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Mexico’s largest state, Chihuahua, doesn’t have a stellar reputation for safety, nor does it have quite the flourishing tourist industry that nearby destinations such as Baja California enjoy. However, it is home to the world’s largest canyon system, the Barrancas del Cobre, as well as numerous other museums and natural attractions. Here’s our pick of the top experiences around.
As mentioned above, the Barrancas del Cobre – known as the Copper Canyon in English – is easily the biggest and best attraction in Chihuahua, and can be accessed via Mexico’s only commercial passenger train, El Chepe, which departs from Los Mochis in Sinaloa. Splurge for the first class ticket so you can hop on and off at various stops along the route and take advantage of the canyons and surrounds.
As well as canyons, Chihuahua is also home to a number of cave systems. Two of the most notable are the Grutas Nombre de Dios (Name of God Caves) and the Grutas de Coyame (Coyame Caves). The former set of caves, which are full of stalagmites and stalactites, are located just 15 minutes from the capital city, and only take an hour to explore fully. The latter set of caves, which are known for their fossils, are just 2km (1.2 miles) away from the town of Coyame and can also be explored in an hour.
In and amongst all the natural beauty of the state, it’s important not to overlook the appeal of Chihuahua City itself. There are a wealth of historic buildings here that you can explore while in the capital, including the 19th-century Palacio de Gobierno, the cathedral, and the Belle Epoque-era Quinta Gameros building, which is also a museum.
Beyond marvelling at the buildings from the outside, there are also tons of museum options for history buffs in Chihuahua City, which enjoyed a brief stint as capital of the Mexican Republic. This period from history can be further explored at the Museo Casa de Juárez, or Museo Casa de Villa (Pancho Villa’s former abode). Then there’s Casa Chihuahua, which has exhibits about the indigenous Tarahumara people, as well as the Mormons and Mennonites that made Chihuahua State their home.
If you’re not that keen on history and would rather take a look at some art instead, then Chihuahua City still has you covered. After all, one of Mexico’s most accomplished and recognised sculptors, Sebastián, is from Chihuahua. You can see his work at various places around the city, at the eponymous Casa Sebastián, and at the Poliforum de UACH where his sculptures rub shoulders with the work of fellow Chihuahuense artist Águeda Lozano.
Valle de los Monjes is one of the Copper Canyon’s best attractions, and therefore, one of the coolest things to see in Chihuahua as a whole. Also known as the Valle de Bisabírachi, the ‘Valley of the Monks’ contains a number of towering (up to 60m (197 feet) tall!) natural sculptures, shaped by a combination of strong winds, sun and rain, as well as abrupt geological shifts. It’s known as the Valley of the Monks because some of the figures resemble monks.
Sometimes people forget that Chihuahua is a vast desert state, but it is – and that means there are plenty of opportunities to venture out into the sand dunes while you’re in the area. The Dunas de Samalayuca are one of Chihuahua’s most underrated attractions, where adventure sports are all the rage – sandboarding, motocross and ATV activities are perhaps the most popular options. However, don’t even think about going in spring, summer or before the sun begins to set – it is a desert after all.
Chihuahua is home to the two largest waterfalls in Mexico, as well as a handful of smaller ones too. While the tallest, the Piedra Volada, is tricky to reach and only accessible on foot, the second – Cascada Basaseachi – is totally worth a visit and lies just a few hours outside of Creel. Similarly, the much smaller but equally as picturesque Cascada Cusárare is another great waterfall day trip option.
Sometimes written as Lake Arareco, the U-shaped Lago de Arareko is situated in the dramatic Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, some 14km (8.7 miles) outside of Creel, not far from the aforementioned Cascada Cusárare. Take advantage of the beautiful pine trees and gorgeous surrounds to enjoy horseback riding or rowing on the lake while you’re there.
For a more ‘catch all’ entry, why not check out the Cumbres de Majalca National Park when in Chihuahua State? After all, this protected reserve has a little something for everyone, including hikers, climbers and even animal lovers – it’s one of the few places you might be able to spot black bears in Mexico. It’s also conveniently close to Chihuahua City.