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Copper Canyon Railway and Baja Coast

9 days from £1896pp

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Copper Canyon Railway and Baja Coast:
Trip Dossier

This holiday combines the exhilarating train ride along the rim and through the gorges of ultra-photogenic Copper Canyon, in Mexico’s desert interior, with the sun-kissed beaches of Baja California where you’ll find vestiges of colonial Spain and a thriving community of artists.

Inland from Mexico's west coast the seemingly fathomless Copper Canyon cuts a swathe through the barren desert crust. You’ll ride world-famous railway traversing this route, with views of some of the continent's most spectacular mountain scenery. There are a score of ravines and gorges, and an infinite variety of landscape and vegetation from snow-dusted peaks smothered in conifers to sub-tropical citrus groves.

Mexico’s Baja California is a finger of desert stretching 1,300km south from California, separated from the Mexican mainland by the Sea of Cortés. The southern tip, with its chalk-white sands and translucent aquamarine seas, attracts visitors from all over the world, especially the US and Europe. But instead of staying at a large beach resort you will be based in the colonial centre of arty San José del Cabo, where there are plenty of outdoor and cultural activities to choose from.

Copper Canyon Railway departure schedules are subject to change, which could result in alterations to the described itinerary.  Our expert Travel Consultants will be able to advise you if this is the case at the time of booking.   

 

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Mexico City, transfer to hotel in the city centre.

Day 2

Fly to Chihuahua in northwest Mexico.

Day 3

Transfer to the Railway station and board the train to Creel

Day 4

Travel by train to Posada Barrancas station. Overnight on the edge of the canyon.

Day 5

Continue by rail to El Fuerte

Day 6

Fly from Los Mochis to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California. Transfer to hotel in San José del Cabo.

Day 7-8

At leisure in Los Cabos.

Day 9

Transfer to the airport for flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Mexico City, transfer to hotel in the city centre.
 

Transfer to your hotel in the historic centre of the city. Mexico City, known by the local people simply as ‘DF’ (Distrito Federal), was built on the site of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, and it lies at 2,250m above sea level. Vast, chaotic and vibrant, this sprawling megalopolis of more than 20 million people has a multitude of attractions.

Mexico City . Palacio Bel Artes

Day 2

Fly to Chihuahua in northwest Mexico.
 

Fly to Chichuahua in northwest of the country in the afternoon (2.5hrs); overnight here. Now a rather unprepossessing industrial town it does have an interesting historical centre and some grand mansions in the suburbs.

Day 3

Transfer to the Railway station and board the train to Creel
 
Board the train at Chihuahua railway station. The modern wagons have comfortable and spacious seats - although you'll no doubt spend majority of your time pinned up or even hanging out an open window to catch the otherworldly scenery.

At each station where you disembark for the night you’ll find things to do: we can pre-book some of these services for you or you can arrange them locally.

Begin your rail adventure passing through large open plains home to grazing cattle, rustic vineyards and the occasional small industrial town. This gentle scenery makes way for more dramatic mountainous landscapes as you head towards the gateway town of Creel for the night - this journey takes about 5 hours.

Train journey from Chihuahau to Creel

Day 4

Travel by train to Posada Barrancas station. Overnight on the edge of the canyon.
 
Board the next day’s train. The rail journey to Divisadero station takes about two hours, looping out of the canyon onto a pine-wooded sandy plateau. This is the most dramatic stretch of the canyon.

You can make a short stop here to gasp at the superlative views from a dizzying lookout point; you'll probably be met by indigenous Tarahumara indians selling hand crafted gifts. If you prefer, you can return to this point from Posada Barrancas during your stay to experience the spectacular cable car and or zipline across the Canyon.

The cable car is one of the most dramatic in the world, flying over ravines and boulder fields: at several points you are hanging at 450m above ground level. If you are feeling even more adventurous, whizz along seven ziplines and two hanging bridges down into the canyon: the trip takes about 90minutes. It’s quite a daunting prospect but there’s a guide with you at all times. The most extensive zip line is 1,130m long. From the bottom of the canyon you might take the cable car back up.

Climb back onto the train for the 10 minute ride to Posada Barrancas station.

Train Journey to Posada Barrancas

Day 5

Continue by rail to El Fuerte
 

Get ready for your third day on the tracks. This is the most spectacular section of the whole journey as the train sweeps round bends, crosses cantilever and box-girder bridges, disappears into and re-emerges from tunnels and climbs switchbacks as it snakes its way down the cliff face, eventually arriving in El Fuerte. The day’s rail journey is about 5.5hrs.

Copper Canyon Train Journey

Day 6

Fly from Los Mochis to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California. Transfer to hotel in San José del Cabo.
 
From the pretty, colonial town of El Fuerte you'll be driven to Los Mochis airport - about 90 minutes along good paved roads. As you head away from the arid mountains, the latter part of the journey passes working farms and fertile sugar cane and maize fields.

You’ll be flying to Baja California by light aircraft. From Los Cabos airport it’s a 20 minute drive to San José del Cabo on the southern coast.

