CHIAPA DE CORZO is an elegant little town overlooking the Río Grijalva, barely twenty minutes east from Tuxtla by bus. Founded by the Spanish in 1528 (their first city in Chiapas), it was already an important centre in pre-Classic times, and is the place where the oldest Long Count date, corresponding to December 7, 36 BC, was found on a stele. The remaining ruins are on private land behind the Nestlé plant, at the far end of 21 de Octubre on the edge of town (see "The ruins of Chiapa de Corzo"), but the undoubted star attraction here is the boat ride along the Cañón del Sumidero.
Buses from Tuxtla travel along Avenida Cuauhtémoc, north of the plaza, terminating near the Nestlé plant – get off at Calle Mexicanidad, or where the driver says "parque", and turn right for the plaza. Heading back, buses cut across the top of the plaza (Avenida 21 de Octubre) and are easy to pick up. Though it's a far more appealing place to stay than Tuxtla, it's not easy to move on without doubling back to the city – buses to San Cristóbal take the new highway, which bypasses Chiapa de Corzo, and to catch one you'll have to walk or take a local bus 4km out of town. One alternative is to take a taxi from the plaza all the way to Cristóbal (about M$350). Heading to the airport however, there's little point going to Tuxtla as taxis cost the same (M$200). There's a small but helpful tourist office (Mon– Fri 8am–4pm; Tel:961/616-1013) on Domingo Ruíz, just off the plaza.
The most striking feature of Chiapa de Corzo is the amazingly elaborate sixteenth-century Fuente Colonial, which dominates the central Plaza Ángel Albino Corzo. Built of brick in the Mudéjar style and in the shape of the Spanish crown, the fountain is one of the most impressive surviving early colonial monuments in Mexico – tribute to a painstaking restoration – and appears as the state symbol on vehicle licence plates. Just behind it, the huge tree bursting from its confines is La Pochota, a national monument to the suffering of the indígenas under the Spanish, said to have been standing here when the town was founded.
On the northwest side of the zócalo is the Casa Museo Ángel Albino Corzo (daily 10am–2pm & 6–9pm; free), the former residence of Ángel Albino Corzo (1816–75), the national reformer for whom the town was named. Housing an interesting jumble of period furniture and historical artefacts, it features two cannons used in the so-called Pastry War against France in 1838 (explanations in Spanish only). On the southern side of the plaza portales house a series of reasonably priced handicraft stores, which continue south along 5 de Febrero towards the river and Embarcadero. Behind the portales is the lovely Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán and ex-convent, with a tall nave and timbered ceiling. Forming part of the complex, behind the main entrance to the church, is the Centro Cultural (Tues– Sun 10am–5pm; free), an ambitious new project that is gradually converting the old convent into a series of tasteful galleries, museums and art studios. Upstairs on the first floor, the Museo de Laca recounts the history of lacquer-making in Mexico, from pre-Hispanic times to the present, featuring various lacquered objects from gourds to pots and chests.
There are two good hotels in town: the central Los Angeles (Tel:961/616-0048; Price: M$250-350), on the southeast corner of the zócalo, which has small but comfortable en-suite rooms in a renovated building around a courtyard; and the newer, more upmarket AHotel La Ceiba, Domingo Ruíz 300 (Tel:961/616-0389, Web: www.hlaceiba.com ; Price: M$500-750), three blocks west from the plaza, which encloses a tranquil palm-filled garden with a small pool and caged parrots, and offers simple but very comfortable rooms with a/c and cable TV. Several restaurants specialize in chiapaneco cuisine, though they tend to be a little overpriced: El Campanario, behind the municipal building on Coronel Urbina 5 (just off the plaza) is the best, with an inviting garden and courtyard, though it closes at 7pm. Los Corredores, at the southwest corner of the plaza at Madero 35, offers Mexican favourites. The Embarcadero along the river is a pretty spot for a drink, with plenty of live music, though the pricey seafood restaurants here are all fairly similar, and most start to wind down early.