If it weren’t for neighbouring Chihuahua, Sonora State would be considered the largest in Mexico. And yet, it’s one that most visitors (especially non-US-based visitors) often overlook, despite the fact it has a prime coastal position, as well as sprawling expanses of desert. In combination, these two elements allow Sonora its remarkable diversity and offer much for travellers seeking a different side to Mexico. Here are ten things to see and do in Sonora.
Puerto Peñasco, AKA Rocky Point, is possibly the most frequented and best known tourist destination in Sonora State. It’s actually so popular among landlocked US-border-state citizens that it’s colloquially known as Arizona Beach! It’s little wonder visitors flock to the gorgeous shores of Puerto Peñasco, as there’s plenty to do there, from paddleboarding to whale watching.
You should also consider heading inland and giving the capital, Hermosillo, a slot in your itinerary too. After all, Hermosillo is home to a beautiful cathedral, as well as several intriguing museums and galleries. Visit the Museo Musas, a Sonoran art museum that has regularly rotating art exhibitions, or check out the indigenous art at Casa Hoeffer. Finally, you absolutely can’t visit Hermosillo without taking a trip to the Cerro de la Campana and catching a Sonoran sunset.
While most of the better-known northern music festivals are to be found in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Hermosillo also has its very own, in the form of the Festival Sonoro. The lineup tends to consist of local artists, with big names such as Cartel de Santa, Zoé and Porter having featured in the past. If you want to get au fait with some local musicians, this is the place to do so.
One of Sonora’s coolest (figuratively speaking) natural attractions is the El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve, which combines ever-shifting sand dunes with spectacular volcanic craters to create a landscape like no other. Given its location in the heart of the Sonoran desert, getting there can be tricky (and you should only schedule a trip during the cooler winter months), but the vistas make it worthwhile.
Sonorenses will wax lyrical for hours about the fantastic food to be found in their home state. So, leaving without trying one of the enormous, paper-thin flour tortillas (sobaqueras) would be a crime, as it would be to not indulge in a ‘Mexican burrito’, the giant burro percherón. Don’t forget to sip on some bacanora (Sonoran mezcal) either, and definitely order a street hotdog (dogo) as well. Seriously.
If you’re in town with children and need some fresh air, take a trip to the Laguna del Nainari. There, you can feed the ducks, have a picnic and maybe even squeeze in a light jog while you’re at it, all in the company of locals doing just the same.
To escape the city, pencil in a stop at one of Sonora State’s two magic towns, or pueblos mágicos; Álamos and Magdalena del Kino. The former is found in the south of the state and has a charming colonial air and cute downtown, while the latter is the resting place of famed missionary Padre Eusebio Kino and a great base if you want to explore the wider Sonora River Valley.
Close to San Carlos, another popular Sonoran beach destination, you’ll find the Nacapule Canyon. While it’s not as impressive as neighbouring Chihuahua’s Copper Canyons, the Nacapule Canyon still offers some fun hiking opportunities, birdwatching potential and all-round beautiful views, right on the edge of the Sonoran desert.
We already discussed the great views to be had over Hermosillo from the Cerro de la Campana, but, while you’re in the San Carlos area, you must take advantage and head to the Mirador San Carlos too. After all, National Geographic considers this spot to have the world’s best ocean view. Stop by and find out for yourself just why that is!
Finally, for hardcore twitchers or even just casual birdwatchers, there’s nowhere quite like Sonora for spotting native and non-native winged creatures. While the mainland has tonnes to offer (like the aforementioned Nacapule Canyon), opportunities off the mainland are arguably even better. Head to Isla San Jorge, where you can also catch a glimpse of sea lions, or take a boat ride to Isla Tiburón.