park (see below) to drop off any passengers spending the day there and to pick up people returning to Chiapa de Corzo.
Bring your camera. Although it’s hard to capture the sheer enormity of the canyon in still pictures from the water’s surface, some people bring video cameras to try and capture the perspective. To really enjoy this natural wonder, you simply have to be there and experience it in person.
What to do in Canon del Sumidero National Park?
There are two ways to visit the Sumidero Canyon in Chiapas: take a boat tour and walk along the viewpoints.
These are radically different experiences and we sincerely recommend that you do both to make the most of the Sumidero Canyon!
Boat trip along Río Grijalva River
One of the best ways to get to know the Sumidero Canyon is to take a boat trip along the course of the Río Grijalva. The boat trip takes about 2 hours and covers a distance of about 64 kilometers along the Grijalva River. The tour starts in Chiapa de Corzo, you reach the Chicoasén dam and then make the trip in the opposite direction.
It is important to know that if today the river seems calm, it is only thanks to the construction of this hydroelectric dam in 1980, because before then the current was strong and it was dangerous to cross the river.
Since 1980, this place is considered a national park, and some parts of its cliffs can reach up to 1 kilometre high. It is possible to see some species of this habitat such as crocodiles, spider monkeys and an infinity of birds. The walk is a lot of fun and the experience of entering the Sumidero Canyon and seeing the walls surrounding us as you go deeper into the Sumidero Canyon is simply amazing!
There are several small caves and several natural formations on the walls. The two most important ones are the Christmas Tree and the Cave of Colors, where the guide stops to let you observe and take some pictures.
The Cave of Colours is a natural chapel with pink tones on the walls due to the natural infiltration of different minerals. A Virgin of Guadalupe has been placed there and on December 12th a large floating mass is celebrated in her honour!
The Christmas tree is the nickname given to a 750-metre high limestone formation located on a canyon wall and created by a 200-metre high waterfall. The best time to observe the waterfall is during the rainy season.
When to go to Canon del Sumidero National Park
You can visit the Sumidero Canyon any day of the year, but here are a few things to consider to best prepare for your visit!
Avoid Tuesdays : The watchtowers are closed every Tuesday for maintenance and cleaning of the area.
In Winter : From November to February, it is less hot but there is less water and the landscape is not as green as in summer.
In Summer : From June to August it is very hot, but because of the rains there is more water and the landscape becomes totally green.
Rainy Season : Usually from June to October. This is for us the best time to visit the Sumidero Canyon! Natural waterfalls form on the walls of the Sumidero Canyon.
During the Fiesta Grande period in Chiapa de Corzo : January 8 to 23. The most beautiful and traditional patron saint festivals in Mexico.
Getting There & Around Canon del Sumidero National Park
Sumidero Canyon is near Tuxtla Gutierrez; the most popular and best embarkation point is nearby Chiapa de Corzo. The only way to get to the Eco Park is to take a boat ride from Chiapa de Corzo—the boat will drop you off at the park en route through the canyon and pick you up when you’re ready to return.
Getting To Tuxtla Gutierrez (for Chiapa de Corzo / Canyon Sumidero)
By Air – You can get to and from Tuxtla Gutierrez from Mexico City, Oaxaca, Villahermosa, Veracruz, Merida and Cancun using the main airport (Francisco Sarabia / Teran). There is a smaller airport, only used in the summer as it’s high up in the hills and gets fog-bound in the winter. For detailed information about flights and flying, see the Mexperience guide to Air Travel in Mexico.
Airport Transfers: If you’re arriving in Mexico by airplane, you can book your airport transfer in advance. Airport Transfer services are available from all of Mexico’s key airports and offer the choice of either a Standard or VIP service level. Standard shuttles will transport up to ten people and their baggage in a modern and comfortable surburban van to/from local hotels; the VIP service provides transportation exclusively for your party, taking you and your belongings directly to/from your local hotel. Connect to the Mexperience Travel Center for details and to reserve your Airport Transfer.
By Bus – Regular long distance buses make the journey from Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez daily; the journey takes 15 hours. Regional buses travel daily and frequently from Villahermosa, Campeche, Merida and Cancun to and from Tuxtla Gutierrez. For detailed information about bus transportation read the Mexperience guide to Bus Travel in Mexico.
By Car – There are now fast roads connecting Chiapas’ capital city to Merida, Cancun, Oaxaca, Mexico City. The drive is a long one from Mexico City, but you’ll be rewarded by some stunning scenery. Most people tend to fly to the region and rent a car locally, which is more sensible unless you have a specific reason for driving to Chiapas. See additional information about Driving in Mexico and Mexico’s Toll Roads on Mexperience.
