Exploring Mexico's Copper Canyon & Chiapas On Foot
The landscapes of Mexico provide perfect terrain for adventure pursuits such as rafting, biking and trekking. Two areas which are particularly spectacular for trekking are Chiapas and the Copper Canyon.
San Cristobal de las Casas is an attractive colonial town that acts as a hub for the surrounding countryside. The highlands are home to the Tzotzil and Tzeltal Indian descendants of the Maya. Mexico tours often stop at nearby villages such as San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan so that travelers can observe indigenous traditions and purchase authentic arts and crafts.
Keen trekkers can warm up with an exploration of San Cristobal and perhaps indulge in the local specialty of posh; a fruit punch with cane liquor.
Sumidero Canyon can be viewed by boat from the Grijalva River. Alongside the towering walls of rock visitors can see crocodiles, elegant white egrets and stunning water features such as the Christmas Tree Waterfall. The trip is a wonderful appetizer for those about to trek into the heart of this verdant and awe inspiring landscape.
The Montebello Lakes are a series of over fifty lakes across Mexico and Guatemala. The Lakes of Colours are the principal selection, named for the blue and green hues of their waters such as Emerald Lake and Blue Forest Lake. The beautiful mountain landscape, tranquility and especially the bright colored waters give the sense of being in another world altogether. Laguna Canada in the Cinco Lagunas selection is notable for the cobalt blue color of its waters.
The Lacandona Jungle stretches across Chiapas into Guatemala. Despite being a vital habitat for many species of wildlife and birds the forest is under threat from agricultural and industrial activities. Closer to the center of the forest the damage is not as evident. Las Nubes waterfall on the Santo Domingo River with its turquoise waters is a startlingly beautiful reminder of the power and magnificence of nature. The spectacle here as well as the walks though nature rich forest areas bring into sharp focus how important the efforts of reserves and conservation projects are. One example is Las Guacamayas which is devoted to habitat conservation for the Scarlet Macaw. Look out for sightings of the Macaws as well as rare orchids and playful howler monkeys.
Hiking through the rainforest is a great way to combine adventure with conservation and learning with exploration. The nearby Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve is a good place to try and spot a jaguar.
Located within swathes of dense green jungle is the archaeological site Bonampak with its famous murals. Trekking or rafting along the Lacanja River is the ideal way to get to such sites. Mexico vacations in this area would not be complete without a trek around sites such as Yaxchitlan and Palenque. Round off your experience with a dip in the turquoise waters around the Misol-Ha jungle waterfall.
Copper Canyon is reached via the world famous Chihuahua Pacific Railroad, known locally as El Chepe. The railroad was almost ninety years in the making and is considered a marvel of engineering. The railroad begins in Los Mochis and terminates in Chihuahua City but many passengers get on in El Fuerte, noted for its colonial ambiance, to explore the town and the surrounding area along the El Fuerte River.
Trekkers usually get off the train at Posada Barrancas, a high point in the sierras. The view of the sun setting and then the moon rising with the canyons below leaves even the most experienced travelers awe-struck.
Hikes through the sierra are truly unforgettable. Travelers will be surrounded by rich wildlife and flora that varies as the elevation changes. The Copper Canyon is home to the Tarahumara or Raramuri Indians who are noted for their athleticism. Their villages are so widely spaced out that they have developed an ability to run long distances often across difficult terrain.
Urique Canyon is the deepest canyon in the Sierra at nearly 2,000 metres in height. Urique Canyon is particularly splendid from vantage points in the village of Cerocahui. The view across the green walls and valley below with the silver ribbon of Urique River running through is an awe-inspiring high-point to any Mexico vacation.
Many trekkers make the town of Creel the last stop of their Copper Canyon hiking tour. This logging town offers a last chance to buy souvenirs before heading on to Chihuahua.