Chihuahua is a state in Northern Mexico. It is known for its great deserts, its snow-capped mountains and ravines covered with alpine forests, which make it well-suited for ecotourism. It also has mining towns and colonial cities that were of great importance to the history of the country.
The state is composed of desert plains in the east, and mountainous land (the Sierra Madre) in the west. A subsection of the Sierra Madre, the Sierra Tarahumara is considered by many to be the most rugged landscape in Mexico.
- 1 Chihuahua — the state capital, a modern city with a historical center
- 2 Creel — backpacker mecca, gateway to the canyonlands
- 3 Guachochi — the most important settlement in the territory of the Tarahumara or Raramuri nation in the center of the Sierra Tarahumara
- 4 Ciudad Juárez — largest border city between Texas and Mexico
- 5 Ciudad Madera — a lumber town north of Creel on the edge of the Sierra. The canyon to the west of town besides being beautiful and a great area for hiking is also filled with numerous ancient cliff dwellings of Pueblo Indians
- 6 Ojinaga – a town on the U.S. border across from the city of Presidio, Texas
- 1 Basaseachi National Park — with Basaseachic Falls, Mexico's second highest waterfall
- 2 Copper Canyon — one of the great natural attractions of Mexico. Beautiful scenery, hidden waterfalls, and timeless canyon villages
- 3 Cumbres de Majalca National Park — erosion created this rock-climbers' paradise in the forest between Chihuahua and Juarez
- 4 Lake Arareco — a U-shaped lake, surrounded by unusual rock formations, and a fragrant pine forest, about 14 km south of Creel
- 5 Paquime - archaeological site (a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site) near the town of Casas Grandes (a designated "Pueblo Magico")
- Peguis Canyon — a dramatic geologic feature near Ojinaga in the area contiguous with Big Bend National Park across the Texas border
Chihuahua is a vast area, the largest state in Mexico. Its area of 245,000 km² makes it roughly half the size of Spain or about the size of the UK. Transport costs can add up quickly in such a large rugged region.
Although Chihuahua is primarily identified with its namesake, the Chihuahuan Desert, it has more forests than any other state in Mexico, aside from Durango. Due to its variant climate, the state has a large variety of fauna and flora. The state is mostly characterized by rugged mountainous terrain and wide river valleys.
The Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, part of the continental spine that also includes the Rocky Mountains, dominates the state's terrain, and is home to the state's greatest attraction, Las Barrancas del Cobre, or Copper Canyon, a canyon system larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon.
On the slope of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains (around the regions of Casas Grandes, Cuauhtémoc and Parral), there are vast prairies of short yellow grass, the source of the bulk of the state's agricultural production. Most of the inhabitants live along the Rio Grande Valley, and the Conchos River Valley.
A basic understanding of Spanish, while not necessary, will make your visit much smoother and more enjoyable. Those traveling in tour groups are often accompanied by an English-speaking guide.
Tarahumara living in remote areas will often speak only their native language and very limited Spanish. There are also other areas where Mennonites live and their own language (based on German and Dutch) is used: for instance, Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, where the largest Mennonite community is.
From the United States
- Ports of entry from Texas are located at El Paso-Juarez and Presidio-Ojinaga.
- Entry from New Mexico is possible on NM Route 11 south of Columbus at Puerto Palomas.
Juarez is a major bus station with several first-class and smaller second-class bus lines serving the city of Chihuahua and other destinations in bordering states.
Chihuahua is a vast land of desert and wide open spaces. Distances between towns can be long and public transit more limited than in populated areas.
A car is your best bet for getting around Chihuahua. The Chihuahenses bus line (part of Grupo Senda) operates throughout the state. The Chepe train is the best way to travel from the city of Chihuahua to Creel, Divisadero, or west to Los Mochis and the Gulf of California.
- Ancient cave-dwellings, at Paquime (near Casas Grandes) — inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
- Mennonite colony around Cuahtemoc - The largest in the world. Well known for a variety of farm products, especially its cheeses and apples.
- Rock-climbing and rappelling in the states many canyons and rock formations.
Chihuahua is not as well known for its crafts and artisans as some of the southern states that are generally preferred by tourists. But western wear (boots, hats, and shirts) as well as saddles and tack are of high quality and fairly priced. Finding appropriate sizes may be a challenge for some visitors.
- Pottery - Pottery made in the pueblo at Mata Ortiz is considered to be some of the best in the world.
- Cheese made by the Mennonites in the north of the state should also be tried and is famous throughout Mexico and the Southwest United States.
- Vanilla and tequila are good values and are worth taking home.
- Burritos with various fillings.
- Caldo de oso - Spicy dish with chilies and fish.
- Empanadas de Santa Rita - Stuffed with pork fried with onions, almonds, raisins.
- Gorditas de cuajada - Small corn tortillas covered with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and egg and cooked in an orange leaf.
- Machaca con huevo - Traditional scrambled beef and egg dish served with flour tortillas.
- Quesadillas - Tortillas grilled with white cheese and salsa.
Some travellers report that tap water here is safe, but still most tourists play it safe and buy bottled water.
- Margaritas - This world-famous tequila concoction originated here in Juarez in 1942.
The canyonlands are intolerant of incompetence. This a harsh, rugged land with a dry climate that sees wild temperature extremes. Know your limits and abilities. Don't go out into remote areas alone. The money spent to hire local guides is nearly always well-spent. Guides can introduce you to the people living back in the remote barrancas. They can also explain the cultural history of the area and some are quite familiar with the flora and fauna of the area (note there is little remaining wild fauna other than birds).
There are military checkpoints throughout remote sections of the state. Most soldiers are young but polite, all are heavily armed. There are also narcos in most remote sections of the Sierra Tarahumara. They are also heavily armed. Guides will know which sections should be avoided.
The greatest danger is probably the terrain itself. The mountains aren't especially tall, but are very steep and rugged. It is easy to twist an ankle or break a wrist out here. Medical services are few and far between. Travel in large groups usually isn't practical because of the limited supplies available in the backcountry. Rather, the preferred mode of travel would be to form small self-supporting groups.