Between San Cristóbal de las Casas  and Comitán  are a number of small towns boasting outstanding Dominican churches and missions, some in use, others long abandoned. They make for interesting detours — or even a complete day trip — if you’ve got a car and an interest in colonial architecture.
The cavernous nave of Teopisca’s Iglesia San Agustín is the second-largest in the state, after San Tomás in Oxchuc . The floors are covered in beautiful pink and white tile, while the lofty ceiling is spanned by ornately carved wood beams. But the church’s most remarkable feature is its massive retablo altar, the oldest in Chiapas (dated 1708) and by most accounts the finest.
It was originally installed in the San Agustín church in San Cristóbal , but transferred here, along with two excellent flanking retablos, to replace ones destroyed by an earthquake in 1817. The altarpiece has 18 niches in all, the center ones filled by sculptures of saints (including San Dominic at the top, and San Agustín at the bottom), and outer ones with paintings of religious scenes; it is framed by gilded and ornately carved columns and a large base with carvings of animals, angels, and other figures.
The imposing facade and thick stone walls attest to the former grandeur of this 16th-century church, known as Asunción Soyatitán. Unfortunately it is severely deteriorated, with the nave’s roof having long since collapsed and pigeons roosting in holes meant to anchor the main altarpiece against the back wall. The sober facade rises in three levels, divided by plain stone columns, topped by a grand but decaying bell gable, and facing a small grassy patio.
Amatenango del Valle  has a lovely and unique colonial church. The brilliant white facade gives way to a long simple nave with pink and white tile floors. The retablo altarpiece is set quite far back, beneath a polygonal wood cupola. The altar is notable for being painted a deep red with white and gold floral patterns; the niches feature scenes from the life of San Francisco de Asis, Amatenango’s patron saint. A spiral staircase near the entrance leads to the church’s choral balcony, with small windows overlooking the town’s plaza.
San José Coneta, located near the Guatemalan border, was founded in the late 1500s but abandoned in 1804 in the face of a dwindling population. The mission church, a lonely monument surrounded by corn fields and cow pastures, has proved remarkably resilient. The facade features an eclectic array of columns, niches, arches, and decorative frames and figures. Tall trees grow out of the spacious (and roofless) nave, adding to the ghost-town atmosphere.