The magnificent Chihuahua-Pacific Railway runs 418 miles (673km) from inland Chihuahua (Chihuahua) to Los Mochis (Sinaloa) on the Pacific coast of Mexico through breath-taking scenery, taking approximately 16 hours one way. I was lucky enough to do this incredible journey many years ago during my year out from the University of Birmingham (where I did a degree in Hispanic Studies and spent a semester in Mexico and a semester in Brazil during my third year).
The train itself was very comfortable – I caught the train aimed at tourists, rather than local passengers… it is significantly quicker (it makes far fewer stops) and more comfortable, but is more expensive (obviously!).
The first significant stop is at Creel, a town half way into the journey where many people choose to alight and spend a night or two. Be warned: Creel is at fairly high altitude and night-times can get pretty chilly at any time of year… I wore socks in bed and kept the heating cranked up all night! Whilst my trip was taken in November, Chihuahua – where I had started my journey only a few hours earlier – had been warm and sunny, so the cold was a bit of a shock!
There is not much to see and do in Creel itself – in fact it was pretty deserted when I visited. The attraction for travellers of spending a night or two in Creel is the trips on offer from here down into the Copper Canyon (Spanish: Barranca del Cobre). For me, the draw was the opportunity to visit the Tarahumara people who live in caves deep in the canyon and who are famed for their phenomenal long-distance running skills. I took an insightful trip which offered a fascinating glimpse into the lives of these Native American people living in this remote but picturesque location. We visited a traditional cave house, the 400 year old mission church of San Ignacio and saw some interesting rock formations in the canyon.
After a night at a basic but warm hostel in Creel, I got back on the train and continued my journey towards Mexico’s Pacific coast…
The timetable includes a photo stop at Divisadero, where you can get off the train to take in the stunning views down into the Copper Canyon and grab some food from the one of the many street vendors waiting for the train to pull in. And the freshly made, hot tacos were very, very good… The views down into this huge canyon from here were amazing and you can easily spend 15 minutes (which is how long the scheduled stop is) in Divisadero snapping away before it’s time to get back on the train and continue onwards…
The rest of the journey was smooth and the scenery was sublime – I could quite happily have sat there for days just watching the changing landscape flashing by. But all too soon it was over and I found myself in the coastal resort of Los Mochis… but that’s a story for another day!