Trip Report

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Trip Report

Baja California Sur and the El Chepe train

A week exploring all kinds of landscapes in the north of Mexico - beaches, deserts, plains, forests, mountains and canyons.

by petarAbout Me:Celebrating life read more

Mexico, United States8 days / June - July 2019

Highs & Lows

Watching the view from the Copper Canyon that is a whopping four times larger than the Grand Canyon in the USA

Although it is definitely worth it, the price of the train El Chepe is around $100 which is pricy for the Mexican standards

Itinerary Overview

Coming from Guatemala and Belize, my travel buddy and I entered Mexico from the Southeast land border at Chetumal. To get to the desired destination San Jose del Cabo in Baja California Sur, we took an early flight from Chetumal with one stop at Mexico City. Arriving at mid-day we had plenty of time to explore San Jose del Cabo. Since our trip in the peninsula was with a duration of four days, traveling with a bus was a less than an ideal option since it required almost a whole day travelling to get from point A to point B. In addition, we planned a visit to the Ranco Ecologico Sol de Mayo where one could only arrive with a private means of transport. Therefore, it was agreed that renting a car was the best option available in terms of time to value to money. Luckily, we had the option to drop the car at a different location, thus we could leave it our departure point, La Paz airport. We stayed at a very nice and cozy Airbnb in San Jose del Cabo, several kilometers away from the city center. During the day we visited downtown and had a great dinner at a restaurant there. The sunset was absolutely amazing. It is also worth mentioning that overall, the weather was boiling hot, however, we were used to it since this was our second month travelling in central America and the region. Practically, this was it for the day due to the fact that we were tired from the trip and that the next day was supposed to be a very eventful one.

We woke up early in the morning and headed to the famous spring break destination Los Cabos. It was not spring break time, neither we went for that reason. We rather gave it a visit to go on a boat trip to the Arch of Cabo San Lucas. The Arch is a rock formation that erupts from the sea at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most popular things to do in Baja California Sur and the central focus of countless vacation photos including ours.

After the boat trip we headed to a rancho in the middle of nowhere which was recommended to us by a Mexican friend. The name of the place is Rancho Ecologico Sol de Mayo. Not surprisingly, we were the only guests at the rancho. This was due to the fact that one could only get there with a private means of transport, driving over dusty roads and being surrounded by cactuses and desert at all times. The place is famous because there is a spring and a waterfall in the middle of the desert. It is a great place for those who would like to isolate themselves in the middle of nowhere and to relax. Since there was no lights or city close by, we enjoyed an incredible view of the stars.

In the morning on the next day, we drove to the capital of the state La Paz. The city itself is nothing too spectacular. However, some of the highlights such as whale watching and Balandra beach are worth checking. To our deep regret, whale watching was only possible from December to April each year and we were there in June. Therefore, we could only go to the Balandra beach out of those two. We explored the city during out first day and visited the beach during our second. The water at Balandra beach is crystal clear with turquoise color. One could get 200m further in the sea without covering their chin with water. Next to the beach, there is a hill, around 60 to 100m taller than the shore. Being on top of it one could enjoy a marvelous view of the whole bay. (see pictures below). After getting some tan and enjoying the time at the beach we returned with the car to La Paz and had some traditional tacos. La Paz is a big city and therefore there are many restaurants, offering a various types of cuisine.

With an early flight to Los Mochis at 6:00 am on the next day we managed to escape the heat. Los Mochis, located in the province of Sinaloa, is the first stop of the famous El Chepe train that travels 650km, passing through 37 bridges and 86 tunnels, before reaching Chihuahua. The main tourist attraction cities are Creel and Divisadero. The railway line enables tourist to witness majestic views of the mountains it passes. It crosses the Copper Canyon, called Barranca del Cobre by Mexican which is four times larger than the Grand Canyon in the USA! Imagine!

When we arrived at the train station in Los Mochis we discovered that the earliest possibility to catch the train was on the next day. Moreover, we were advised to go to the village El Fuerte with a bus, spend the night there, and catch the train in the morning since the most beautiful part of the trip starts there. That way the ticket price was substantially lower. And so we did. El Fuerte is a village in the desert in Sinaloa and as the name suggests the temperature there is very hot. There was nothing much to do so we just took a good rest, preparing for the next day.

Surprisingly, there were many other travelers in the train, however we were the only foreigners. The views were incredible, indeed and quite diverse too. The first stop was in the village of Sierra Tarahumara. There we could find a lot of local crafts and souvenirs sold to us by the indigenous people of the Raramuri tribe – one of Mexico’s oldest native communities. This was a great opportunity to buy some presents for our families and friends to get to learn more about their culture. My travel buddy and I decided to stop at the town Creel, high in the mountains and to spend several nights there. There were many landmarks in the region, including the above-mentioned Copper Canyon so it made sense to stay. On our first day there we went on a hike in the mountains, visiting a very beautiful waterfall. It was a great change of scenery, coming from the deserts and beaches. For our second day we booked a private tour to the Copper Canyon, and witnessing the view was definitely one of the highlights of my whole 6-month experience in Mexico. I can’t describe it with words so I will only highly recommend it to everyone! Over there you can find the longest zipline in the worlds (as they said) passing over 500m vertically. My friend and I skipped this luxury since the price was $70 and we were already above our budgets. During our third day we rented quad bikes and explored several rock formations and lakes in the area. We were also told that Creel is covered by snow at all times during winter. Makes sense since the elevation is 2400m. It is just a bit strange to hear that for a place in Mexico, isn’t it? In general, this region is perfect for those who would like to relax and blow some steam off, far from the traffic and noise of the city. The visit was definitely worth it.

That was it for the mountains in the North of Mexico. On the next day we took a bus to Chihuahua.

  • 1 Night: San José del Cabo
  • 3 Nights: La Paz
  • 4 Nights: Creel

Q & A

  • What tips would you give a friend?

    We visited La Paz in Baja California Sur at the end of June, while the whale watching season starts in December and ends in April. Therefore, if this activity is a priority it makes sense to plan the period of the trip accordingly.

  • Packing tips?

    Baja California Sur is generally a desert while the weather in Los Mochis and el El Fuerte is very hot too, as the name of the latter suggests. The weather in Creel and the Canyon area though is mild and can become chilly at night due to the high altitude, therefore long sleeve clothing is recommended. Oh, a swimming suit, sunglasses and a mosquito repellent are must takes too, definitely bring those.

  • Transportation Tips?

    The train El Chepe doesn't not travel every day. Therefore, one should check its schedule before unless they want to spend one-two days in Los Mochis or El Fuerte.