EL CHEPE & THE SIERRA TARAHUMARA

An Epic Exploration Beyond the Copper Canyon

From Los Mochis to Chihuahua City

Quick Info

Starting Location:  Los Mochis

Ending Location:  Chihuahua

Dates:  Custom Tour

Duration:  15 Days / 14 Nights

Group Size:  6 Max

Age Group:  Adults Only

Hotel Locations:  6

Physical Rating:  Energetic

Altitude:  Appr. 7200 Feet Max

 

TRAVEL OPTIONS

This journey could be combined with Casas Grandes & Paquime, Mazatlan, or Topolobampo Bay.

PRICE
$58,000 MXP Each
(Approx. $3200 US)
Based on shared accommodations for 2 per room.
 
Price can be reduced for groups willing to share 4 per room.  

Into the Mysterious Lands

of the Raramuri

This fabulous exploration of the Sierra Tarahumara starts in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, concluding two weeks later in the City of Chihuahua.  Enjoy transport along the legendary El Chepe Railroad, and private van to the depths of the Batopilas and Sinforosa Canyons. 

 

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS  

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  • El Zorro's Birthplace & Pueblo Magico El Fuerte

  • Indigenous dancing in nearby village

  • Bird Watch on the Fuerte River; Hike to Petrogyphs

  • The hair-raising road to Urique Canyon

  • Sample wine at The Mission in Cerocahui

  • Cusarare Waterfall, Valley of Frogs, St. Ignacio, Creel

  • Cultural Activities, Gondola & Zip Lines at Divisadero

  • Descend into the sub-topics to Pueblo Magico Batopilas

  • Lost Church of Satevo, Aqueduct, Ex-Hacienda Ruins

  • Stay at remote eco-resort in Sinforosa Canyon

  • Cessna Plane Ride over Sinforosa Canyon

  • Nombre de Dios Caves, Pancho Villa Museum

  • Ride the Regional & Express Chepe Train

 

BE CONSCIOUS OF LOCAL ENVIRONMENT & CULTURE

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  • Please carry refillable water bottle & to-go mug (we will have water available in the van for refills)

  • Please dress modestly for touring traditional villages.  Shorts and skirts should be no shorter than just above the knee.  Modest neck-lines are recommended as a sign of respect.

  • Ask permission before taking close-up photographs.  

  • Bartering is not customary in this region.  Please respect the artists prices.

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WHAT MAKES YOU A GOOD FELLOW TRAVELER

 

  • Punctuality - crucial for fluid travel

  • Flexibility - always expect the unexpected

  • Participation - including one daily group photo

  • Consideration - please don't chit chat during presentations

  • Cooperation - the rules are made for all of us, including you

  • Respect - for local customs & protocols

  • Diplomacy - agree to disagree about politics & religion​

  • Confidence - know your limits 

Introducing Mexico's Legendary

El Chepe Railroad

Snaking through the powerful mystique of six colossal, interconnected canyons is a phenomenal feat of engineering, fondly called the El Chepe train route. This 653 KM (405 Miles) scenic stretch takes 16 hours to travel in entirety, but the real adventure begins once one steps off the train platform and into the mysterious lands of the indigenous Raramuri peoples.

 

Construction of the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway line began in 1898, but was abandoned due to landscape challenges vs the technological advances of that era. In 1953, construction was renewed and by 1961, the railroad was complete. Scaling the Sierra Tarahumara to an altitude of nearly 8000 feet at Posada Barrancas, and through a diversity of ecosystems, this railroad crosses over 36 bridges and through 87 tunnels. Today, there are two El Chepe Trains operating on this route – the El Chepe Regional, and the El Chepe Express.

WELCOME TO THE EL CHEPE

 

Welcome aboard the El Chepe Regional Train!  Our schedule has been carefully arranged around the El Chepe Regional train schedule, which only runs on key days.  This journey must begin in Los Mochis on a Tuesday.  Please contact us for more information or optional itineraries.

Day 01:  El Fuerte      -   Fly to Los Mochis ; Bus to El Fuerte

Day 02:  El Fuerte      -   Bird Watch; Petroglyphs; Centro Tour; Indigenous Deer Dance

Day 03:  Cerocahui   -   8:19 AM Regional Chepe to Bahuichivo; Transfer to Cerocahui

Day 04:  Cerocahui   -   Visit Urique Canyon

Day 05:  Cerocahui   -   Visit local Winery; Mission; Hike to Waterfall

Day 06:  Creel          -   12:24 Regional Chepe to Creel; Arrive at 3:30 PM

Day 07:  Creel          -   Optional activites at Divisadero include cooking, weaving & zip lines

Day 08:  Creel          -   Cusarare Waterfall; Valley of Frogs; St. Ignacio Mission; Creel

Day 09:  Sinforosa     -   Enjoy scenic drive, 20 min flight in Cessna Plane, Eco-Resort

Day 10:  Batopilas     -   Hike to the waterfalls and depart for the incredible drive to Batopilas

Day 11:  Batopilas     -   Visit the Lost Church of Satevo, aqueduct and Ex Hacienda San Miguel

Day 12:  Batopilas     -   4x4 Adventure with two exciting options to choose from.

