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North America > Mexico > Northern Mexico > Sonora > El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar National Biosphere Reserve
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Crater Elegante

El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar National Biosphere Reserve (Spanish: Reserva de la biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar) is a biosphere reserve and WV-Unesco-icon-small.svg UNESCO World Heritage Site in the state of Sonora in Northern Mexico.



Volcanoes have erupted sporadically for about 4 million years. The most recent activity was about 11,000 years ago. From 1965 to 1970, NASA sent its astronauts here to train for future lunar excursions given the similarities of the terrain to the lunar surface.


The park stands out for its unique physical and biological characteristics, for the presence of a volcanic shield, as well as for the extensive areas of active dunes that surround it and for the greater concentration of Maar type craters.

The Sierra del Pinacate has orogenic characteristics of great interest due to its abrupt conformation, the product of frequent volcanic eruptions that accumulated lava in compact rocks, sand and volcanic ash, igneous rocks in which weathering has produced colors of special beauty and craters such as El Elegant, Cerro Colorado, MacDougal and Sykes.

Flora and fauna[edit]

The park is home to 40 species of mammals, 200 birds, 40 reptiles, as well as amphibians and freshwater fish. The park also includes endemic, threatened and endangered species such as the Sonoran pronghorn, the bighorn sheep, the Gila monster and the desert tortoise.


Get in[edit]

Fees and permits[edit]

Get around[edit]


  • 1 Schuk Toak Museum (Museo Schuk Toak), +52 6383831433. 09:00-17:00, closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Small but modern museum with videos and exhibits detailing the Biosphere's history and landscape. Content is available in English or Spanish. M$60 for adults, free for kids (6 and younger).









Stay safe[edit]

Go next[edit]

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