The People's Guide To Mexico

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Mexico's Copper Canyon: Trip Reports

The New Year In The Copper Canyon

by Hilary

Published January 2009

hi carl,

i am writing to thank you for your advice, which helped me plan my trip to the copper canyon over the new year. It was great!

on your suggestion, we did end up buying a ticket from nyc to tucson with a return from el paso in order to cut down on travel time. it worked really well. we took a bus down to alamos overnight from tucson. we took tylenol pm and slept really well- there was so much leg room on the bus!

alamos was beautiful and we stayed there for two nights. it was rather full of expats, and all the restaurants were booked for fancy new years parties so it was hard to find anything to eat at times. luckily there were amazing street vendors selling clean tacos for a dollar. we went to a local dance where there was amazing live music. men shot their guns up in the air all night on new year's eve- that caught us off guard a little! we stayed in the cheapest hotel there, and it was ok- a good bargain.

we decided that we had run out of time for el fuerte, since we wanted to get on the train quickly after spending so long in alamos and we discovered that the road from alamos to el fuerte is too bad for buses to run on. we took a bus to los mochis and started there instead, which was a little disappointing. i thought los mochis was kind of neat though- urban. it reminded me a lot of queens, so i felt comfortable there ha ha. in the morning we took the chepe from los mochis to posada barranca, sticking our heads out the whole way.

in posada barranca we stayed at cabanas diaz, a cute little family run place in a tiny rural village. our room had a fireplace, and we ate our meals in the diaz kitchen where the food was amazing, and inexplicably different than other mexican food i have tried. there were many friendly dogs running free, all named "pinto". we took a long time planning our itinerary, and by the time we had decided what expedition we wanted the diaz family to arrange for us, all of the guides and horses were out with other hotel guests. we ended up taking a 2 hour hike around the canyon rim with a seven year old boy! i think we were his first tour ever,and he seemed proud to be leading us around his village where everyone was teasing him and giving him "thumbs up" signs. obviously, the views were amazing. posada barranca is a great litte stop, and a good place to sleep if you can't afford to stay in divisadero.

we left posada barranca late, in order to make the most of our time there. the diaz family drove us to divisadero (10 minutes), and we hung out there for 45 minutes or so- long enough to see the view, eat a quesadilla, and look at all the raramuri crafts. then we got a bus to creel. i sort of regret not taking the train for that leg of the journey, because we missed a part of the railroad that sunded cool- i forget what it's called, but it looks like a very tight, steep loop on the map. in creel we checked into the posada de creel and then went to veronica's for excellent, cheap dinner by a cozy fireplace.

posada de creel was our favorite hotel of the whole trip. enrique and molly were very friendly, and always around to help us with travel tips and practicalities. in the morning we joined an expedition to all of the various rock formations, lake arareko, and a raramuri cave dwelling. we saw a lot on that one trip, and it was a very good price. hanging out in creel was so fun. there are so many expeditions you can take from there, but the town itself is great too. lots of good food, local stores to visit, the friendliest people we met in mexico, and a laid-back vibe while still feeling energetic.

we did make it down to batopilas on the bus from creel (kind of scary, but an amazing drive!). the atm in creel had run out of cash, so we had only 200 pesos going into the town. kind of crazy. maybe this made us paranoid, i'm not sure, but for some reason we thought batopilas was a little creepy! we were two of maybe 6 tourists total in the town, and the streets in general were very quiet. then one of the first things we saw was a very strategically half-skinned goat's head on the sidewalk ledge out front of the church! luckily it was three king's day, because for that occasion there was a huge party in the square for all of the children in the village (orphans?) so there was much songand dance and pinata-ing, making it much less of a creepy atmosphere. we didn't eat anywhere because we didn't have enough money after paying for our cheap room at hotel batopilas (not bad). so we ate cold refried beans out of a can with tortillas and went to bed.

the next day we got a bus for chihuahua because it is quicker than the train and everyne told us that the scenery was pretty much the same for that leg of the trip. we had one night in chihuahua at a place called jardin (very nice and economical) and drank palomas (amazing) at milagros restaurant (underwhelming). we walked around looking at cowboy boots and a crazy kitschy marketplace that sold all kinds of weird mexico souvenirs, and we went to a great museum called quinta de gameros which is an art nouveau house built by a wealthy miner before the revolution for his wife, and is full of beautiful antiques and also the university's art collection (hit or miss). we also visited the pancho villa museum where we saw his famous bullet-riddled model t in which he was assasinated.

