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Most travelers alight in Ocosingo only because it is the gateway to the magnificently underdeveloped Mayan ruins at nearby Toniná. Ocosingo is conveniently located halfway between Palenque and San Cristóbal de Las Casas (about 100 kilometers either way on twisty mountain roads). But this small market town (official, likely inflated, population: 35,000) doesn't offer much in the way of traditional tourism. It has: bus stops on the highway, a handful of hotels and restaurants, a wee "zócalo" (plaza), a simple church and a semi-interesting market. Nearly nothing is done to woo tourists, and getting your mitts on even a helpful map may prove difficult. (In December 2009, the tourism "desk" was in the back of an unmarked, unnumbered office facing the plaza; this is supposedly temporary until it can move back to a kiosk on the being-restored plaza. The clerk did print out a map with no street names and a list of hotels and restaurants, however.)

Calm and basically safe today, Ocosingo was once infamous for anti-tourism activities. When the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) began its uprising in 1994, the town was one of the battlegrounds. In 2003, Zapatista rebels with machetes, decrying foreign influences, took over the Rancho Esmeralda guesthouse outside Ocosingo; it had been run by a U.S. couple. While the government and the EZLN have a truce today, the EZLN still marks its presence with signs along the road to Toniná near the government military compound, which flies a gigantic Mexican flag.

In general, people in Ocosingo don't seem to begrudge your existence, but they don't seem to welcome it either. Little English is spoken here. Unlike in touristy San Cristóbal, you won't be approached on the streets by people hawking bracelets, shawls and the like. There is a large marketplace, however, with an interesting "Tianguis Campesino" section. This is restricted to local female vendors, and there they sit, in beribboned skirts and shirts, under a curved roof of corrugated tin, selling small piles of tomatoes, beans and other produce. (The market is about four blocks south of the plaza via 2a Avenida Sur Oriente.) Agriculture is a mainstay here. If you want to buy the colorful hand-crafted shoulder bags the locals carry, check the south-side stalls in the Mercado Publico (public market) across the street from the "Tianguis Campesino." If you like churches, visit the one at the southeast corner of the plaza. You can buy some famous Ocosingo "queso amarillo" (yellow cheese) at the "Fábrica de Quesos Santa Rosa" (1a Oriente Norte 11), about a block north of the church.

Ocosingo lodging is unspectacular. Two of the best bets are by the plaza; they have decent restaurants, too. The Hotel Central (Av. Central 5, 919/673-0024) has simple rooms with balconies overlooking the plaza (250 - 350 pesos) and a good, inexpensive café/restaurant (open 7 a.m. - 11 p.m.) with free WiFi on the ground-floor balcony. Just down the street, the Hospedaje y Restaurant Esmeralda (Calle Central Norte 14, 919/673-0014,, the legacy of Rancho Esmeralda, has five rooms (150+ pesos), a helpful, homey atmosphere, and a small terrace for dining alfresco. Tasty meals (enchiladas, goulash and so on) cost 30 - 85 pesos.

You can find Internet/phone-booth shops around the plaza, as well as a Bancomer ATM and a Banamex bank (9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday - Friday). A Santander bank is a block off the plaza on Central Norte (9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday).

Telephone code: 919

Elevation: 900 meters

Getting to and away:

Most visitors will arrive at Ocosingo via Highway 199. The bus station area is on Highway 199, roughly two blocks north and three blocks west of the town plaza. (Note: Don't bother walking to the top of the hill to access the downtown. Cut through via one of the closer roads.) A taxi to the plaza is 15 pesos.

The OCC/ADO GL/TRF bus terminal (with restaurant, shop, waiting room, 3-peso bathroom, is on Highway 199. Buses to San Cristóbal de Las Casas (2.5+ hours, 44 pesos) and Tuxtla Gutiérrez (4+ hours, 118 pesos) leave at: 1:40 a.m., 6:10 a.m., 6:45 a.m., 8:20 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:55 a.m., 2:40 p.m., 3:50 p.m., 5:10 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. Buses to Palenque (2.5+ hours, 86 pesos) leave at: 1:15 a.m., 2:50 a.m., 3:25 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 1:40 p.m., 2:35 p.m., 4:50 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:25 p.m. and 8:40 p.m. Buses also go to farther destinations such as Mérida (462 pesos).

AEXA buses are cheaper. The AEXA bus stop is at the Restaurante "Ave Fenix" café-shop-restaurant across Highway 199 from the OCC terminal. Buses to San Cristóbal (35 pesos) leave at: 10:30 a.m., noon, 4 p.m., 7 p.m. Buses to Palenque (35 pesos) leave at 9 a.m., 2:15 p.m. and 6 p.m. Buy your ticket from the driver.

Other bus services on Highway 199, such as Transportes Lacandonia, offer service to Playa del Carmen, Cancún and other destinations.

In the same area, several minibuses and shared ride "colectivo" taxis scrounge up passengers to San Cristóbal and Palenque. These cost 45 - 50 pesos. Note: If the minibus gets full, your luggage will probably end up tied to the roof rack.


Other places nearby Ocosingo: Teotitlan Del Valle, Tehuantepec, Mitla, Palenque, Comitan De Dominguez, Chiapa De Corzo, Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, Taxco, Acapulco and Santa Catarina Minas.

22 Apr 2010

Top Places in Ocosingo

Toniná (ruins)

138878Far out in the lush green countryside of southern Mexico, surrounded by trees, fields, cows and chickens, the Mayan ruins of Toniná are tiny compared with the sprawling complexes of Palenque and ...
Toniná (ruins), Ocosingo, Mexico
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