Sumidero Canyon is a breathtaking site. A river lazily meanders for 10 miles between towering cliffs that reach a kilometre high in places. Crocodiles laze on the river banks and vultures squabble in large groups in-between scavenging for their next meal. The beauty of this place is simply mind blowing, and has to be seen to be appreciated.
This report details my trip to the canyon, which turned out to be one of the most stunning places I’ve been to. I hope it inspires some of you to visit this wonderful place.
Getting to Sumidero Canyon
I was staying in the beautiful city of San Cristobal, nestled 2300 metres up in a valley of the Chiapas mountains. I normally avoid tours like the plague, but decided for visiting Sumidero Canyon a day tour would allow me to get the most out of it.
A chose to take a tour with which cost only 240 pesos for the whole day a-bargain compared to western countries.
The minivan left the city around 8.30am for the 90 minute ride to the Canyon. The journey there was exhilarating in itself. The mountain road passes some breathtaking scenery, with soaring peaks and plunging valleys covered in pine forest on all sides.
When we arrived at the carpark in the small town of …., the sun was already beating down and the temperature was rising. We had dropped a 1000 metres since leaving San Cristobal, so I was suddenly back in a tropical climate after the chill of the high mountain valleys.
Boat Trip through the Canyon
As the speedboat waited to leave, the brilliant blue of the sky was matched by the clear waters of the lake. The speedboat revved it’s engines and shot of up the river away from the town.
This was one fast boat!
At the start of the canyon the cliffs are quite low and not very dramatic, but they soon started to get higher and steeper. The rock walls were partly white here and covered in forest. After 10 minutes the cliff walls had risen dramatically and the river narrowed, turning into a gorge.
As we neared the highest part of the Canyon the view was amazing. Two massive cliffs rose up out of the calm water on either side of us. It was a staggering sight to behold, it felt like we were entering another world. We skimmed over the water and all around me I could see huge, towering grey walls rising up to touch the sky 1000 metres above us. The combination of the spectacle and the speed of the powerful boat was exhilarating.
One of our first stops was to a cave in the walls of one of the cliffs. This cave was full of stalactites and was home to fruit bats. The driver expertly brought the boat close so we could look inside without leaving the boat.
The wildlife of the Canyon
Apart from the amazing scenery, the other reason to visit Sumidero Canyon is the diverse array of rare wildlife here. The canyon is home to hundreds of species, including eagles, vultures and crocodiles.
I’d never seen a crocodile in the wild before (which was one of my reasons for coming) so was eager to spot one.
My wish soon came true.
We spotted a crocodile lazing on the bank, sunning itself in the brilliant morning light. It was a decent size, but nowhere near as big as some of the ones we saw later. We saw several more crocodiles, including one beast that was swimming lazily through the water. It was amazing to be so close to an animal that has been alive since the dinosaurs, though I was glad I was inside a boat at this point.
I spotted other animals on the boat tour including monkeys, eagles and of course vultures. There were dozens of vultures on one side of the canyon, most of them relaxing in the sun with the odd one flapping off to search for carrion.
Sumidero Canyon really is a paradise for animal lovers.
The last area of the Canyon is the reservoir in front the Chicoasen Dam. The cliffs end here so the scenery isn’t as dramatic, but it’s still quite a beautiful spot. There were hundreds of birds scattered across the reservoir too, this area really is still a haven for wildlife despite the pressures of economic development.
Driving to the Lookout Point
After speeding back to the dock at up to 50mph, we had lunch before boarding the minivan to drive up to the lookout point above the canyon. After driving through the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez the road climbs steeply up the mountain side, before snaking along the edge of the cliffs. Soon we were well over a 1000 metres above the valley floor. The drop to out right seemed to go on forever, and in many places there was no safety rail. It’s at times like this when you hope you have a good driver.
The Lookout Point
After the exciting drive through the mountains we eventually arrived at the main lookout point. The view from here was utterly staggering. The viewing platform perches on the edge of one side of the canyon, with views across to the adjoining cliffs and down towards the river. The river itself was a tiny blue ribbon 1000 metres below me. The whole scene was so sublime it almost seemed unreal. Without doubt this was one of the most awe-inspiring views I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve seen a lot of great views.
It was hard to tear myself away from the view, but I had to rejoin the group for the long drive back to San Cristobal.
Sumidero Canyon turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip, and was an exhilarating day out. Not much can beat speeding through a 1km tall canyon that looks like it belongs in Jurassic Park. I don’t normally recommend taking tours, but for this canyon it’s defiantly worth taking a tour to get the most out of your experience.
The only downside to the tour was I would have liked to have spend more time at the lookout points, but it was still a great experience.