Chihuahua, Mexico – a place not to avoid

Chihuahua, Mexico – a place not to avoid

How’s that for a compliment?

I really had no idea what to expect on Chihuahua, the internet being surprisingly void of information on this city in Northern Mexico. But it was the starting point of my Copper Canyon adventures and I left myself a day and a half to explore and get a feel for Chihuahua.

vector Mexico - map of United Mexican States

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Impressions of Chihuahua

 

1. Desert landscapes

landing in Chihuahua, Mexico

Chihuahua lies in the Chihuahuan Desert, a dry, desert landscape of plains and mountain ranges – and much hotter temps than Central Mexico (it was 35C or 95F when we landed). This is a new region of Mexico for me and while I’ve seen mountains, cactus, and dry plains in other parts of Mexico, the area surrounding Chihuahua is the real desert characterized by wide open spaces. That’s what struck me. It reminds me of so many cowboy movies I’ve seen.

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2.  A city that feels like a town

building in Chihuahua

Chihuahua has a population slightly less than a million and is the 12th largest city in Mexico. You would never know it. It feels like a town. Most of the streets are wide, the buildings low (mostly one storey). Modern buildings (there are not so many) are mostly concentrated next to the historical center, which was a 10 minute walk from my hotel. It felt very quiet, spread out, and – until you reached the area surrounding the Plaza de Armas in the historical center – it felt like there was no one around.

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3. You’re in Cowboy Country

Mexican cowboys and cowgirls in Chihuahua

You’ll see men wearing cowboy hats, cowboy shirts, all driving around in pickups. There are lots of ranches all over the area and this area of Northern Mexico is renowned for great steak. Walk around town and you’ll see tons of stores selling cowboy boots, cowboy hats and leather belts. Add to that the low storey buildings and taverns and it really feels like cowboy country.

one of many stores selling cowboy boots in Chihuahua, Mexico

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4. Chihuahua has some interesting attractions

plaza de armas, chihuahua, mexico

Chihuahua has some surprisingly nice attractions. Like every Mexican city it has a lively main square located next to the main cathedral. In Chihuahua’s case, the main square is Plaza de Armas and it is right next to Chihuahua Cathedral (very impressive). Walking down a few pedestrian-only streets in the area you get to Palacio del Gobierno (Government Palace of Chihuahua – it houses the executive offices of the governor of the state of Chihuahua). Beautiful building and you can walk inside for free. It’s not a large historic center but it is pretty and has a comfortable feel. I like that so much of it is pedestrianized. I walked around the area for the better part of 2 days, sitting in the park in front of the Cathedral in the early evening and watching families strolling around with their kids. Very pleasant.

Below: Chihuahua Cathedral

catedral, chihuahua, Mexico

catedral, chihuahua interior photos, Mexico

Chihuahua Cathedral

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Below: Palacio del Gobierno

palacio del govierno, chihuahua, Mexico

palacio del govierno interior, chihuahua, Mexico

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A little outside the center
, I visited the Historical Museum of the Mexican Revolution which largely concentrates on the role of Francisco “Pancho” Villa as one of the most important figures in the revolution. The museum is housed in what was his private villa and visiting it is as much about stepping back in history as it is about learning about the Mexican revolution. Very much recommended. Also slightly outside the center is the incredible Quinta Gameros, a mansion built in Art Nouveau style by one of the government elites at the time (the grotesque wealth on display is exactly what Pancho Villa fought against). It will make your jaw drop.

Below: Mural at the Historical Museum of the Mexican Revolution

Mural at Pancho Villa, Mexico Revolution Museum

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Below: the incredible Quinta Gameros

Quinta Gameros, Chihuahua, Mexico

Quinta Gameros interior photos, Chihuahua, Mexico

Quinta Gameros detail, Chihuahua, Mexico

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5. People in Chihuahua are friendly

colourful restaurant in chihuahua

I read that Chihuahuans (I hope I have that right) are friendly. They are. Very laid back as well which kind of fits into the whole décor of the city. I saw very few other western tourists in my two days there – but whenever I walked into a restaurant or café I was always warmly welcomed.

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I’m not going to tell you that you have to visit Chihuahua, it’s not Puebla, Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende or Guanajuato. It’s not a place to go out of your way for. But if you’re going to the Copper Canyon don’t avoid the city – I quite enjoyed it and you probably would as well.

 

Practical Info

Where I stayed: Hotel San Felipe el Real. Use this booking.com link to get the best price.
Eating: La Casona for great steak and atmosphere (recommended by a Texan friend who knows steak).
Taxi downtown from the airport: the going rate should be 150 Pesos. My taxi driver tried asking for 250. There’s no taxi meter so fix the price before you get in the cab,
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Comments

  1. Chihuahua looks like the kind of place I might like, should I ever consider visiting Mexico. It’s not touristy, people live/work there and from your description (low storey buildings), “big city” atmosphere is at a minimum. Yeah, nice.
    Ted recently posted…Transconning the USA in 1968My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I think you’d be one of the few Westerners Ted. I’m surprised, after just completing the El Chepe train ride yesterday, at how few non-Mexican tourists I’ve seen. They are so nice though and as a solo traveler on this trip I think I got special attention. Love the Mexicans.

