Train Adventure in the Copper Canyon

Train Adventure in the Copper Canyon

January 2023

In the meantime, we had arrived at the southernmost tip of Baja California. We only briefly paid attention to the tourist stronghold of Cabo San Lucas. Cabo San Lucas is the El Arenal of the Baja. At the harbour, one mega yacht next to the other, restaurants, pubs and pharmacies lined up downtown. Flying traders offer everything one could imagine. From sun hats to jewellery, massages, boat tours, fishing trips and whatever else the average American package tourist might want.


It was as if we had landed on another planet, after 3.5 weeks in small, inconspicuous places, in the desert and on relatively quiet beaches, it was all-inclusive, party and Ballermann. We soon had enough of it and left the place again. It was not far to Playa Santa Maria, a small bay between Cabo San Lucas and San Pedro de Cabo. Here we wanted to try snorkelling again, because the underwater world is supposed to be beautiful here.

Playa Santa Maria

We both still find snorkelling a bit scary. Most people will only laugh about this, but with our heads underwater and a plastic tube in our mouths, we just don’t like it as much. But we didn’t want to give up. A new day, a new chance. From Santa Maria beach, we swam slowly across the reef and suddenly it felt less frightening. We enjoyed the colourful fish we could spot. A swarm of fish hanging out at the edge of the reef came so close that you could, as it were, shake their hands.

Unfortunately, Eddy also managed to cut his foot open on a sharp rock which meant it was the end of the fun for him today. Romy couldn’t get enough of it and dived into the water once more and washed ashore again with a big smile on her face.

We headed for La Paz from where the ferry to the mainland would leave. Through a tip from another traveller, we first had Rancho San Dionisio in our sights, though. Owner Clarence has built a gem here in the middle of a canyon. We followed a 20-kilometer dirt road and parked our car in the middle of his yard among mango and orange trees. Where we watched the most beautiful fish and reefs this morning, we now ate our dinner and watched the most beautiful stars by the campfire.

The second day on Rancho San Dionisio was mainly spent very quietly. There were some very nice walks in the area, but as Eddy’s foot still needed rest, that was unfortunately not an option yet. Instead, we walked around the ranch and feasted our eyes on the vegetable and fruit garden and watched the hummingbirds. Romy decided to bathe briefly in the river, which provided some cooling. Even days where not too much happens come to an end. Once again, we ended this one around the campfire together with some other guests.

Our visit to Baja California thus slowly came to an end. We had already spent four weeks on this huge peninsula, but even if we could keep up this lazy life for a long time, we both felt the need to get back into a travelling rhythm. It was high time to start experiencing things again and get to know the true Mexico. Today we drove to La Paz, where we stayed the night at Playa Pichilique. There we met Austrian travellers Brigitta and Josef and had a pleasant evening together.

The practical thing about Playa Pichilique is that it is right at the harbour. Even before the office opened, we queued up to be put on the waiting list for tomorrow’s ferry to Topolobampo. We would only find out the next day at 1 p.m. whether we could actually get on the boat.

TMC Office

So we still had time to visit La Paz today. It is a relatively large city, but with not too many attractions. However, eating tacos at Claro Fish JR was on our to-do list. We got this tip from other travellers, because the tacos served here are supposed to be exceptionally good and we absolutely had to try it. It was indeed a treat.


Soon we ended up back on the Malecon which is still the most interesting part of the city. We met Thomas and Sima who by now had also arrived in La Paz. We had a cup of coffee and discussed further (travel) plans. Romy’s birthday was today and we wanted to celebrate it in a sushi restaurant before ending the day at the campsite with a home-made Pina Colada.

The day of truth had arrived. At 13:00 sharp, we reported to customs at the port area awaiting confirmation to leave the Baja Peninsula today. Fortunately, that confirmation came around 15:00. As the ship was not supposed to set sail until 21:00, we had to wait in the port for several more hours. We watched the ship being loaded until we ourselves were called.

With hand signals, we were told to drive onto the ship in reverse. Hablas Espanol? Well, er…backwards? With some help from the friendly employees on board, we steered backwards onto the deck where a lift then took our car up one floor. Right along the railing in the open air, Eddy put on the handbrake before recovering briefly. A tough delivery, but what a beautiful place! Some people pay a lot of money for an outside cabin on a cruise ship. We had sea views from our ‘room’, even without a balcony.