Car Rental – To explore Mexico’s colonial towns and cities, consider renting a car for your visit. Having your own car will give you more flexibility than using public transport options and, in some cases, offer you access to places which are otherwise difficult to visit without the use of a car. Read our guide to Car Rental in Mexico to learn what you need to know about car rental in Mexico and connect to the Mexperience Travel Center to reserve your Rental Car.
Getting To Chiapa de Corzo / Embarkation Point
From the Airport – The main airport is about 5 miles south of Tuxtla Gutierrez, and Chiapa de Corzo is about 5 miles (11 km) from there. Taxis are available into town and will also take you directly to Chiapa de Corzo if you are using it as your base. You can also rent a car from the airport. See Car Rental, above.
Local Buses – Local buses make the trip regularly from Tuxtla Gutierrez to Chiapa de Corzo and are very inexpensive.
Taxis – Local taxis are widely available and will take you the 11 km road trip to Chiapa de Corzo; agree your price before you get in; prices are reasonable. Taxi travel is very affordable in Mexico, in comparison to the USA, Canada and Europe, and so provides a viable means of public transportation in Mexico. Your hotel can arrange taxis for you; some post their rates on a board in the lobby; taxi hotel rates are usually higher than cabs you hail off the street. If you speak Spanish, you will have a distinct advantage in your negotiations with local taxi drivers. For detailed information, read the Mexperience guide to Taxi Travel in Mexico.
Guided Tours and Excursions
A number of local tour operators sell pre-packaged tours that include Chiapa de Corzo, the Sumidero Canyon and the Ecological Park. You can arrange a guided tour using Mexperience. Buying tours in advance is more convenient and secure, and your spaces on the tour are guaranteed.
What to Buy in Sumidero Canyon
Souvenirs are available at the embarkation point and there is a fine souvenir and clothing shop at the Eco Park inside the canyon. See Key Attractions.
The high altitude and mountainous terrain make the climate in this area highly variable. It can get quite warm in the summer and cold in the winter. Rains can come at any time, but you will also need to pack sunscreen and a hat to guard against the sun here. When you pack for Chiapas, pack clothes for all weathers; in the winter months you will need to ensure you pack a stock of warm and waterproof clothes.
Weather & Climates in Mexico
Learn more about the weather and climates through the seasons and regions by connecting to the Mexperience guide about Weather and Climates in Mexico
Schedule: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.
The entrance to Sumidero Canyon National Park costs 34 pesos per person. You will be given a bracelet that can be used for the watchtowers as well as for the boat trip.
Price in collective boat: 200 pesos per person + bracelet.
Cost in private boat: from 2,800 pesos + bracelets.
Schedule: From 8 am to 3 pm. Every day.
We are not big fans of organized tours, but if you wish, you can save time with a tour of the Canyon including a visit to the watchtowers, a boat tour and a guided walk in Chiapa de Corzo.
Tuxtla : This city has an exceptional hotel offer and accommodation by Airbnb from 250 pesos. We recommend our holiday rentals Casas Alma de Chiapas in Tuxtla in the city centre.
Chiapa de Corzo : Here there are not many options for sleeping and it is a little more expensive. We recommend “Posada la Tradición” 3 blocks from the promenade for 400 pesos per night.
San Cristóbal de las Casas : In this magical city you will find many accommodation offers, just take into account the transfer of about 1 hour to Tuxtla. There are very good options from 200 pesos per night.
Where to eat
Tuxtla : If you stay in Tuxtla, we recommend you to taste delicious tacos de cochito with pozzuolana at “Casa Blanca”. The tacos cost 11 pesos and the pozzuolana 15 pesos. And in the evening, don’t forget to go to “Las Pichanchas” for the fun experience of ordering a “Pumpo”, it costs 160 pesos for 4 people. Also at 21:00 there are traditional dances, you just have to book because it’s sold out.
Chiapa de Corzo : Try the cochito asado, the pepita with tasajo and the pozol. They sell them everywhere, at the market you can find the dishes for 60 pesos and the pozolana for 15 pesos.
Miradors : On the road there’s nothing, but on the third viewpoint there are bathrooms and a small shop. At the last viewpoint there is a cafeteria where we tasted the famous tamale of Chipilín for 25 pesos.
Boat excursion : Snacks and beers are sold on the docks. At the end of the tour, there are boats that also sell micheladas for 50 pesos, they are jokingly called Oxxumacinta.