Tapachula could be just another border town (when your Wiki page starts with “Tapachula is a hot, humid town…” it ain’t good), however, there are two standout reasons to stop.

One of the rooms at Casa Mexicana in Tapachula, Mexico.

The mujeres of Tapachula

The first is Casona Maya Mexicana, a boutique hotel with just 10 rooms each named for an iconic Mexican mujeres (women). Yes, Frida gets a room. But the hotel also pays homage to Doña Josepha Ortiz de Dominguez, known as La Corregidora, a privileged woman who lived in Querétaro and was one of the earliest agitators for Mexican independence. Then there’s  Ofelia Medina, a seminal Mexican actress and singer who’s still alive today. And Maria Bonita, a famous beauty who had an infamous affair with a singer who gave her her name. Short bios of each woman are part of the eclectic and colorful in-room decor.

In fact, the whole place is fun to look at too–chock full of art and kitch collected by the peripatetic owners, including an impressive mask collection, some fascinating religious art and a massive two-part painting of women’s legs in fishnets that was rescued from a burlesque hall in Mexico City.

This pair of paintings at Casona Maya Mexicana was salvaged from a burlesque hall in Mexico City.

There’s also a swimming pool, an inviting open air bar, a great restaurant. and charming co-owner Manuel. With doubles from around US$80 it’s a great value.

The swimming pool at Casa Mexicana in Tapachula, Mexico.

The Mayans of Tapachula

The second reason to do more than just pass through Tapachula is the Mayan ruins at the Izapa archaeological site. Some experts believe that this collection of three little-visited sites which may have played an important role in Mayan astrology and calendar making. Yes, that same calendar that “ended” in 2012 which sparked theories ranging from “it’s the end of the world” to “it’s a chance for humanity to reboot” to “they must have run out of stone.”

A plaza at one of the areas that makes up the Izapa archaeological site which some experts believe is connected to the Mayan calendar which mysteriously ends in 2012.

A rana (frog) altar at the Izapa archaeological site.

All three of the pre-Hispanic sites lie a few miles outside of Tapachula on the way to the Guatemala border. They’re small, free, and overseen by a caretaker family. You will likely be the only visitor there. All day. There are not a lot of structures to see in the Izapa group, but there are carved rocks galore, including what some believe to be the origins of the calendar which mysteriously comes to an end in 2012.

Protected small stele at the Izapa archaeological site.

An unusual fertility sculpture at the Izapa archaeological site.

Need another reason to put Tapachula on the itinerary? It’s also the jumping off point to the coffee fincas of the Ruta del Cafe.

Here’s more about travel in Mexico