  2. Is that dog really painted on the building!? How cute is that… though, not my favourite breed…ssshh. I missed seeing Chihuahua, I regret it now after reading your post!
    Jane recently posted…Grampians – Things To Do With KidsMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Yes, it’s a HUGE mural. They’re definitely not the most intelligent breed. They had 2 at our hotel in Creel and they would bark at me like I was a stranger every time I came back from somewhere. Unlike in Split where our neighbor has a collie – from after the 1st time she saw us she recognized us and has never barked since.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Chihuahua, Mexico – a place not to avoidMy Profile

  3. Thanks for the introduction to this Northern spot in Mexico. Love the photo of the blue building and the boots all up for trying. Amazing architecture!

    Peta

  4. I’m pretty sure l would love the city. It sounds great to me. I love the cowboy feel mixed with the colors. Sort of how l feel Texas should be as opposed to loads of subdivisions. I definitely wouldn’t avoid Chihuahua, I might actually go out of my way to see it. The cathedral is gorgeous :-). Hope you’re having fun down there :-).
    Kemkem recently posted…Cool Useful Krakow Guide For Mature PeopleMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      You used to live in Texas didn’t you Kemkem?
      My first experience with cowboy country but kind of liked it as well 🙂
      Some of the churches in Mexico stupendous, I was just in Guadalajara yesterday and you wouldn’t believe the incredible churches.

  5. Looks like a pretty town that’s a great place to buy cowboy gear…. did you load up on tack Frank? lol. My parents have been wanting to go to Copper Canyon, but they keep putting it off. The train doesn’t run through it anymore,so they told me, that’s a shame. Looking forrward to your post on it.
    Paula recently posted…What You Need To Know Before You GoMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Paula!
      What do you mean the train doesn’t run through Copper Canyon? I’ve just spent the last week riding El Chepe from Chihuahua to Los Michos on the Pacific Coast. Along the way I stopped in Creel for some tours and the Divisadero where you get views over the whole canyon. Incredible. Did some hiking there as well as the longest zipline in the world.
      One of the best trips I’ve ever taken and I was amazed by how few foreign tourists there were – mostly Mexicans visiting their own country and they were great.
      Fantastic trip and your parents should do it.

  6. Maybe my folks are losing their minds, Idk, I’ve never looked into it. Glad it’s still running. I know they wanted to load their motor home on the train, maybe that’s what they stopped doing. Sounds like fun. I’ll tell my parents to book their trip. Looking fwd to your post it sounds like you had a blast…and I’ll send my parents on over to read it, but they don’t read mine, so don’t hold your breath lol.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      It’s a great trip, not just for the sights but you’re also basically crossing half a country, going from desert, to semi-arid, to pine forest, through incredible mountain ranges and then finishing through green flat fields and palm trees. And if they’re interested in history there’s also some incredible history behind the building of the rail line.
      I have a background in the transportation industry so for me it was something that really ended up being an educational experience. It’s amazing all the tunnels and bridges, and all the points where the train is basically running along a narrow ledge above a river while high canyons soar above you.
      Anyway, I’ll be writing much more about it. But it really was, at least for me, a once in a lifetime experience.
      PS. The El Chepe website

  7. Yippie Ki Yay to the cowboy hats, boots and pickup trucks! Chihuahua sounds beastly hot and, like you said, something out of an old B-movie western. In short, it sounds a lot like south Texas where we lived for 10 years. I loved your photos of the Plaza de Armas and the Chihuahua Cathedral but I think I’d be heading to the Historical Museum of the Mexican Revolution right off the bat. Such a fascinating time in history with larger-than-life heroes and villains. Is it just me or does the fabulous gem, Quinta Gameros look a lot exotic and a little out of place in Chihuahua? Thanks for the intro to this off-the-radar city. If we get a chance to ride the train through the Copper Canyon, I’ll definitely make a stopover in Chihuahua!
    Anita recently posted…Kutna Hora: Medieval Beauty and Bones, Flying Buttresses and Frescoes, Gothic Splendor and GargoylesMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Yes, Quinta Gemeros totally out of place.
      Speaking of which, I remember watching The Apprentice many years ago and in one episode Trump was showing off his condo (if you can call it that) in Manhattan. I don’t know if I’ve seen anything as kitshy and over the top in my life. Like he was Louis XIV or something. That should have told people a lot about him. And now this guy is American president? unfrigginbelievable.
      Anyway, that just came to mind when you mentioned it being out of place.

      Met a very interesting man from Marfa Texas on the train who I’m mention on my post on El Chepe. He said the same thing about this region being very much like south Texas (it’s all part of the Chihuahuan desert). My first time to the region and I liked that kind of desolate geography.

Thanks for reading! Feedback is always appreciated!

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