early in the morning we took a bus to juarez and then crossed the border which took 2 hours- which was 2 hours longer than we had expected. we missed our flight, and then there were complications with snow (UGH!) back in new york, but we did make it back that same day, luckily. we had been planning on pitching our tent in the airport, and then realized that we had been lugging it around for no reason for the whole duration of the trip. we had expected to do a lot of camping in low elevations, but it didn't work out that way. hiking, camping, and all of those outdoor activities are more difficult in mexico than we had anticipated, because you really need a guide to go with you. i wish that we had been able to do more of that, but i think we got to visit more places and spend more time exploring towns on our own this way. the rugged outdoor trekking will have to wait for next time, i think. all told, we had an amazing trip through a variety of natural lanscapes and encountered several different mexicos throughout the various cultural climates we traveled. took hundreds of photos, made some new friends, learned some spanish, roughed it, splurged, brought back some artifacts. the plane tickets were 400 each, and we spent maybe 400 more each (or maybe even less!) while we were there. incredible. oh, and the weather was great in it's diversity too: it ranged from 85 to maybe 25 in creel, complete with hail!

thank you so much again for your help in discovering this beautiful part of mexico!

cheers, hilary

Hello Hilary,

Your overall plan sounds good but it would have helped me a bit to know where you're flying to Tucson from. Nonetheless, I'll suggest that you Google around and find out just what the rental car will cost -- I don't try to keep up with stuff like that but my guess is that it will be much more expensive than a bus. Mexican buses are generally "five stars" in terms of cost and convenience (if you haven't yet done it, read a lot more about bus travel in our book, The People's Guide To Mexico).

Also, you don't have a lot of time for the trip you've planned and I assume you'd rather spend most of it hiking rather than travelling, right?

If so, it would be cheaper and more efficient to bus from Tucson to El Fuerte, stopping along the way at Alamos... I'd skip Kino as you don't have much time and during the Xmas season the beaches are very busy.

If you're serious about going to Batopilas you'll need to get to Creel very quickly. Then, continue by bus from Creel back to Tucson, or if you can do it, buy an "open jaws" ticket (Tucson/El Paso) and return home via El Paso to reduce overland travel. A bus from Chihuahua City to Ciudad Juarez/El Paso takes only about 4 hours.

Reservations always sound like a good idea but actually making them on an itinerary like this really isn't practical, especially if you want to remain flexible. My guess is that you'll always find a place to stay, though keep in mind that Xmas is a major Mexican travel holiday. I really doubt, however, that you'll find yourself homeless -- but do carry a warm sleeping bag as the Sierra highlands can be quite chilly in winter.

I'd appreciate hearing how the trip goes -- I think you'll love it.



My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Copper Canyon on December 30-Jan 8thish. i was hoping i might run some ideas by you, and if you're around and not too busy, that you might be able to tell me whether our plans sound good and/or offer suggestions. but i know you're busy, so no pressure. i have gleaned a lot of information from your site already...

We were thinking of starting off at El Fuerte, so we thought we would fly into Tucson, rent a car, and drive down the Sonora coast and tool around for a couple of days at the beach/fishing villages, Bahia de Kino, Alamos... then get we'll on the economy train at El Fuerte. we want to make stops along the way and go down into Batopilas for sure. we are on a tight budget, and are outdoorsy types looking for some good hiking and camping, but also we would like to have a relaxing time.

I have read about some good looking places to eat, stay, camp, and my questions are mostly about the itinerary. With our timeframe and interests, what should our top priorities be? Also, will it be hard/expensive renting a car in Tucson to drive across the border, or would it be better to take buses everywhere? Do we need to make reservtions for accomodations in advance during this season? We are mostly interested in the backpacker's places, like the Margaritas Hostel.

Thanks! I will definitely keep you posted and let you know about my experiences down there when we get back. Your website is a great resource!

Hilary Baldwin

he People's Guide to Mexico
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