Less than 20 minutes from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital of Chiapas, is one of Mexico’s most impressive natural attractions: the Sumidero Canyon. The Grijalva River runs through the canyon gorge, where local flora and fauna abound, including crocodiles, ocelots, spider monkeys, white-tailed deer, and a great variety of waterfowls. Here are some photos that will make you want to add the Sumidero Canyon to your bucket list.

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To get to Sumidero, you need to take a boat at the piers in Chiapa de Corzo or at Cahuaré, just next to the canyon. Private boats go for $3,500 pesos (around $180 USD) and can fit up to eight people. Collective boats charge $230 pesos ($12 USD) per person. The whole trip throughout the canyon lasts a couple hours. There, you’re given a bracelet from the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP), which also allows you to check out the lookouts around the canyon on that same day.

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Right after crossing the Belisario Domnínguez bridge, you’ll see the impressive rock walls that extend for more than eight miles. The gorge is pretty wide, but the height of its walls make it feel quite narrow. The canyon is 35 million years old, more or less the same age as the Grand Canyon.

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It won’t be long until you spot your first crocodile sunbathing on the river bank. The Sumidero became a National Park in 1980 and is one of the 142 Ramsar sites - wetlands of international importance for conserving biological diversity - in Mexico.

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If you want to bring back beautiful images of the canyon, I’d recommend starting your visit around 10:30 AM in the morning. At this time, you’ll catch the sun rays as they start entering the gorge. It can get a little hazy down here, but it helps to set the mood. Coming in early will also give you a chance to take photos of the river without too many visitors around.

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At the deepest part of the gorge, the rock walls rise 3,000 feet above the river. It’s difficult to transmit a true sense of the size of such a place in one photograph. To put things into perspective, the “little” boat you can see near the bottom has around 30 people on board.

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We were lucky enough to spot some spider monkeys near the river. Sadly, it was clear that these creatures are getting used to tourists and the food that comes with them. If you’re ever in a protected natural area and find native fauna, don’t feed it. By giving wild animals food, you are habituating them to human contact and putting their health at risk.

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The Cave of Colors is one of the many caverns that can be found along the canyon. Its name is a reference to the pink and yellow tones you can spot on the walls, produced by the filtration of different minerals. Inside the cave, there’s an altar to the Virgin of Guadalupe and a plaque in memory of Miguel Alvarez del Toro, who was in charge of the Natural History and Ecology Institute of Chiapas for more than 50 years, and a major actor in the local conservation efforts throughout his life.

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This quirky rock formation, nicknamed “the Christmas Tree,” has been shaped by one of the many seasonal waterfalls around the canyon. During the rain season, moss takes over the “tree branches” and the water falling around it gives it a unique appearance.

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After the boat ride, head to the lookouts. There are five different ones that grant impressive views of the canyon: La Ceiba, La Coyota, El Roblar, El Tepehuaje, and Los Chiapa. If you want to go through them all, it’s better to plan ahead and save some time, since they’re not close to one another and the round trip from Tuxtla Gutiérrez can take more than two hours.

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