Welcome to the jungle: Cycling from the Mountains to the Lowlands

Our ride from San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas to Merida, Yucatan… welcome to the jungle, baby.

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We left our comfortable station at San Cristobal thinking we’d have a somewhat easy few days crossing Chiapas. We were wrong. Our first day out we crossed some beautiful mountains that went over arid pine forests and descended into a dense cloud forest jungle. It was our biggest day yet at 74 miles and 4,120 feet ascending into Ocosingo (which we dubbed Ochocinco). Not much to the town itself, but we ended up being sacked in by rain the next day, so we all caught up on reading and eating.

The day after, it was still raining but we decided to go for it. There wasn’t much to do in Ochocinco. We donned our rain gear for the first time on the trip and set the pedal to the, er, pedal. We got fairly soaked while crossing some beautiful jungle and the steepest climbs yet. After arriving that afternoon in Agua Azul, a popular tourist destination with a pretty amazing waterfall, we procured a fairly new guest house room and were greeted by a warm cup of Nescafe by it’s proprietor. You will have to take my word for it that the falls were amazing (or do a Google search for Agua Azul Chiapas)… we couldn’t really get good photos as it was generally rainy while we were there.

The following day we took off for another fantastic jungle ride to the town and ruins of Palenque. Along the descent we occasionally got glimpses of the expansive Yucatan that awaited us. We made our two night stay in a small village, called Panchan, set right in the jungle. As we pulled in on the dirt path, we were greeted by some really loud howler monkeys, which gave it an immediate untamed ambience. And as it turns out, there are quite a few ‘untamed’ hippy-expatriates living in Panchan, subsisting on the local byproduct of ‘caca de vaca’.

Travel photo - 3 kids in Chiapas

Actually this one is on the way in to San Cristobal… 3 kids watching us set up camp.

Travel photo - Bike Touring

VA doing her usual ‘where are we going to eat’ stare.

Bicycle Touring Bike

Nate’s bike. Nate cycled from Portugal to Hong Kong, then Central America. You can read about his journey here and here.

Street Shot in San Cristobal Mexico

Travel Photo - street photo

Cigarette man in San Cristobal

Travel Photo - street photo

Travel Photo - street photo

Street in San Cristobal

Travel Photo - street photo

An air of protest in all of the tagging in San Cristobal harkens back to the ’94 Zapatista uprising.

Travel Photo - food photo

Soup night – Pozole de Cerdo para me por favor.

Bike Touring photo - Surly Troll

Rainy jungle climb.

Travel Photo - street photo

Selling jungle bananas.

Bike Touring photo

Pausing to look back on the mountains of Chiapas.

Travel Photo

Leaf-cutter ants on the roadway.

Travel Photo - Palenque

Gin at the Palenque ruins.

Travel Photo - Palenque

Travel Photo - Palenque

Travel Photo - Palenque

Travel Photo - Palenque

Travel Photo - Palenque

Travel Photo - Palenque

Travel Photo - Palenque

Observatory at Palenque.

Travel Photo - Palenque

Queen’s falls at Palenque.

Travel Photo - Palenque

Giant butterfly in the jungle.

Travel Photo - Palenque

Slaughtering some limes in Panchan.

  • I am so happy you all are safe and enjoying such a wondrous adventure! I miss you all!!!


  • Tricia

    It was great to see you in Merida. I hope that you enjoyed the rest of your time here and found the bike supplies you were hoping for. Best wishes for smooth riding to the Carribean. Take care.

  • Great to meet you and thanks for the local insight!

  • Ben

    hi hi! This looks amazing! I am a few days away from booking a flight into Tuxtla Gutiérrez to embark on a few month long bicycle tour, and your blog is very inspiring. I am quite nervous for my trip, so in the end I am just looking for some encouragement that my location is reasonable. would flying into that city be a good place to start my tour? Would you recommend that I start my ride here? I am planning on biking around Chiapas, then probably going farther south maybe in Guatemala or Belize. I would love some feedback on this idea…

  • Hi Ben. It really depends on what you want to do. Off-road stuff? Food? Sights?

  • Ben

    I currently have a touring hybrid, so I can’t do do off road other than well packed dirt. I’m definitely in for food and sights but typically not the touristy ones found in the books, more of a personal sights finder. What do you think? Thanks for the response!

  • I enjoyed the food and people in Oaxaca; Chiapas is very nice… hilly with big climbs. I’d say Oaxaca City would be a good place to start, or Tuxla. It’s really hard to say without knowing your goals, pace, etc.

  • Ben

    For sure, that makes sense. Do you have any strong recommendations for or against starting in Mexico City and going to Xalapa and biking south from there?

  • We stayed South, so I am not sure about Xalapa …

  • Ben

    Ok, perfect! Thank you very much. If you have any other suggestions or tips please feel free to let me know!!! I appreciate all knowlwdge.


  • Sure thing… have a great trip!

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