I've been hearing about the Copper Canyon since we've been in Mexico, some 8+ years now. We've had several opportunities to join other friends on their travels but the timing was never right...but this spring the stars aligned and Susy and I started investigating. We thought we'd like to plan our own trip, but once we started we quickly realized there were a lot of moving parts that, if not perfectly synchronized, could end up with us stranded somewhere...it was also during tax season and I was overwhelmed with work and this just put me over the top. So we each started contacting different tour operators to let them help us. We had already done a lot of research and knew that plane travel only went certain directions on certain days and the same with the El Chepe train. We weren't sure how many days we needed at the rim or down in the bottom of the canyon and we also didn't know if we should take the train in both directions. We got a lot of these questions answered and then one of the tour operators told us that they recommend that we make our own hotel, train and plane reservations so it would be easier for us to cancel if we needed to during these covid times; then they would charge us $1800 per couple for tours/etc...not sure what the etc was, but I figured if I had to make all of my own reservations I may as well book the tours too. My friend Lily told me that she simply contacted the hotel and asked for tour information, so that's what we did! We had heard that it was best for us to take the train from El Fuerte at 10am rather than from Los Mochis at 8am (where we fly into) so we called the hotel in El Fuerte and arranged for a transfer directly from the airport to their hotel, and the hotel had a shuttle in the morning to take us to the train station, the hotel at the rim had a shuttle to take us from the train to the hotel, so that part was easy peasy. We had to figure out how to get from our hotel at the rim down to Batopilas, in the bottom of the canyon and transportation up to Creel, back at the rim, and transportation from Creel to Chihuahua where we would fly home from. We followed Lily's lead and contacted the hotel in Batopilas and they gave us 3 names of tour guides and we picked the one that was local and mid-priced, of the three. Susy has had a lot of experience traveling on the mainland and suggested we take the luxury bus from Creel to Chihuahua, which was very reasonable and we'd figure out how to get to the hotel, and the airport the next day.
We booked our flights first, which made us realize we had to stay an extra day to get the flight going home, we did consider taking the train back to Los Mochis from Creel but we'd still have an extra night in a hotel room and our friend, Chris, had told me not to miss Chihuahua, so that decision was made.
After booking our flights we began the very arduous task of making the El Chepe train reservations...wow, I don't think they could have made this any more difficult! Lily had mentioned that it was tough, but I had no idea! The first issue we had was that you cannot make them too far in advance (we had the same issue with Califia Airlines, btw) so once we got the "open window" we booked our travel. Then you have to call them to confirm, then once they send you an email confirmation you have to figure out how to pay for them. Basically you have the choice of going to their bank or trying to figure out how to transfer them the money. Luckily for us, because we were having difficulty figuring out how to pay them, Susy called and found out you can pay over the phone with a credit card! This was after much time was spent being frustrated on the internet, note - just call and make the reservations and pay for them all at once, and keep calling until you get someone who will do it for you!
We decided to make all of our hotel reservations on Booking.com. I usually don't like to use a site like this, because I have been told by hotels here in Mexico that they would prefer you make the reservations directly with them, and they'll happily pass on the discount, but since we had to make 6 hotel reservations this was just easier and then they were all in one place for easy reference.
This was our itinerary:
Wednesday: Drive to La Paz, Hotel Seven Crown Centro Historico, leave the car at La Paz Storage
Thursday: Flight to Los Mochis on Calafia Air, paid transfer to Hotel Posada del Hidalgo
Friday: El Chepe Express, 1st class to Posada Barrancas, shuttle to Hotel Mirador, 2 nights
Saturday: Parque Barrancas, Copper Canyon Adventure Park
Sunday: Guide/Driver Gustavo to Batopilas, pick up lunch and almond milk at Cusarare River Sierra Lodge on the way down to Copper Canyon Riverside Lodge
Monday: Touring with Gustavo with a visit to "The Lost Church" Satevo Church
Tuesday: Morning tour with Gustavo & transfer to Hotel La Estacion in Creel
Wednesday: Bus to Chihuahua Central Hotel Boutique
Thursday: Taxi to Chihuahua airport and home
Ok, so now the deets!
