Exploring Tapachula by Land: Ruins, Cocoa, and Coffee
After arriving to Chiapas and enjoying the marina for a few days, we decided to join some friends on a land based tour which included: Mayan ruins, a chocolate tour at Chocolatería LaParra, a visit to an old coffee plantation, and we finished up the day in a small mountain town named Union Juarez.
The tour picked us up right from the marina and after filling up on gas, we headed out on a day full of exploring. Our first stop was to the Mayan Ruins of Izapa. This ancient city was inhabited between 1250BC and 1200 AD. We learned about the different sacred traditions, legends, and sacrifices that took place at that location, which has perfect views of Volcán Tacaná (4,093m; 13,425 ft) and Volcán Tajumulco (4,220 m; 13,845 ft). The archaeological area of Izapa is surrounded by cocoa trees and has historical evidence that the Izapeos were the first consumers and traders of cocoa.
Speaking of cocoa, next up we headed to my favorite part of the day: the Chocolatería LaParra. Here we learned about the entire chocolate making process, and we aren't talking about Hershey or Ghirardelli. This was organic, fresh off the tree. We learned how to pick a ripe cocoa pod and we were able to try it in its rawest form. We then roasted the beans, peeled them, and then the beans were ready to be ground into a fine powder. Although it's a fine powder there is enough oil to press the cocoa into bricks of chocolate. We were able to taste the cocoa at each step along the process. The cocoa tasting was followed by a delicious meal of the region, which was accompanied by a rich and flavorful hot chocolate.
With our tummies full, we loaded up and headed into the mountains to the Bruan House which is a wonderfully restored, three-storey coffee plantation house from the 1920s. Although it is no longer producing coffee, the stop provided us with beautiful views and a small museum with some history on the property and the plantation process.
Our last stop on the tour was to Union Juarez. The town is nestled into the mountain side of the Tacana Volcano, bordering Guatemala. There is an elementary school in town, but those who would like to further their education must travel daily down the mountain to Tapachula for their education, which unfortunately is not feasible for many. Due to the geography of Unión Juárez, it is a coffee-producing community and it is indeed, a quaint town in the clouds.
Next up, we find an Airbnb with our friends on SV Animal Cracker, so we have a place to stay while we haul out our boats for some routine maintenance.