Day 13:  Chihuahua   -   Return to Creel early; Catch the 3:30 PM Regional Chepe for Chihuahua City

Day 14:  Chihuahua   -   Explore the Nombre de Dios Caverns; Pancho Villa Museum; Historical Centro

Day 15:  Home          -   Fly Home through CDMX or Guadaljara

TOUR ITINERARY

EL FUERTE, SINALOA

Founded in 1564, the Pueblo Magico of El Fuerte, (The Fort) was constructed at Cerro de las Pilas to protect colonizers from attacks by the local indigenous communities. El Fuerte is regarded as a unique town, in that its colonial style is unusual for it’s location in the north. The old Fort now houses a small, basic museum that has amazing views of the surrounding area – including stellar views of the Rio Fuerte.

 

El Fuerte is a striking colonial town, in that the monumental structures reveal that, like many Colonial constructs, this region was built from the wealth of the nearby mines. Unlike most colonial cities built from silver and gold riches, El Fuerte is a tiny town. This may be one reason why the local peoples are so tight-knit and proud of their special home.


 

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of visiting El Fuerte, is learning that the infamous (and fictional) robber/hero El Zorro was actually born here. At the main plaza, the Posada del Hidalgo features a statue of El Zorro in one of the beautiful courtyards.

EL FUERTE TRAVEL DETAILS

DAY 1:  Tuesday 

ARRIVAL IN EL FUERTE

There are early flights departing CDMX airport for Los Mochis, allowing an early afternoon arrival.  From the airport, we will taxi to the bus station for our 2 hour commute to the Pueblo Magical town of El Fuerte.  Upon arriving in El Fuerte, we will check into our hotel and relax, have dinner and enjoy happy hour.

Please Note:  Our trip must start on a Tuesday to coincide with the Regional Chepe Train Schedule.  This is based on the January 11, 2020 Update.  Please check with us before confirming your flights.

Hotel Location:  El Fuerte Centro

DAY 1:  Wednesday 

BIRD WATCH, HIKE TO PETROGYLPHS, EL ZORRO HOME, VISIT INDIGENOUS VILLAGE FOR DANCE OF THE DEER

This morning we will depart early for a birding tour by boat on the Rio Fuerte.  We will hike to visit ancient petroglyphs, enjoy a walking tour of the small city centro, and depart to a nearby village to witness an indigenous deer dance.

Hotel Location:  El Fuerte Centro

CEROCAHUI, CHIHUAHUA

Seated on the edge of the Urique Canyon is an idyllic village called Cerocahui. First contacted by outsiders in 1679, Jesuit Padre Pecoro arrived and quickly realized the Raramuri peoples were not interested in his faith. That didn’t stop Father Juan Maria de Salvatierra from pushing forward with his ambitious plans within the year. Arriving on November 23, 1680, (four years before he set-off for Urique), Father Salvatierra not only began his religious teachings of Christ, but also began construction of the mission church. He remained in the Urique Canyon region for ten years before leaving to found the Church at Loreto – the first mission of Baja California.

 

In 1767, political strife between the Jesuits and the King of Spain resulted in the closure of the mission in Cerocahui. The Jesuits were given one month with which to vacate the area, returning to Spain. It wasn’t until 1936 when the Jesuits returned. Padre Andres Lara is credited with founding Cerocahui. In 1940, he began restoration work on the crumbling church. In 1941, Padre Lara founded the Tarahumara Indian Girls Boarding School, which is still open today. He was also responsible for the first road between Bahuichivo and Cerocahui, which was completed in the 1950’s.


Father Lara died in Guadalajara in 1976 and was buried in Sisoguichi. On March 11, 1997 his remains were repatriated to Cerocahui, and interred

within the walls of the mission church that was so dear to him.

As the story of the first Spaniard to reach Urique Canyon in 1684 is told, Father Salvatierra was overwhelmed by the sheer depths of the precipices he was riding beside, thus he dismounted his mule on the wrong side, as it was opposite from the cliff-side. From there, he continued his journey by foot.

