All on board El Chepe
Stuck in our brains there’s a word that conceptualizes the Chihuahua state: imponent.
Through it’s population, its cascades and its landscapes, this land exudes respect and a sensation that leaves us wondering if it’s mountains might have been created by giant creatures. The Barrancas del Cobre are 4 times bigger than the ones in Colorado (USA) and the train that goes through the mountains – the Chepe – travels 653 kilómeters (405.7 miles) covered also with caves that are the refugee of a mexican community called the raramuri’s (the people of light feet).
We decided to start in Chihuahua to do our Mexican tour. We went through the Tarahumara mountain range in the Chepe train and then we took a night ferry to Baja California Sur (you can do the tour the other way around as well).
We did the tour both by bus and by train. We went onboard the Chepe where the best views of the mountain range begin: the Divisadero station.
We started on the Cuauhtémoc station, since we were interested in visiting the mennonite community that lives here. We wanted to visit their houses and schools, eat in one of their famous pizza places, try out their cheeses and go to their museum. However, we ended up arriving on a Sunday, and we were only able to visit the Mennonite museum (entrance fee: $30 mxp), which shows some replicas of their housing. We actually were lucky enough to find it open due to the fact that the región is celebrating their 95th anniversary in Chihuahua. So, if you are truly interested in getting to know this place, take into consideration to NOT get there in Sunday.
*Taxi fare from the station was $125 mxp one way
We got to Creel at 6 pm. Creel is considered the entrance point for the tours on Barrancas del Cobre and Sierra Tarahumara, and where the world’s largest concentration of rarámuris can be found. This tribe can be distinguished both for living as nomads all throughout the mountain range but also for their colored outfits.
From here you can already see the train rails, feel the sun on your skin and smell the soil as you are tasting the sotol. Be aware, that if you plan on doing this tour, you have to know that the cold weather must be taken really seriously. Even though on the daylight, the weather is mild, by night it really drops down so be prepared: some gloves, a hat will do the trick. As for clothing, layer up!
San Ignacio Arareko
Near Creel you can find San Ignacio Arareko, a tarahumara community where you can practice adventure activities, such as kayak or fishing. You can also get to the Cascada de Cusárare, as well as some jesuit churches and the Los Monjes and Hongos valleys, named as such for the organization of the rocky monticules.
If you go back to the Creel route, you will find the highest cascade in Mexico: Basaseachi. Take into consideration that the best time to go to see the cascade is between the months of July and September.
Also, south of Creel you will encounter the thermal springs known as Rekowata. Should you seek adventure and have some spare time, bring along your tents.
Housing in Creel
As always, it depends on your Budget and your taste. You can find very accesible options starting on $350.000 mxp (cottages) up to $1,300.000 mxp (villas).
Barrancas del Cobre
We arrived by bus to the Divisadero train station. We made an effort to get in cash the exact amount top at the fee for the train + Barrancas del cobre sightseeing park + a couple of beers ☺
Keep in mind that in Divisadero there are no ATM’s, however, most of the housing options accept credit cards. Take your precautions as to not have any problems when you arrive.
On Divisadero, besides a spectacular view of the mountains, a food market and a hanging bridge, you’ll find the Piedra Bolada sightseeing peek, one of the most important tones in Barrancas del Cobre. The name comes from the fact that this sightseeing peek is balanced and there’s nothing downwards, just space for a free fall.
Should you stay here, hotels co from $600 to $3500 mxp/night, depending as always on the location of the place. The next day, you can visit the Barrancas del Cobre scenic park and take the air sightseeing tour. Fort he adventurous ones, you can also try the world’s largest zipline.
Barrancas del Cobre owes it’s name to a famous mountain range that spreads along 600 kilometers and is full with copper mine excavations. Amongst the most important ones, there’s Urique, Mexico’s deeper mine; La Sinforosa; Batopilas, where you can find the most traditional tarahumara communities: Candameña, (Piedra Bolada y Baseaseachi territory) and El Gigante, Huapoca y Chínipas, one of the less known ones, where you can find the oldest mission of the Sierra Tarahumara.
We did not do a reservation to the Chepe, since we had not set un a very strict Schedule. However, it is wise to make a call or a reservation, specially in high season, before you arrive to avoid trouble You can NOT buy tickets online just yet, so, you have to go basic on this:
Information and reservations:
You can also (as we did), do some research as to how the schedules are set and be on the train station early (30 minutes should be enough) to catch a seat and buy your ticket directly at the wagon. You can go into the train on any station you want, but we strongly advice to start at Divisadero and through Los Mochis.
*El Chepe has a first class train ($1346 mxp) and the basic one (much cheaper, $850 mxp); however, the departure dates vary. You can get precise information as to which train is departing when in their web page.
*The greatest views of the train are in the left side of the train. Keep that into consideration when you make your reservation.
The train route Chihuahua-Pacífico has been considered as one of the most important engineering displays worldwide: Chepe goes through 653 kilómeters, 86 tunnels, 37 bridges, and you will have a great view for hours to come. From Divisadero to Mochis the travel time is around 6 hours and if you decide to go all the way to Baja California Sur (as did we), you’ll have to take a cab to the ferry station and be prepared to depart ad midnight. You’ll go through the Golfo de California.
THINGS WE DID AND WE LOVED
- We visited the Cusárare cascade, near Creel, and went down the mountain to observe the waterfall from the end.
- Near Divisadero, we woke up really early and did some hiking. We catched the sunrise from the top of the mountain. There’s an impressive view when the sun is coming up not far away from a hotel that’s called El Mirador.
- Food: Please taste some flour based gorditas with y chile colorado on the Divisadero station.
- We set a woodfire first thing in the morning and by night. We also scored some 100% pure mezcal, made with wild agave.
- Man Up! We threw ourselves by the zipline. If you are carrying a camera, this is the perfect place to catch the best images in the mountain range.
See Los Cabos tour