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Santo Domingo, Unión Juárez & Volcán Tacaná/Mexico

Introducing Santo Domingo, Unión Juárez & Volcán Tacaná

Volcán Tacaná’s dormant cone towers over the countryside north of Tapachula. Even if you’re not interested in climbing to its summit, two villages on its gorgeously verdant lower slopes make an attractive day trip, their cooler climate offering welcome relief from the Tapachula steam bath. The scenic road up is winding but well paved.

Santo Domingo lies 34km northeast of Tapachula, amid coffee plantations. The village’s gorgeous three-story wooden 1920s casa grande has been restored. It belonged to the German immigrants who formerly owned the coffee plantation here, but it’s now the Centro Ecoturístico Santo Domingo and has a restaurant (mains M$35 to M$80), a small creaky-floored coffee museum (M$5) and a well-tended tropical garden and pool (M$10; free with a meal).

About 9km beyond Santo Domingo, Unión Juárez (population 2600, elevation 1300m) is the starting point for ascents of Tacaná and other, less demanding walks. Tapachula folk like to come up here on weekends and holidays to cool off and feast on parrillada, a cholesterol-challenging plate of grilled meat and a few vegetables.

Another local place to head for is Pico del Loro, a parrot-beak-shaped overhanging rock that offers fine panoramas. The rock is 5km up a drivable track that leaves the Santo Domingo–Unión Juárez road about halfway between the two villages. Ask directions to some of the various lookouts over the valley of the Río Suchiate (the international border), or to the Cascadas Muxbal, a natural toboggan slope, about one hour’s walk from Unión Juárez.