Something I only alluded to above was that 3 of the 4 of us are vegan and I had no idea what we were going to find to eat on this trip! On all of the hotels we booked I wrote in the comment section that we were vegans. The only hotel I contacted was the Riverside Lodge to ask about a meal for our 6 hour trip down to the bottom of the canyon. Sonia, who helped us arrange our fabulous guide, Gustavo, also made sure that, not only did we have a fabulous lunch that lasted for two days, but also arranged for 2 cartons of almond milk to be delivered to the lodge, where we picked up our vegan burritos. We were able to enjoy milk in our coffee and our homemade granola we brought with us for breakfasts for the rest of our trip.
Plane travel these days ain't what it used to be! We had flight time changes in both directions, which wasn't a big deal except that with the extra two hours we now had we really didn't need to spend the night in La Paz before our flight. But we were relaxed and had no time issues, so that was a good thing.
|On our walk from the hotel|
We checked into our hotel, had a beer in the bar and set off to find dinner. Our friend, Cheeks recommended we dine at Hambrusia and it was wonderful!
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel and although we had to drink our coffee black, we were able to order something vegan to eat. Bill and I also had them make us what we thought was an avocado sandwich for the road - with 3 tiny slices of avocado, it was mostly a bread sandwich! We had an easy drive to the storage place to drop off our car with a wonderful young man, Ezekial, whose family was from the Mennonite region in the Copper Canyon. He drove us to the airport and was there to meet our plane when we returned. At $5/day we highly recommend it!
|Right on the Malecon|
Susy sat right up front with our wonderful driver, Rodrigo, and chatted in Spanish and English all the way there. He had been working for the Balderamma Hotel chain his entire life and had some very interesting stories to tell. There were a few others in our shuttle van and he stopped at an Oxxo so we could get drinks and snacks for the 90 minute drive to El Fuerte.
The Posado del Hidalgo was fabulous, but not for the walking impaired. Lots of steps to everywhere, the room, the bar, the restaurant, etc. We had heard it was a "touristy" place but wtf, we were tourists on this trip and I'm glad we stayed there.
|Susy sitting outside our room|
|Super large room!|
We had toast and jam and some beans with black coffee for breakfast and we jumped on the big shuttle bus to El Chepe! When you get to the train station they will tag your bags with your destination, be sure to double check it's the right one, we had a bit of an issue! Just in time, we sorted everything out and got settled for our 6 hour ride through the highlands to the rim.
|Lovely dining room|
|This is actually a photo of the train in Creel|
|In the "bar car," which was next to the last car, which was open air. Our first class tickets allowed us all over the train.|
|These were our "first class" seats which came with lunch in the dining car.|
We splurged on "first class" tickets because one of the tour operators we spoke to said it was much better than the mid-priced "executive class," but really the only difference was the sit down meal in the dining car...you could still get a box lunch. It was a lovely day, but we were soon to realize that this was such a small part of our Copper Canyon experience. Many people just ride the train and back but if you don't get off and do some exploring you're really missing a lot!
You better wear your walking shoes if you stay here! Bill counted 69 stairs to our room, and that did not include the hallways without stairs! We tried to plan for the day so we weren't going back and forth too many times but we definitely got a workout here, plus there was the altitude!
We were very pleasantly surprised to find out that the hotel got my message regarding vegan meals and had planned lovely dinners for us each night! When the head waiter came over to check on us we discovered that he used to work at El Gecko, a restaurant in Los Barriles stumbling distance from our house, and that he was a good friend of Froy, our friend here in LB, that was super fun!
The next day we caught the hotel shuttle to the Adventure Park. I was hoping to do the zipline, there were two options but unfortunately none of my companions wanted to join in and they would have had to wait for me, so we all decided to do the Bosque Aereo. "It is considered a zipline or canopy-type activity, made up of more than 10 suspension bridges between forest trees, all with different levels of difficulty." It was fun, a tiny bit challenging and of course my hubby just had to take home a little memory!
|"Wasabi" took great care of us!|
|All suited up and ready to rock and roll!|
Susy on the mini zip-line
|Bill getting doctored up!|
|From the tram|
We had a lot of time to just hang out in the beautiful Mirador Hotel, they had a lovely deck where we played cards and dice. We enjoyed having an extra day there and not being rushed, but one could have done the adventure park in the morning and then head out. It was a very long drive the next day to Batopilas and we took a lot of detours to see the sites with our amazing guide/driver Gustavo.
