It’s been a while since I’ve talked about excursions so I thought I’d put a few out there for people to consider. Now that it’s a tad hot and humid, a little get-away someplace else might be to your liking.
Las Barrancas del Cobre / Copper Canyon
Copper Canyon is accessed in one of three ways. You can get there by car. You can get there by bus. Or, you can get there by riding the extremely fun El Chepe train. Four times bigger than the Grand Canyon in the USA, Las Barrancas del Cobre is a stunning visual treat.
If your español isn’t too good then I suggest you search the internet for a tour; otherwise you can use their website and email to book tickets on El Chepe. There are three classes of travel, first class, executive class, and passenger class. Prices vary by class as do access to amenities. El Chepe has a website here: https://chepe.mx/en/
Stops you may be interested in are: Los Mochis, El Fuerte, Bahuichivo, Divisadero, and Creel. When you book your ticket, you can do it in multiple segments so you can experience these stops for more than a few minutes.
Divisadero is the main area for viewing Copper Canyon, and access to the adventure park is also at this stop. If you only stop one place, this should be it – and stay for multiple days so you can experience the area fully.
Creel also has a lot to offer … there are stone formations (my favorite is the valley of the monks – google it!), a popular local lake, and two waterfalls. In the winter you will likely encounter snow, so bundle up!
El Fuerte has it’s namesake fort which is now a tourist site – and interesting if you like Méxican history. They also have some darned good food, and if you’re lucky – and staying at the Hotel Posada del Hidalgo – you might even get to see a show by Zorro!
Sadly when I did the trip I didn’t stop in Bahuichivo, and only did an overnight in Los Mochis where I caught the bus to Mazatlán early in the morning. I plan on correcting my haste on the next trip! When I rode El Chepe it also went from Creel to Chihuahua; it’s a shame they’ve dropped that stop as Chihuahua is very nice and I enjoyed my time there.
Since I took the bus back to Mazatlán from Los Mochis I wasn’t able to stop in Culiacán. I definitely would want to stop in Culiacán if I were taking a tour. Heck, if I did the trip again, I’d bus to Culiacán for a couple of days, then bus from there to Los Mochis. Culiacán has a fantastic Botanical Garden, and I’d just like to check out the capital of the state I live in!
Here’s a video about the adventure park in Copper Canyon to get you motivated! Youtube has some pretty good videos about El Chepe as well – if this interests you then by all means do a search!
Edit: A little update to my last post … El Chepe apparently still does go to Chihuahua! Evidently there are still two different trains. I had been told that the Chihuahua stop had been eliminated and that everything was consolidated into three classes of fares between Creel and Los Mochis. And that’s what the El Chepe website (https://chepe.mx/) says. Until you enter the ultra secret url: https://chepe.mx/chepe-regional/. El Chepe Regional and El Chepe Express. Two different trains with different sets of stops.
The caveat is that you cannot book tickets on El Chepe Regional online. You either have to visit one of the ticket counters (Los Mochis and Chihuahua both have them – not sure about the other stops) or call to get tickets. If you want to use both trains on one trip, you also have to ride further on El Chepe Express.
So there you have it – you can ride El Chepe from Los Mochis to Chihuahua city!!! Woo! Creel is definitely a stop you should spend a couple of days in, but going one step further to Chihuahua is even better!
My second selection is Las Labradas. This is just a little North of Mazatlán and offers petroglyphs on the beach. It’s a very interesting day trip that you can supposedly arrange with several of the tour operators. When I went, only Onca Explorations (https://www.facebook.com/oncaexplorations/) would take me. The other tour operators either didn’t respond to my requests, or said no. Onca Explorations did have a 4 person minimum, so get some friends to go with you!
Here’s a short video about Las Labradas to give you an idea of what to expect:
Durango City, Durango
My last choice is a trip to Durango. I took the bus, and it was dark out going there so I missed the scenery AND getting to see the Baluarte bridge. The bridge is probably the biggest thing you’ll miss by taking the bus, even if you head out in daylight. Tours usually stop somewhere for a photo op, and the bus definitely does not! I did come home in daylight so I saw parts as we drove around corners and hills! It was something I wish I’d seen more of – but for the price difference between a tour and the bus, I was good!
Things to do in Durango include a trip over the city on their gondola – which allows you a really good view. If you’re into churches there seemed to be one on every other street, enough to keep you happy! Durango has interesting museums, and some really good restaurants too. Another tourist attraction is a wild west town used for movie productions, and also for western re-enactment shows. This is another option where a tour would come in handy – but I would bet you could get local transportation to/from it if you wanted to do it on your own.
Ok! So there you have it. There’s a trip that you can easily spend a week on (El Chepe/Copper Canyon). Another trip that you’d want to spend 3 or 4 days doing (Durango City). And a day trip from Mazatlán (Las Labradas). Only Las Labradas will keep you in the heat, but you’ll be on the beach with a nice breeze!
Both Las Labradas and Durango are easily done by yourself if you have a car. El Chepe/Copper Canyon is probably a 5 or 6 on the 1 to 10 difficulty scale to arrange yourself if you don’t speak español. Not super easy, but definitely do-able with the help of google translate.
Previously I would have recommended a particular tour guide – but I had a bad experience with him and will never refer anyone to him again. It’s too bad as when he started he was more interested in showing people México from his viewpoint than he was in doing gringo tours to jewelry shops (fyi – that jewelry is almost always not from México). So now I just suggest you check out the local tour operators and chose the one that fits your budget and timing.