The second Spaniard to make the terrifying trek to Urique was Juan Tarango Vallejo. Not only did he found the settlement of Urique on January 12, 1690, he would later make claim to gold deposits.

 

Despite Urique’s long history of gold mining, it wasn’t until 1969 when construction of the first road access began. On August 3, 1975, the first vehicles entered Urique. It took until May, 1995 for Urique to receive long distance telephone service, and 2001 before local telephone service was installed. Today, Urique has a satellite internet connection, though it is intermittent and unreliable to date.

There is an oral account about Urique being the site of the only battle between the French and Mexican forces during the Pastry War in the mid-1800’s. An account of this can be found in Victor Villasenor’s family biography “Rain of Gold.”

CEROCAHUI TRAVEL DETAILS

DAY 3:  Thursday 

EMBARK ON THE TRADITIONAL EL CHEPE REGIONAL 

FROM EL FUERTE TO BAHUICHIVO

There is something quaint and iconic about traveling the El Chepe line on the original Regional train.  Our train departs El Fuerte at 8:19 AM.  We must depart El Fuerte by 7:30 AM, as it is recommended to arrive about 1/2 hour early. 

Please Note:  We will travel first class to Bahuichivo Station, arriving at 12:24 PM.  

Hotel Location:  Cerocahui

DAY 4:  Friday 

DESCEND ON SWITCHBACKS TO 

URIQUE CANYON 

This morning our driver will take us on a hair-raising adventure to the base of Urique Canyon, feasting on thrilling scenery as we descend into the sub-tropics.  We will enjoy a picnic here, take in some local sites, and make the return journey back for a rest.  

 

Noteworthy:  The municipality of Urique hosts the Ultra Maratón Caballo Blanco (UMCB) annually, a marathon that has gained worldwide attention since the 2011 publication "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" by Christopher McDougall.

Hotel Location:  Cerocahui

THE TRAGIC TALE OF MEXICO'S JESUITS

& THE WINE THEY LEFT BEHIND

Local wine may not be what one expects, when arriving in the village of Cerocahui, and yet we owe thanks to 16th century Jesuits for introducing grapevines to the region, among other European plants they introduced to the Raramuri.

 

Founded by Ignatius of Loyola of Spain in 1534, the Jesuits were perfectly positioned to attain wealth and power quickly, due to their emergence coinciding with the advancement of the Protestant Church. With the promise of chastity, poverty and the self-sacrificing and unconditional vow to obey the Pope’s orders, along with a membership that was comprised of the intellectual and elite, the Jesuits were entrusted by the Roman Catholic Church to evangelize the colonies.

 

As society moved forward, and Monarchs worked to modernize, centralize and secularize society, the Jesuits became a threat and obstacle to progress due to their worldwide presence in correlation with autonomy through the papacy. Across Europe, following the French Revolution, the Jesuits began to endure widespread suppression, which included not only their expulsion from the colonies – but also the confiscation of their estates and possessions.

 

On March 27, 1767, King Charles III of Spain issued an edict, expelling the Jesuits from Mexico. He wrote: “Motivated by grave causes related to my obligation to maintain my people in subordination, tranquility and justice, as well as other urgent, just and necessary reasons that I reserve to my Royal self: I have decided to order removed from all my dominions in Spain and the Indies, and the Philippine Islands and adjacent dominions, all members of the Company of Jesus…”

 

As the forlorn but obedient Jesuits embarked on their arduous and difficult journey to the port of Veracruz, where they would set sail for exile in Italy, the grapevines of Cerocahui were ordered destroyed. With a spring-like climate maintaining perfect conditions for the health of grape-vines, it’s a blessing that someone from the Jose Maria Sanchez family saved some cuttings and secretly planted them behind the family casa. These vines were protected for centuries until the last Sanchez passed on 25 years ago, leaving behind no descendants.

 

As fate would have it, the gardener who had worked for Sanchez and the Mision Hotel in Cerocahui knew the red grape was not only an Old World Heirloom species, but that it was dying. Planting cuttings from the vine, the gardener saved the vine, and a few short years later, The Mision has been producing Vinto Tinto ever since.

 

“When one tastes the Mision wine of Cerocahui, one tastes the mountains, the rivers, the flora and fauna of the Canyons. The wine is part of the history, mystery and magic of the region infused with memories of Old Spain, Jesuit missionaries, Tarahumara Indians and generations of Jose Maria’s familia who preserved this bouquet of life for us to enjoy today.” - The Mision Hotel

DAY 5:  Saturday 

HIKING & WATERFALLS IN THE MORNING

WINE BY AFTERNOON

Today will be a more restful day, with a morning hike to the waterfalls, followed by local red wine at The Mision Hotel in central Cerocahui, right next to the antiquated church.  

