A Couple of Days in Comitán
On my recent trip to Chiapas, I wanted to visit Comitán, a city a couple of hours south east of San Cristobal de las Casas. I wanted to visit the Mayan ruin of Tenam Puente, which is covered here. I also wanted to check out some of the churches and other colonial architecture of Comitán.
I took the ADO bus from San Cristobal de las Casas to Comitán. The cost is $48 pesos, and time in transit is about 2 hours. The bus station in Comitán is a modest walk from the centro area.
On my way to catch the combi to Tenam Puente, I walked by the Templo de Guadalupe. The church is located on Calle 1A Sur Pte near 4A Ave Pt Sur. Around the church is a small, nice park. This church is located near the combis to Tenam Puente, which I covered in the Tenam Puente entry.
Coming back to Comitán from Tenam Puente, I ended up in the main square, or Zocalo. This parque central is a very nice area with lots of tree, shade, and plantings. There are lots of benches to sit on, and there are restaurants and shops around the perimeter.
There are statues and other public art around the square as well. It’s a good place to people watch, and also to catch a cab.
The highlight of the square area is probably the Templo Santo Domingo de Guzman. You can see the yellow tower of Santo Domingo in the photo to the right. The templo dates from 1556, and was the last Dominican church built in Chiapas. It has a mustard yellow color, and is quite photogenic. The bell tower has Mudejar-styled arcading on it, something that is somewhat uncommon and was only recently discovered underneath the stucco surface. The Templo is well worth a visit, you can go inside if it is open, generally from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. It may be closed during some afternoon hours. It looks equally nice at dusk when lit up as it does during the day.
There are other churches in Comitán that are of interest. The Iglesia de San Caralampio is a beautiful neo-rococo style church located several blocks away from the main square at 4a Av. Ote. Nte. at 2a Calle Nte. Ote.
The church is a beautiful yellow, with red details and dates from the 19th century. It is on a plaza with many trees nearby, so getting a photo without having a tree blocking part of the church can be difficult. The church is dedicated to a Russian Orthodox saint who it is said helped stop an outbreak of cholera and smallpox in the 19th century.
In the same plaza area is the La Pila de Leon. La Pila (the fountain) was Comitán’s first public water source. A large statue of a lion guards the plaza, and the water comes out of fountains along the side of a building. People still come here to collect water for their home.
Iglesia El Calvario is located somewhat near the main square, near 1a Nte. Pte. and Calle Central (Belisario Dominguez). It’s another beautiful yellow colored church, with some yellow and white painted columns on the front. A small park sits next to it, you can get some shade there depending on what time of day it is. Across the street is a nice copy shop, where I was charged all of 1 peso for an enlargement of a city map!
There are a few other churches that may be of interest. Perhaps the nicest looking among the bunch was the Templo de San Jose. Unfortunately it was under renovation when I arrived, and it was difficult to get a good feel for what the church looked like. It appeared that they were re-habbing one of the towers of the church.
The church is located at 3a Sur Pte. and Ave Central Sur, just a few blocks away from the Parque Central.
A few blocks further along is the Iglesia de San Sebastian. The church is located at 1a Av Ote Sur where it meets 8a Calle Sur Pte. The church sits on a nice park, Parque de San Sebastian.
It’s another bright yellow church (see a common theme here?), and again with red trim. I can’t say much else about this one — it was closed when I came by, and there isn’t much written about it in any of the guidebooks I have looked at.
The last church I visited in Comitán was the Iglesia Santa Teresita. It’s located near where Central Nte. runs into 6a Nte Pte. This is a rather unremarkable little church, perhaps not worth the time, but not having seen a photograph beforehand, there was no way to know this.
There are at least two other churches in Comitán, as some photos of them popped up in Google searches. I simply couldn’t find reference to them on any map. There doesn’t seem to be a lot written about Comitán, and I don’t think many tourists go there.
There are a few nice museums in Comitán as well. There’s a regional archaeological museum that has some nice Mayan artifacts that is well worth a visit. The cost was free, and the exhibits are quite nice. Signage is in Spanish only, and the guards will want to hang on to your backpack. There are several salas (rooms), make sure that get to see them all.
Although I found the square, parks, churches, and museums to be quite nice, there certainly weren’t a lot of tourists around. During my two days, I didn’t see anyone else who appeared to be from the USA, Europe, etc. This puts you in the position of really standing out. I did get a lot of stares in Comitán — something that hasn’t been the norm for me in Mexico. Some were curious, others appeared more unfriendly. Though I am glad I visited, I can’t say for sure that I’d return. And, I’d probably only recommend the area to seasoned travelers who have an good grasp of Spanish.
As I had trouble with maps on this trip, I did create a Google map of the churches I visited. Click the link to check it out. There’s also a pretty nice map from the Moon Chiapas guide, click the link for the image.