On arrival in Topolabambo, we continued straight to El Fuerte from where we planned to explore Barranca del Cobre or Copper Canyon by train. In El Fuerte, we found Josef and Brigitta in the middle of the village square. We had agreed to go to the Copper Canyon with them. In the backyard of a local family near the El Fuerte train station, we parked our cars and spent the evening together.

For the next two days, the cars would stay here at Rosa’s house and we would take the train to Creel. We would have loved to drive this stretch to Creel and the Copper Canyon on our own four wheels, but since this area is known as a “drug cartel area” we thought it would be a better idea to visit it by train. We love travelling by train anyway, so a ride on the famous trein “El Chepe” sounded like a great adventure. We both liked the thought of being able to sleep in a hotel for two nights, too!

Rosa's backyard & garden

Early in the morning, we got up. Rosa had told us that we could easily buy a ticket on the train. What we had already figured out for ourselves was the fact that on this train there are three classes with big price differences. The cheapest class should cost 7 euros, the most expensive around 100 euros. What made the big difference in the end we still needed to find out, but we agreed that 7 euros would best fit our travel budget. For an eight-hour train ride, of course, a bargain.

The platform was already full of people when we came there. We had not counted on so many people. With an hour’s delay, the train arrived and a seat was quickly found. After departure, the conductor walked through the carriages looking for passengers who still owed him money. A calculator was pulled out. 1500 pesos for two was the price. Romy tried to convince him that we thought that two people should cost around 300 pesos. Although the train conductor laughed at this, the matter was hardly discussed any further and fortunately he quickly agreed to our proposal.

Through narrow valleys and hills that slowly turned into real mountains, the train slowly made its way up. The route was indeed fantastic. We rode through dozens of tunnels and in endless curves until we finally got a view of the Copper Canyon at Divisadero station. The train would stop here for 30 minutes which gave us enough time to walk to the edge of this immense canyon, take in the view and take a few photos.

Copper Canyon

Naturally, the locals conveniently capitalise on this stop. Many trinkets and souvenirs and basket, mostly handmade from pine needle are sold there. We got ourselves something to eat for the rest of the train ride.
Creel is at almost 2400 metres, making it a lot more pleasant than the lowlands in terms of temperature. We arrived after 8 hours of travel time and went in search of a hotel. There was plenty of choice and just in time before dark we had found a good hotel at an affordable price.


Through the hotel, we also organised a tour for the next day to see the surrounding area. This region is the habitat of the Tarahumara people. This indigenous people is the oldest in Mexico where the women in particular stand out with their colourful skirts and head coverings. By car and with a guide, we visited several villages, rock formations and Lake Arareco before hiking to the Cusarare waterfall. Not much water falls at this time of year. Because of the altitude and secluded location in the shade, some parts of the waterfall are therefore iced over which made for beautiful photos.

The colourful Tarahumara women and their children also set up wooden stalls along the footpath to earn an income. We bought a small souvenir in the form of a sombrero keychain from the little boy Jose Abraham who was just busy fabricating a new bracelet. After the tour, we strolled through the small centre of Creel in search of a cup of coffee. In the plaza, we struck up a conversation with Marta, a young Tarahumara woman of 18 who had just had her first child. With some languange difficulties we learned a bit about life in this region and after saying goodbye to her, we sought a bench on the busy main street and watched daily life in Creel pass us by.

After our second night in the hotel, it was time to say goodbye to Creel. Again with some delay, the train arrived at the rather crowded platform and even though it was a bit more difficult to find a seat this time, we managed in the end. Once again we enjoyed the train ride through this beautiful mountain landscape, marvelling at the loops the train had to make in parts to bridge the difference in altitude. In the darkness we reached the station of El Fuerte. Rosa was already waiting for us, she had taken good care of our vehicles. Tired and satisfied, we quickly fell into our own beds. The trip to the Copper Canyon had been worth it in any case. Now we were ready to hit the road again and see more of mainland Mexico.

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