Exploring the Marvels of Mexico’s Copper Canyon: A Journey into Natural Wonders and Indigenous Culture

By Ralph Velasco

Mexico’s Copper Canyon, or “Barrancas del Cobre” in Spanish, is a hidden gem that offers a breathtaking mix of rugged landscapes, rich indigenous culture, and heartwarming hospitality. This natural wonder, often compared in size to the Grand Canyon, deserves a spot on every adventurous traveler’s bucket list. Let’s embark on a journey to discover the best of the Copper Canyon, including the charming towns of Creel, Chihuahua, Divisadero, and El Fuerte.

1. Start in the Gateway Town of Creel

Although there are many ways to organize it, you can begin your Copper Canyon adventure in the picturesque town of Creel, nestled in the Sierra Tarahumara. Creel serves as the main gateway to the canyon, and from here, you can explore the stunning landscapes and indigenous culture of the region. Visit the Tarahumara Museum to learn about the native Rarámuri people and their rich heritage.

2. Ride the Chihuahua al Pacífico Railway (Chepe)

One of the highlights of any Copper Canyon journey is the iconic Chepe train ride. This engineering marvel takes you through 87 tunnels, over 39 bridges, and across steep canyons. The scenic journey offers breathtaking views, including the Divisadero viewpoint, where you can witness the sheer grandeur of the canyon.

3. Marvel at the Magnificent Divisadero

Divisadero is a must-stop on any Copper Canyon adventure. This viewpoint provides panoramic vistas of the canyon’s deep crevices and dramatic rock formations. The vibrant local markets are perfect for picking up handmade crafts and enjoying traditional Rarámuri performances.

4. Hike in Urique Canyon

For an immersive experience, hike down into Urique Canyon, one of the six canyons that make up the Copper Canyon system. Explore the rugged terrain, interact with local communities, and take in the natural beauty of this remote area.

5. Explore the Historical City of Chihuahua

As part of your canyon adventures, head to Chihuahua, the state’s capital and a city steeped in history. Visit the Museum of the Revolution, where you can learn about the Mexican Revolution’s pivotal moments. Stroll through the colonial-era streets and admire the grand architecture of Chihuahua Cathedral.

6. Immerse Yourself in Rarámuri Culture

Take the opportunity to learn about the indigenous Rarámuri culture, known for their long-distance running and intricate crafts. You can arrange visits to Rarámuri villages, where you’ll gain insight into their way of life and appreciate their artistry.

7. Visit the Historical Town of El Fuerte

El Fuerte serves as another gateway to the Copper Canyon. This charming colonial town is known for its well-preserved historic center and the El Fuerte River, where you can enjoy boat rides and birdwatching.

8. Delight in Tarahumara Handicrafts

Throughout your journey, you’ll have opportunities to purchase exquisite Tarahumara handicrafts, including colorful textiles, baskets, and woodcarvings. These handmade items make for meaningful souvenirs and support local artisans.

Tarahumara woman selling wares in cave in Creel, Mexico by Ralph Velasco

9. Experience the Copper Canyon’s Unique Ecosystem

The Copper Canyon region is teeming with diverse flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for rare bird species, including the elegant trogon and the colorful coppery-tailed trogon. It’s a paradise for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers.

10. Attend Local Festivals and Celebrations

If your visit aligns with a local festival or celebration, such as Semana Santa (Holy Week) or indigenous rituals, embrace the opportunity to participate and gain insight into the region’s cultural traditions.

In conclusion, Mexico’s Copper Canyon is a natural wonder that promises adventure, cultural immersion, and unforgettable vistas. Whether you’re riding the Chepe train, exploring Creel’s indigenous heritage, or hiking through the rugged terrain, every moment in the Copper Canyon is an opportunity to connect with nature and experience the warmth of the local communities. So, pack your bags and embark on a journey of a lifetime into the heart of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. ¡Viva la aventura! (Long live the adventure!)


Join me this summer (July 16 – 24, 2024) in Mexico’s Copper Canyon and we can work on your videography and photography skills together!  Did you know that Copper Canyon is bigger, and deeper, than the Grand Canyon?  And it has one of the great train rides of the world right through it, El Chepe (check out the video I created about this incredible journey).


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