The Lagunas de Montebello National Park and Biosphere Reserve is located in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas physiographic province, near the border with Guatemala. Comprising 59 multi-colored lakes in a pine forest along with two Maya ruins, it was the first national park in Chiapas when created in 1959.
The Lagunas de Montebello National Park and Biosphere Reserve is located in the southeast region of Chiapas State, in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas physiographic province, near the border with Guatemala. Comprising 59 multi-colored lakes in a pine forest along with two Maya ruins, it was the first national park in Chiapas when created in 1959, and in 2009 the park was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Lagunas de Montebello covers an area of 6,411 ha (15,840 acres), of which 3,412 ha (8,430 acres) are considered the "core area". It is located on the high plains of Chiapas, with an altitude between 1,500 and 1,800 m (4,900 and 5,900 ft) above sea level.
The main attractions of the national park are its 59 lakes, collectively called the Montebello Lakes. The lakes are famous for their striking colors, which vary due to their different mineral contents, ranging from emerald and turquoise to dark green, and even purple and reddish black. About 15 of the lakes are easily accessible by car or foot. There are also cenotes and a group of limestone caves called Grutas San Rafael del Arco in the park that can be visited on foot or horseback.
Lagunas de Montebello is located between the physiographic region of the High Plain of Chiapas and the Gulf Coastal Plain, which is part of the physiographic province of Sierras de Chiapas and Guatemala. This region corresponds to the floristic regions of Miranda, called central massif and plains and slopes of the north of the central massif. Its physiography includes from small drains to great trenches. There are also big caves and cavities of varied shapes and dimensions.
The summers are very rainy. The average annual precipitation is 1,862 mm (73 ;in) per year. The principal ecosystems represented in the park are coniferous forest, cloud forest, aquatic and sub aquatic vegetation. Montebello forms part of a high-priority conservation and hydrological basin.
As an important terrestrial priority region, the reserve represents an important biological mesoamerican corridor and habitat to several migratory and resident species that include at least 277 species of birds, 65 species of mammals, and 35 species of reptiles. Vegetation is represented mainly by 208 species of trees, 50 species of orchids and an important number of epiphytic and ferns. 106 species are recognized as endangered and 27 as endemic.
Main directions in conservation activities in the National Park:
- Protection of the terrestrial and wetland ecosystem diversity and restoration of disturbed zones
- Protection and recovery of vulnerable, endangered or at-risk flora or fauna species
- Drive strategies of sustainable management and viable handling of the ecosystems
- Promotion of scientific research and the generation of new biological and ecological knowledge
- Promotion of a culture for conservation by means of ecological education and information on the base of ecological paths - develop sustainable tourism as an opportunity to proportionate ecological education.
Surrounding the park, there are numerous communities that maintain some ancestral traditions that make an interesting cultural region. Chujs is the principal ethnic group in the region.