|Tram going the opposite direcction|
|Inside a Raramurri cave built on the cliff|
We stopped in Cusarare to pick up our vegan lunch, that Sonia, from the Copper Canyon Riverside Lodge had arranged for us. She also delivered 2 cartons of almond milk for our coffee and cereal from Creel; we were soooo appreciative and the lunch lasted us two days!
|Outside the dwelling|
It was a long day of very difficult driving but we were in a very comfy Surburban with lots of room. Bill had brought his music from the "Class of '72" burn we had earlier in the year and Gustavo was thrilled, super fun drive!
We got to Batopilas around dinner time. The hacienda was AMAZING! " Once the privately owned home of the Bigler family in the 1800's, it was converted to a hotel back in the early 90's and covers an entire block. The Copper Canyon Riverside Lodge boasts private gardens, hand painted murals and is filled with antiques. Each of the 14 guest rooms have antique beds and the inconvenient luxury of claw foot bathtubs." Check out the website; words cannot do this place justice. We had the hacienda to ourselves and Umberto was there to see to our every need. Gustavo went out and made arrangements for us to have a lovely vegan meal each night, and had coffee ready for us early with fruit, and sweetbreads with mango jam made by Martin's mother (the owner). We were happy to be able to eat our homemade granola with the almond milk! We spent two nights here and it was just perfect. We went out touring with Gustavo the next day.
These murals depicting the history of Batopilas were inside a little office building and covered the walls.
Here are some photos of the hacienda
|The patio outside our huge room|
|Pano of our room|
|Desayuno aka breakfast|We met some very interesting people along the way and loved using our espanol!
|The government is helping the community with the communal vegetable garden|Interestingly, the government has been helping the Raramuri tribe with food and staples. Several times we saw very large trucks stopped along the steep, windy road while the tribesmen made their way there to fill their very large bags and then hike home with them on their backs into the hills. I found this article regarding the presence of the cartel in the area and their abuse of the Raramuri.
On our way out of town, headed up to Creel,
Gustavo led us on another expedition to see the old mining buildings.
Some photos of town on our last day in Batopilas...
|That white truck was our vehicle|
Then we were off to Creel,
another long drive with great music and entertainment from Gustavo!
|Lalo snapped this pic from the 3rd row of seats|
I highly recommend you include Batopilas in your itinerary, we learned so much more about the area from our visit.
Creel is another little city on the rim of the canyon, and along the train route. We noticed quite a few of the Raramuri here selling their crafts, usually sending the little girls up to your restaurant table.
|Our hotel, pretty from the outside, super tiny rooms |
and the baño was so small Bill could barely sit on the toilet!
|I loved this museum, really gave us a lot more of the history of the area.|
We spent one night in Creel, for no other reason that to get to Chihuahua the next day on the bus. We had made reservations in advance and thought we made them on the luxury bus, we found out soon enough that we hadn't! But it was fine and we had a scenic route to the big city. Since we had been sitting for so long we decided to walk the 1/2 mile to our hotel, it felt good to stretch our legs although we did get some "looks!"
We were soooo happily surprised when we entered the Central Hotel Boutique, especially compared with the night before, this was definitely on the other end of the spectrum! Supreme luxury...we had splurged on the king suite and I didn't want to leave to go out for dinner. Luckily enough the hotel served a lovely dinner there with quite a few appetizers we could veganize!
Chihuahua is a beautiful city and our hotel was downtown right in the middle of everything.
Lots to see within an easy walk of our hotel.
We arranged for a teeny-tiny taxi to take us to the airport and Ezekial was waiting for us when we arrived back in La Paz.
It was an easy drive home and our pooch, Freddy, seemed to have had the time of his life at Lucie's Awesome Pawsome camp!
It was a grand adventure and something that I really wanted to do, and we were able to stick to our vegan diet. We had a lot of people express interest in the details of our trip so I did go into extra detail here with links to help others plan their own trip. I think the whole trip for the two of us was about $3600 USD, including planes, trains, buses, shuttles, taxis, hotels, tours, food and tips!