San Cristóbal de las Casas is a city of many layers, a place to delve into, not merely admire. It is first and foremost a wonderful old colonial town, easily one of Mexico’s finest. Low colorful buildings with tile roofs and wrought-iron details line the narrow streets, their wooden doorways sometimes framed by exuberant bougainvillea vines. The shady central plaza  is flanked by an elegant mustard-yellow cathedral  that seems to glow in the setting sun, often to the sound of a live marimba band.
But San Cristóbal is more than just a pretty face. The indigenous presence is stronger and more visible here than in any other Mexican city. You’ll hear Tzotzil and Tzeltal on a daily basis, and share the streets, markets, and public plazas with indigenous people, a great many wearing traditional garb.
Beyond San Cristóbal are numerous outlying villages that can be visited by tour or on your own—from the fiercely independent San Juan Chamula  to the little-visited communities of Chenalhó  and Oxchuc . A highlight for many visitors, these towns are a reminder of the rich ethnic and cultural diversity of modern Maya society.
San Cristóbal’s non-indigenous population tends to be progressive and bohemian, as are the majority of foreign travelers and expats. The city boasts numerous art-house theaters, coffee houses, and hipster bars, as well as myriad NGO and research organizations; together they form a unique social milieu that is both thoughtful and a lot of fun.
With so many facets to explore, fascinating sights to take in, and welcoming places to spend the night, you’ll find it easy—almost too easy—to extend your stay.