Four times larger than the Grand Canyon yet as many times unknown Copper Canyon is undoubtedly one of Mexico’s most fascinating attractions. Located in the southwest of Chihuahua, one Mexico’s northern states and also one of the largest, it has for some reason escaped the attention of many adventure and eco-friendly travelers from around the world, which in a way is surprising as it’s within driving distance from the US, perhaps most easily from El Paso in Texas.
A Raramuri girl overlooking Copper Canyon
This said, there’s a select group of people who might be more familiar with this place than the rest because of their hobby: trail running. The success of the book called “Born to Run”, a vivid description of the Raramuri (also know as Tarahumara) indigenous people of the area and their unusual abilities for long distance endurance running as described by an outsider has put this spot on a map, and probably even more its annual Ultra-marathon of the Canyon race, a formidable opportunity and display of sportsmanship and endurance shown by competitors who run in 10, 21, 63 and 100 km marathons up and down the canyon (I ran the 21.5 km race, more about it soon!).
Visiting a Raramuri house at the bottom of the valley
A Raramuri hut at the top of Copper Canyon
But it’s not only the race that attract visitors here: the breathtaking views of the gorges is one of the most spectacular in the word, some of them reaching depths of over 1300 meters. The two most famous are known as La Barranca de La Sinforosa (where the races are held) and la barranca del cobre, which are also the most accessible. Another option is to hope on the Chepe, Mexico’s only passenger train which connect the Pacific town of Los Mochis with the state’s capital city, Chihuahua.
Cusarare waterfall. That’s me besides that drop!
Great for trekking and running, the paths that lead down the valleys are also a great opportunity to spot the evasive Raramuri: these indigenous people are well know for being extremely reserved and shy, open to little conversation, and for living in one of the county’s toughest regions. Winter temperatures can drop to -25C in the coldest months and reach over 50 in the summer. Throw in an extreme drought that’s been hitting the country and you’ll get a picture of why food has been flown here in the past few months as they were beginning to die from famine. You will see some of them living in caves or basic timber huts along the walls of the gorges- many live a several days walk into the mountains.
Overlooking Copper Canyon from the Restaurant
Cusarare waterfall and a Raramuri girl
The small town of Guachochi is where everything happens, and from where tours to other nearby natural attractions can be done. Don’t miss the Cusarare Waterfall, the Valley of the Monks and the Barrancas del Cobre Adventure Park, a zip lining/ canopy tour and sightseeing recommended only for those who like a good dose of adrenaline. As for accommodation, there are several hotels to choose from in Guachochi, where the Sinforosa Gorge is, but in Copper Gorge Hotel Mansion Tarahumara is among the best option because of location, views, style and amenities, but there are other hotels not too far away.
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The Valley of the Monks owes its name to these unusual rock formations.
A shy Raramuri girl. Whenever she saw me trying to take a picture of her she would hide behind the curtains and peek with one eye through a hole until I was looking at something else.
Hotel Mansion Tarahumara is one of the only two hotels in the area overlooking the canyon. This one is particular has an unusual medieval castle appearance, and is where I stayed at. Comfortable enough and with character, it’s a good choice.
Copper Canyon is a natural attraction that travelers with some time in their hands should not miss if possible. Not only are the views fascinating but so is the indigenous culture with its unique athletic skills. Cooler than most of the country summer months are probably the best time of the year to come (and you’ll get to see the race) yet no matter when you come you are sure to return home with some great photos and a few lessons on what it means to be superhuman yet humble at the same time.
Had you heard about Copper Canyon? Where? Are these the kinds of places you like to see when traveling? What about the Tarahumaras (or Raramuri), had you heard about them? Would you like to visit this place? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below and this post too if you like it!
My visit to Copper Canyon was part of a fam trip with the Chihuahua Tourism Bureau. I was not told to write this article or open my jaw in amazement when looking around, and the opinions in it are all my own. My stay in Hotel Mansion Tarahumara was also complimentary.
Category: Americas, Destinations, Mexico
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