This post is choc-a-block full of pictures to help you plan a tour around the Copper Canyon in Mexico. Known as the Barrancas del Cobre in Spanish, you might also hear it referred to as “Mexico’s Grand Canyon”. Except it’s bigger than the Grand Canyon. Yup, bigger. As well as spending a day on the legendary Copper Canyon train, you can stop off for a few nights to explore.
All the Copper Canyon sites here can be seen on a DIY tour travelling independently. You can also use them as inspiration for an organised tour too! Our journey starts in El Fuerte, takes the train up to Divisadero and Creel, and ends in Chihuahua.
El Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico
El Fuerte is a pretty little place, a couple of hours inland from Los Mochis. The land between Los Mochis and El Fuerte is flat, meaning many folks make the journey between the two by road, then spend the night in El Fuerte before catching the morning Copper Canyon train into the mountains. Cheap local buses regularly run between Los Mochis and El Fuerte and take about 2 hours. You could also take a taxi.
We stayed at the Hotel La Choza in El Fuerte, which we highly recommend.
2. On board the Copper Canyon train
You wouldn’t come all this way without experiencing the Copper Canyon railway. There are some stupendous landscapes to be seen en-route and the blending colours of water, mountains and sky make for some dreamy photos. The only challenge is making sure all your pictures don’t come out blurry! This snapshot was taken where the train crosses over the Mexican state border from Sinaloa into Chihuahua.
Here’s how to buy Copper Canyon train tickets.
3. Winding mountain scenery from “El Chepe”
There are three classes of seat on the Copper Canyon train, which is also known as El Chepe. They are Economico, Business and First. We did the journey in Business (then known as First/Primera) before the new First Class carriages were launched. We’re just going to have to go back and do it again! No matter which class of carriage you’re in, the views are still spectacular.
4. Divisadero views
El Chepe doesn’t stop for long in Divisadero – around 15 minutes or so. Just enough time to grab some yummy gorditas from the train station platform (if you’ve skipped the on-board restaurant) and snap some pictures of the incredible views straight out over the Copper Canyon.
5. Stay in Divisadero for a night
There’s no village in Divisadero, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a longer stop than the train would allow. Walking a mile or so from the station you reach viewpoints like this one.
We stayed at the Hotel Divisadero Barrancas. Our balcony had a stunning canyon view, which was perfect for slowly watching the sun set and rise over the canyon! The hotel restaurant offers set meals, so best let them know in advance if you have any special dietary needs.
6. Divisadero attractions
Divisadero also has a few other attractions – cable car, zip wire (both sadly closed when we were there) and this rope bridge. Again they’re only a mile or two from the station and the Hotel Divisadero Barrancas, so easily enjoyed without needing your own transport.
7. Canyons around Creel
The Copper Canyon is a bunch of canyons having a get-together, rather than just being one canyon. About an hour from Divisadero, by either train or bus, you reach the logging town of Creel. Creel itself isn’t wildly exciting, but it’s a great place to stop for a couple of nights and take in the plethora of attractions around. The helpful crew at 3 Amigos can make recommendations and sort you out with a map. They also organise tours to many of the sites around Creel if that’s more your thing.
We explored independently and walked to the Tararecua canyon. It’s about 7 miles from Creel, so after 14 miles there and back we were ready for a rest and a yummy El Norteño dinner at Restaurant Verónica.
Accommodation in Creel seemed like a bit of a mixed bag. We didn’t rate Hotel Plaza Mexicana. The Hotel Cascada Inn was a better bet with far more friendly service for the same money. We also had a drink in the Best Western Lodge bar – apparently the rooms there were nice if you wanted to splash a bit more cash.
8. Valley of the Monks, near Creel
You can hire mountain bikes from 3 Amigos in Creel and head out for the day to visit these cool rock formations. The Copper Canyon area is home to the Rarámuri (aka Tarahumara), an indigenous people famed for their long-distance running skills. The Rarámuri are guardians of the Valley of the Monks and you’ll pay a small entrance fee to enter the area.
9. Lake Arareko near Creel
Or hire a rowing boat on Lake Arareko. You can do combine this with the Valley of the Monks.
10. End your tour in Chihuahua
From Creel, you can either continue on El Chepe to Chihuahua or take the bus. The best of the scenery is behind you, so we opted for the faster and cheaper bus.
Chihuahua surprised us in a good way! There’s enough to do to stay the night, with cool museums like Pancho Villa’s former mansion and a bright and clean city centre with high quality street art like this little fella, a chihuahua! Tourists are few and far between.
Summary – a tour of Mexico’s Copper Canyon in pictures
You can trundle on through the Copper Canyon by train in a day. Or, you can take your time, linger a little longer, and get under the skin of the scenery. The canyon is a long way from anywhere, so grab a Tecate and enjoy the journey!
Have you been to the Copper Canyon? Share your experiences below.