Let’s be honest: You didn’t come all the way to Chiapas  to hang out in a big busy city like Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Home to a half million people, Tuxtla is a world apart from the lush forests, colonial cities, and indigenous villages most travelers associate with Mexico’s most rural state. Tuxtla’s hotels, museums, and architecture are of mostly 20th-century extraction—even the main cathedral , though quite impressive, is a modern revision of the colonial-era original.
But don’t write off Tuxtla altogether! Some of Chiapas’s top sights are just outside the city. They include Cañón del Sumidero , a long winding canyon with jaw-dropping thousand-meter walls; Sima de las Cotorras , a massive sinkhole that’s home to squawking multitudes of green parrots; and beautiful wind-wisped Aguacero waterfall.
The small town of Chiapa de Corzo  has several architectural gems, including a gorgeous 16th-century fountain, and a two-week-long festival that draws crowds of visitors. Northwest of Tuxtla is the Ruta Zoque  (Zoque Route), a little-traveled loop in the Chiapanecan hinterland that includes low-key towns and terrific colonial churches.
And the city itself is not without its attractions. If you’ve got kids, they’ll love Tuxtla’s great zoo  and the huge convivencia infantil , or children’s park. A science museum  opened in 2006 and there’s an excellent archaeological museum , albeit rather dated in style. And every night of the week you’ll find a friendly crowd and live marimba music at Parque Marimba , the city’s loveliest spot.
If your jaunt through southern Mexico has left you in need of a big-city fix, whether that means Wal-Mart or a hot shower and HBO at the Camino Real, Tuxtla Gutiérrez is your guilty pleasure. (Don’t worry, no one back home has to know.)