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Sumidero Canyon and Eco Park in Chiapas, Mexico
Guide to the Sumidero Canyon and Sumidero Eco Park in Chiapas, Mexico.
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.
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.
Canyon Sumidero Ecological Park
One of the most exciting developments from a visitor's viewpoint in this area is the inauguration of the Canyon Sumidero Ecological Park.
Opened in 2003, this park is intended to create a learning space where people can gain knowledge about the local culture and wildlife, interact with it in a responsible way, and provide a really enjoyable day out in a safe natural environment surrounded by fantastic scenery.
As you arrive at the Ecological Park, you cross a wooden bridge that leads you through the park's entranceway to the registration area.
Once registered, you can leave your belongings in a locker. There are dry activities for which you'll need a strong pair of shoes or boots and comfortable clothing, and wet activities for which you'll require your swimming gear.
Activities at the Eco Park Include:
- Mountain Biking
- Bird Sanctuary
- Animal Sanctuary
The park has an excellent restaurant, a gift shop and areas to just sit, relax and enjoy the natural environment, including easy chairs and hammocks.
Mexperience offers access to local tours and activities in and around Mexico's colonial cities and areas of outstanding natural beauty—including the Sumidero Canyon. Tours and activities are organized and run by well-established, professional and fully-insured operators. You can search for tours by location or category and make reservations online or by telephone. Buying tours in advance is more convenient and secure, and your spaces on the tour are guaranteed. Connect to the Mexperience Travel center to browse and reserve Local Tours in Mexico.
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.
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. Connect to the Mexperience Travel center to browse and reserve Local Tours in Mexico.
Telephone:Connect to the guide about Communications in Mexico on Mexperience for detailed information about keeping in touch and the latest table of national dialing codes.
Exchanging Currency: Banks with ATM machines can be found in Tuxtla Gutierrez and Chiapa de Corzo; there are no currency ATM services at the Ecological Park. For detailed information about exchanging and managing your money, read the Mexperience guide to Money in Mexico.
Travel Insurance: We recommend that you are adequately covered with travel medical insurance and/or travel assistance insurance when you are visiting Mexico. Read the Mexperience guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico for full details and links to specialist insurance suppliers.
Internet Access: Internet cafes are commonplace in nearby Tuxtla Gutierrez; new ones open and old ones close all the time, but you won't have to look too hard to find one downtown and in the main tourist areas.
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