Hotel Location:  Cerocahui

CREEL, CHIHUAHUA

Though sometimes berated for being a tourist-trap, the Pueblos Magicos of Creel is in many ways, the cradle of the El Chepe Railroad, given the fact that it was the final stop of the Chihuahua al Pacifico line for decades before it’s completion. Anyone who believes Creel to be nothing more than a tourist trap needs to spend more than a night or two in this endearing town. In fact, most who arrive in Creel only spend a day or two – but it is a hub for many fantastic outdoor adventures to be enjoyed beyond her village-borders – reaching far into the greater reaches of the canyons than most experience. Even better is the fact that the small town entertains guests with a night-life that includes decent restaurants, shops and the sound of the night-trains drifting by long past midnight.

 

Creel was founded on May 26, 1907 as a stopping-point for the Chihuahua Pacific line. Named after Enrique Creel, who was governor of Chihuahua at that time, Creel was originally slated as an agricultural settlement for Mexicans, who were expected to influence and essentially assimilate the indigenous Raramuri peoples. Interestingly, Creel was designated for 25 Mexican families to 75 Raramuri families, but only about 30 Raramuri families laid foundations in Creel. To this day, the Raramuri remain in small, communal settlements, rather than villages or towns.

 

Though Creel’s main economy was largely based on logging, today, most of the economy of this small village of approximately 5500 people relies on the ebb and flow of tourist traffic arriving by train.

CREEL TRAVEL DETAILS

DAY 6:  Sunday 

TRAVERSE THE SIERRA TARAHUMARA TO THE

PUEBLO MAGICO VILLAGE OF CREEL

This morning we will depart Cerocahui for the Bahuichivo train platform, departing at 12:24 for a 3:30 arrival in the Pueblo Magico village of Creel.  With smoke-filled air and what is often a gloomy sky, Creel is a charming tourist trap set against a dense pine-forest background.  With a fine line that makes the character and authenticity difficult to separate, this small town feels like a village of only a few streets, though it extends beyond the two main streets.  Raramuri families sell their goods along the boardwalk, women weave baskets and textiles in the plaza, the local women color the tracks as they wander along them in vivid color.  Our afternoon is perfect for settling in, organizing laundry, and exploring at our own leisure.   

Hotel Location:  Creel

DAY 7:  Monday 

RARAMURI GASTRONOMY, BASKET WEAVING, ZIP-LINES,

GONDOLA RIDE & STUNNING VISTAS 

There are many options available for today.  We can arrange cultural activities that include cooking, weaving and storytelling, though you may be more interested in the adrenaline rush of a zip-line.  There are hanging bridges, atv's, a gondola ride, hiking along the rim and a handicraft market for shopping.  Please contact us about your main interests so we can make arrangements.   

Hotel Location:  Creel

INTO THE LAND OF RARAMURI 

THE LIGHT FOOTED ONES

The Raramuri creation story begins with Sun and Moon. Dark-skinned and robed in the leaves of palms, Sun and Moon were children who lived alone in mud-huts. Possessing nothing worldly, it was only the morning star that watched over the children, and cast a dim light upon the earth. This was before there was light in the world, and when everything that wandered here was sinful.

As it was too dark to see, the humans struggled to survive. Due to the rugged landscape, they were bound to one another to prevent tripping and falling into the deep canyons. For this reason, they could not work.

One day, the humans soaked tiny redwood crosses in “tesquino” (a beverage made from fermented corn), and gave them as an offering to Sun and Moon, who began to shine with a bright light. A flash-flood occurred, and a boy and girl climbed to the top of Lavachi Mountain, south of Panalachic to escape the high waters. When the flood waters receded, they returned to their homeland with three corn kernels and three beans. The ground was moist and fertile, which made the land perfect for planting seeds. It is said the boy and girl planted the seeds beneath a rock, and fell asleep. When the crop was ready for harvest, it is said the Raramuri were born.

Indigenous peoples have often grappled with descriptors that are incorrect, due to the imposition of being named by the victors who wrote our early history books. It is believed the Spanish misheard the Raramuri peoples at contact; thus, Tarahumara became their name. Perhaps based on the Raramuri belief system and story of creation, this word was said to mean “where the night is the day of the moon.”


 

In 1965, Father Luis Verplancken, a Jesuit Priest from Guadalajara, arrived in the Sierra Tarahumara, and due to his assistance to indigenous communities there, became respected by the Raramuri. It was Father Luis who shed light on the correct name, Raramuri, including the direct translation “running plant,” which in the context of the English language, means “the light footed one.”