When thinking about canyons, if the first thing that comes to mind is the Grand Canyon in the Arizona desert, you’ll be surprised by the Sumidero Canyon, particularly because its surroundings are quite the opposite to a desert.

This Canyon in the State of Chiapas, Southeast Mexico, is an explosion of greenery, water and wildlife. It begins near the city of Chiapa de Corzo, stretches for about 35km, crossing a number of impressive cliffs, finally ending at the reservoir of the hydroelectric dam Chicoasen.

The Canyon del Sumidero can be visited by boat or driving along the miradores (viewing points) at the top of the cliffs that surround it. We opted for the aquatic option and joined a boat trip at the Cahuare embarcadero. Prior to departure, there is ordinarily a long wait required until enough people arrive to fill the boat. We were quite fortunate, however, in that a number of people turned up shortly after us, so we didn’t need to wait for long. After putting on our life vests we were ready to go!


The boatman took us to some of the interesting spots along the Canyon. The first one was the Cueva de Colores (Colours Cave), a small cave which has some interesting pinkish colours on the ceiling and a small statue of Virgin of Guadalupe. This was just a hint of how religion and symbols have a central presence everywhere in Chiapas. Later, toward the middle of the boat trip, we arrived at the highest point of the Canyon, a cliff that reaches nearly 1000m, where the mountains from both sides of the river create an impressive gate full of life surrounded by nature.

My favourite spot was a curious formation called the Christmas Tree. During the rainy season it becomes a waterfall, but during the winter, when the rain is not so abundant, instead of the waterfall an interesting formation is created covered with moss that resembles a Christmas Tree. It was quite a coincidence to be there in Christmas season to contemplate this interesting sight.

After an hour on the boat trip, we arrived at the end of the Sumidero Canyon, where the river meets the Chicoasen dam, a massive generator of electricity for Mexico. On the way back to the embarcadero we spent some time trying to spot spider monkeys, birds and crocodiles. We were fortunate to see all of them. Luckily the crocodile that we saw was just a small one. Although it’s quite tempting to sink your hands into the warm water (which I did), it’s probably not the wisest thing to do just in case there are some bigger crocs around!

I would like to thank Hotel Los Angeles for supporting this article by kindly offering a discount on their rates during my stay in Chiapa de Corzo.

Your thoughts on "Sumidero Canyon: looking for crocodiles under a Christmas tree"

  • Great post, Paola, under a great title - that's what drew me in. The post also makes me wonder, what's the difference between a gorge, a canyon, a fjord, and a sound etc? Anyone?

    on February 9, 2010 at 5:37 pm Reply
  • Canyon and gorge are interchangeable, with "canyon" typically being used in the Americans and "gorge" in Europe. A fjord is a type of sound. A sound is defined as wider than a fjord and is narrower than a bay. Steep, near vertical, sides are typical of a fjord. Doubtful Sound in New Zealand, although a sound, is more precisely defined as a fjord, if you'd like an example.

    on February 10, 2010 at 5:55 pm Reply
  • Thanks for the comments and questions! Glad you enjoyed the post. Some more interesting facts...Most canyons are formed by long-time erosion and are more common in arid areas than in wetter areas because weathering has a greater effect in arid zones. Which is interesting because the Sumidero Canyon area is far from being an arid zone! It seems that the reason is that this Canyon is actually a result of a geological fault during the Pleistocene.

    on February 10, 2010 at 10:07 pm Reply
  • Paola, welcome! Ant, great question. Any travelling geographers out there?

    on February 10, 2010 at 9:31 am Reply
  • Canyons world over are just a delight. I was fortunate as an UK resident to visit Melbourne Australia and more fortunate to have visited the central Victorian region of Australia. There in the middle of Australian bush is a magnificent canyon and it too has a waterfall that in winter becomes mossy and stained. It is called The Cascades. The Cascades is also a favorite swimming spot (although always cold as the water is so deep). There have been many artist interpret this absolutely hauntingly beautiful area of Castlemaine. It is steep in Indigenous history and you can almost feel the ghost of the aboriginal surrounding you. The cliff fronts have markings associated with aboriginal dream time. Truly magnificent.

    on June 10, 2010 at 4:36 am Reply

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