Considered one of Mexico’s most hidden and beautiful places, the Lagoons of Montebello are located just right off the Guatemalan border in the state of Chiapas. The park is composed of 59 lakes all scattered around a large pine forest covering 6,410 hectares. There are two different roads that will take you to different lagoons. The first road will lead you to Esmeralda Lake, La Encantada, Bosque Azul, Ensueño and Agua Tinta and the second one to Cañana, Pojoj, Tzicao, Dos Lagunas and some other smaller lagoons. Aside from the lagoons, there are two cenotes as well as a group of caves made out of limestone known as Grutas San Rafael del Arco. The lagoons of Montebello became Chiapa’s first natural park back in 1959 and in 2009, it became an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The park is mostly famous for the lagoon’s lush colors ranging from green to turquoise blue and even purple and black. The color of the lakes vary due to many facts such as the weather, the minerals in them, their depth, the reflection of light, and even the ecosystems living within its waters. Inside the park, 256 species of flora and over a hundred different species of fauna have been registered, some of which are unique to the south of Chiapas and the north area of Guatemala known as Petén.
The distance between some of the lagoons is quite large so if you’re traveling without a car, be prepared to walk quite a bit unless you’re willing to take local combis (small buses) used mostly by locals. The combis pass quite frequently and stop anywhere – all you have to do is stand on the side of the road and lift your had. Each ride will cost you $15 pesos and make sure to ask if they go to the lagoons, otherwise you might end up in the wrong place as many go to the nearest city known as Comitán.
Some of the activities you can indulge in near some of the lagoons (many of them are closed and visitors are only allowed to watch them mostly due to them being used for human consumption of their waters) are camping, swimming, kayaking, hiking and horseback riding.
Being in the park will make you forget you are even in Mexico due to its Scandinavian or Alaskan looking landscape (and sometimes it can get quite cold as well) and the area is a perfect example of the varied landscapes that Mexico has to offer to its inhabitants and visitors alike.
However, picture-perfect lagoons are not the only thing the park has to offer – close by are located a group of Mayan ruins known as Chinkultic and at the top of the main pyramid, a breath-taking view of many of the park’s lagoons is offered.
The entrance to the park will cost you only $20 pesos including permission to camp overnight. A variety of restaurants offer food local to Mexico as well as coffee around the largest lagoons such as Montebello and Tzicao. Guided tours are offered and will include a visit to many of the lakes to save you the trouble of finding a way to get from lagoon to lagoon for around $350 pesos.
From Comitán, you can take an hour long taxi for around $300 pesos or you can opt for taking a combi that will cost you $45 pesos, but be prepared for an uncomfortable ride as the combis get filled quite quickly and sometimes you'll have to endure the ride standing up.
Combis to the lagoons also leave from Tuxtla Gutiérrez and San Cristobal de las Casas and should cost you approximately $90 pesos.