Many people have traveled to Mexico, but few have really explored it. America’s next door neighbor to the south has a vast diversity of natural landscapes, cultural heritage, and hidden beach getaways for authenticity-seeking travelers.
Beyond the cruise ports of call and all-inclusive resorts, Mexico invites visitors to dig deep. Here are a few ideas for avoiding the mass-tourism resort enclaves and finding a Mexican adventure outside the package-deal box.
Train Journey Through the Copper Canyon
For railroad aficionados, history buffs, and admirers of rugged canyon scenery, the Copper Canyon by train is a Mexico must-see. Hailed as a the most scenic train ride on the continent, this 408-mile route makes for a beautiful journey through one of Mexico’s lesser-known landscapes in the topographically gifted northwest of the country. On board, you’ll cross 37 bridges and pass through 86 tunnels. The train climbs steep stretches via a series of hairpin switchback curves.
The roots of the Copper Canyon railroad run all the way back to early 20th century. The railroad was designed to link the cities of Chihuahua and the port of Topolobampo and everything in between. Its colorful history references dreamers like Albert Kimsey Owen, who was seeking to develop a utopian socialist colony. Construction began in 1900 and wasn’t fully completed until 1960. The route is nicknamed El Chepe and serves as an important transport conduit for cargo and passengers alike.
Planning tip: Starting in Chihuahua, plan your journey on the faster passenger train (it makes fewer stops than the slower local passenger train). Break up the 16-hour ride into several days—there are inviting lodge options at all the major stops along the way.
Colonial City of Guanajuato
Another “heartland of Mexico” experience that’s off the tourist map is Guanajuato. The city is nestled in a valley in the Sierra de Guanajuato Mountains, and features underground tunnels, funicular-style elevators, and a mummy museum. These are just a few of the intrigues that keep visitors coming to this city in the hills!
When you arrive at Guanajuato, it’s no wonder why the city has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can wander the labyrinthine cobblestone streets to hear echoes of Mariachi music in one of the places it first emerged. Take in some of the earliest and most colorful examples of Mexican Baroque architecture, or peel back the layers of history to the 1600s silver mining era.
Planning tip: Guanajuato adds a romantic touch to your Mexico adventure. Be sure to find the Callejón del Beso (Alley of he Kiss) and read the love legend behind it—before locking lips with your special someone.
Beach Relaxation in San Carlos, Sonora
Away from the major resort towns, San Carlos offers the best of beaches, golf, and mountain outdoors—minus the droves of tourists. Here, the Sea of Cortez features shallow bays with shallow, clear and calm water. Conditions are perfect for snorkeling and diving. Fishing is also a popular pastime.
Planning tip: Located in northern Mexico, Sonora is close enough that you can drive there from the United States! San Carlos is about a six-hour drive from the border on Mexican interstate Highway 15.