San José del Cabo is Cabo San Lucas’s pretty sister. It’s about a half hour’s drive from the other Cabo and about 20 minutes from the airport. Away from the “zona hotelera” on the coast (Holiday Inn etc) travel up up an elegant tree-lined boulevard from the coast (pristine surf beaches with no facilities but sheltering a pretty lagoon with birdlife) to the preserved colonial centre on a small hill.

Here, off a large main square, there is a grid of pretty, restored colonial buildings, many of which are now art galleries and craft and silver jewellery shops. Every Thursday night from 5-9pm there is an Art Walk where the streets are closed to traffic and all the art shops and galleries are open, often with the artists in situ. There is live music, cafés are open and the pavements are full of strolling vendors.

Cabo San Lucas

Day 7-8

At leisure in Los Cabos.
 
At leisure. There is a nature walk following the Estero creek down to the beach from the centre, with palms, reeds, coots, egrets, herons and other birds lining the route. It is little used and unsigned, to get to it you have to go past the sewerage station, not a very attractive start. But you can walk down to the beach this way and back via the palm lined boulevard or pick up a taxi at Holiday Inn at the end of the path.

The beaches themselves, away from the enclosed resort hotels, are clean, broad, and unspoilt. There are no facilities, but for deserted beach lovers they are perfect. You can stroll along the surf-strafed shoreline or go horse-riding along the sands.

In the winter months you can take an excursion to observe the grey whales which pass through en route to and from Alaska (Dec-Mar). Kayaking trips are available all year round.

If you are interested in art, you might visit Todos Santos, a little town about 90 minutes’s drive from Cabo. It is situated in an oasis, surrounded by coconut palm groves with avocado, mango and papaya trees. The town was once a sugar cane production centre but went into decline. A paved road to La Paz built in the 1980s made it accessible again and now it is centre of arts and culture, a magnet for culturally-inclined ex-pat Americans, many of whom live in the area. It is claimed there are currently 15 art galleries and as many restaurants. A highlight is the walk down a 2km long sandy path lined by coconuts and mango trees to a beautiful surfers’ beach set in dunes. There are absolutely no facilities here: just a few dog walkers.

Horse riding along beach

Day 9

Transfer to the airport for flight home.
 

Essential information

Accomodation

In Mexico City is a well-located and good quality Holiday Inn, with all the facilities you’d expect from this superior chain of no-nonsense business and leisure hotels. The hotels on the Copper Canyon route are acceptable medium class properties perfectly positioned for hopping on and off the train.

The hotel in San José del Cabo is a charming hotel in a, owner-operated, Spanish colonial house with a distinctive Mexican style.

Vaccination

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following; typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Transport

Two domestic flights (one on Aero Calfia’s Cessna or Caravan fleet; Los Mochis to el Cabo flight is on a jet taking 2.5hrs), 3 train journeys, 2 – 5.5hrs per day.

Meals

Breakfast daily; dinner day 3; full board day 4.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Summary of nights

9 days, 8 nights: Mexico City 1; Chihuahua 1; Creel 1; Posada Barrancas 1; El Fuerte 1; San José del Cabo 3.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Mexico is the Mexican peso.

Daily Spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$40 will cover food, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques (American Express are the most widely accepted), though these are gradually falling out of use. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. We recommend approximately $10 per person for a half day and $20 for a full day for guides and half that for drivers.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey Grade

This holiday is suitable for people of all ages including children. The rail trip does not present problems for people of limited mobility but there are some steps to be negotiated.

Climate

In Mexico City and the mountains towns the climate is temperate all year round and, because of the altitude it never gets too hot. Temperatures can drop to freezing in Mexico City over the winter months.

The weather in the canyon varies according to altitude. Evenings can get very cold in the canyon when temperatures drop below zero, especially in Jan-Feb and there may be snow on the rim. The valley floor has a tropical climate.

On average, the warmest months of the year are Jul-Aug, during which time the daytime high temperatures will generally hover around the upper 20°s C and lower 30°s C. The night-time temperatures during these months will drop to the 20°s. From Apr-Sep, the canyons are not only hot, but they also are very humid. The oldest months are Jan-Feb.
The rainy season in the Copper Canyon is from June through September. During this time everything in the canyon is green and lush.

Baja California has 300-360 days of sunshine a year, year round temperatures in the 20°s and 30°s C tempered by sea breezes, and little rain. The sea is colder on the Pacific side because of cold currents.

Clothing and special equipment

Bring light, practical, clothing and a light-weight jumper. If you plan to eat in smart restaurants in Mexico City, although clothing is not formal (no need for jacket and tie), something quite smart would be appropriate.

Strong, comfortable shoes or trainers are advisable and you should bring insect repellant, sun block, sun glasses, goggles and swim wear if you are going to the beach.

Bear in mind luggage restrictions on the Aero Calafia Cessna flight: hand luggage is restricted to 5kg and hold luggage allows a 5kg bag free and up to an extra 10kg upon local payment of an excess baggage, space dependent.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Clients with a different nationality should refer to our Briefing Dossier and check with the Mexican Consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US, you will need to fill in an ESTA application online at ESTA online

This costs $14 per person, and must be applied for by you personally.

Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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