Deep in Chiapas State, the “Royal City” of San Cristobal de las Casas is a charming, colonial town of cobbled streets, historic churches and colourful architecture. Founded in 1528 by Diego de Mazariegos as a military fort, San Cristobal became state capital in 1824 following independence from Spain, an official status it was later to lose to the neighbouring city of Tuxtla Gutierrez in the 1890’s. Today, San Cristobal is a sleepy tourist town surrounded by the cool forested hills of the Jovel Valley and a wonderful spot to relax before venturing into the steamy lowlands. Although purely a Spanish settlement, San Cristobal carries a strong sense of indigenous identity. It is renowned region-wide for its colourful markets and exquisite handicrafts where local Tzotzil women set up stalls alongside colonial chapels. Head into the hills and indigenous Chiapas becomes ever stronger such as at the fascinating village and colourful church of San Juan Chamula where local shamanic rituals have fused with Catholicism. Further afield, you can take a boat trip through the soaring Sumidero Canyon or visit the splendid Mayan pyramid at Tonina.