The Copper Canyon - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to The Copper Canyon

The Copper Canyon

The north west of Mexico is the country's 'wild west', where it is possible to undertake one of the most remarkable train trips in the world, the Chihuahua al Pacífico (Chihuahua to the Pacific) railway, also known as the Copper Canyon railway, and one of the country's most remarkable tourist excursions. The canyon is in fact a maze of gorges that combine to form six massive interconnected canyons, covering an area four times larger and almost two times deeper than the Grand Canyon in North America. The name, Copper Canyon, incorporates all the canyons and gorges and refers to the colour of the lichen that clings to the canyon walls.

Acclaimed as an engineering marvel, the railroad travels from the Pacific coastal town of Los Mochis, climbing to 8,000 feet (2,400m) over the Sierra Madre mountain range, before dropping down to the city of Chihuahua 393 miles (655km) away. Along the way it passes through 86 tunnels, crosses 39 bridges, and performs an unbelievable 360 degree loop, winding through some of the country's most magnificent scenery, between towering canyon walls and hugging the cliff face with intermittent views of the river far below.

The region is not only scenically splendid, but is rich in indigenous culture. The canyon cliffs are the home to thousands of Tarahumara Indians, a semi-nomadic population of primitive cave dwellers who eke out an existence from farming, cattle ranching and by selling their handicrafts. In stark contrast are the Mennonite settlements centred around Cuauhetmoc, where the people of this religious sect, of German descent, sell their farm products such as cheese and sausages, but otherwise keep themselves completely separate from those around them. They are distinctive with their old-fashioned style of dress, own language and rigid community ways.

The train makes several stops along the way, brief opportunities to admire the view and buy food or crafts from the Tarahumara Indians. Several little towns or mountain villages are of interest, and many break the journey at Creel, a frontier-spirited mining town complete with horsemen in cowboy hats and tight jeans, and a good base to further explore the surrounds.

Information & Facts

Spanish is the official language in Mexico. Some English is spoken in tourist regions.

Mexican currency is the New Peso (MXN) divided into 100 centavos. Credit cards are widely accepted, particularly Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Travellers cheques are generally accepted, but cannot be cashed on Sundays. ATMs are available in most cities and towns and are the most convenient way to get money, but for safety reasons they should only be used during business hours. Although most businesses will accept foreign currency it is best to use pesos. Foreign currency can be exchanged at one of many casas de cambio(exchange houses), which have longer hours and offer a quicker service than the banks.

The rustic logging town of Creel is a popular tourist centre for visitors to the region and is the gateway to the Copper Canyon, popular as a starting point for exploring the canyons and Tarahumara Indian country. There are several tours offered, or it is possible to hire mountain bikes and hiking equipment to explore the natural attractions nearby, such as the canyons themselves, the Basaseachic Falls, hot springs, Tarahumara villages and cave dwellings. A popular overnight excursion is to the fascinating 18th-century silver mining town at the bottom of the Copper Canyon. Creel is the largest town in the canyon and offers accommodation, restaurants, Tarahumara craft shops, tours and guides. Situated high in a valley, the cool mountain air at 7,669 feet (2,340m) makes a pleasant escape from the humidity on the coast.

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