Tips on visiting Creel, Copper Canyon, Mexico. And what you really have to know.

Creel is for many people the base when visiting Mexico’s Copper Canyon. It’s the tourism hub in the region. The thing however is that it is not right at the canyon. Not at all. I’ll get to that soon.

Creel is a Pueblo Magico. It’s a very small town with one main street lined with stores, restaurants, hotels, and tour outfits. It even has a bank (Santander) with a couple of ATMs. The main square is at the end of main street and is quite pretty with a bunch of little churches and a little plaza where locals sit in the park and Tarahumara women sell handicrafts. It’s a pretty enough place (but not as pretty as Patzcuaro, another Pueblo Magico town I’ve had a chance to visit).

Below: Images of Creel

 

Note: There’s not much to do in Creel itself, so if you come to Creel, the thing to do is book yourself some tours.

 

The most common tours

 

– very close to Creel:
1) Visiting the Tarahumara Cave, the Valley of the Mushrooms, the Valley of the Frogs, the Mission (church) of San Ignacio, Lake Arareko, the Elephant rock, the Cusarare waterfall.

(My note on the above: I found this tour a bit boring. Honestly, the only part I enjoyed was the Cusarare waterfall – but it’s best seen during/after rainy season. I didn’t get turned on by rocks that look like mushrooms, frogs or elephants. The visit to the Tarahumara Cave could have been interesting but instead was more about buying tourist trinkets than about learning about the Tarahumara indians).


– further away:

2)  to see Copper Canyon: the Mirador Rio Oteros, Adventure Park near Divisadero (where you can take the Teleferico), Mirador Piedra Volada, Mirador Tres Canyones, Mirador Puente Colgante, Divisadero station.

(For most, all these Miradors  – ie. viewpoints – are a highlight of Copper Canyon. But I was going to have a day and night staying there. It was my next stop. So I wasn’t going to take a tour. But if you are not planning a day in that area then you have to take this tour, it will probably be the highlight of your visit to the region).

 

3) The Thermal baths of Rekowata

(It didn’t interest me as much as other options).


4) Basaseachic Waterfall, the 2nd highest waterfall in Mexico

(I did this tour. Despite it being 2 ½ hours away, and despite it being dry season, I thought this tour was worth it. Everyone in the tour thought the same. The whole valley is beautiful and we had 2 hours of hiking down to, then back up to the waterfall. For many, 5 hours of travel might be too much…but I thought it was a spectacular site and a visit would have been even more incredible July – September after the rains).

Ps. Here’s a great video of what it looks like with more water.


5) Visiting the Mennonites, the museum and farms

(It didn’t interest me as much as other options).

 

Important: Finding a Tour

Before arriving in Creel I had contacted at least 3 tour companies that I found on the internet (Trip Advisor) inquiring about tours from Creel.  All offered private tours for 1-4 people and for a solo traveller like myself they were incredibly expensive (all were quoted in USD). Maybe they would have been fine if I had visited with 3 friends to share the cost, but travelling solo none of these tours made sense.

Forget that. Don’t do it. I ended up booking my tours with a local agency (Taramuri Tours) and they were good and a fraction of the price. Plus I got to meet other people, all Mexican and all very nice (we were 7 for the Basaseachic Falls Tour, 6 for the tour around Creel). Having a non-private tour meant the cost was cheaper per person and it was a good chance to meet some really nice people.

Costs for the tours I took:
Tour 4, Basaseachic Waterfall, 700 Pesos ie. about 39 USD (we left at 9am, we were back at 7pm)
Tour 1, the Tarahumara and sights around Creel, 400 Pesos ie. about 22 USD(we left at 9am, we were back at 2pm)

Taramuri Tours (on FB): Tel (635) 101 2915 or email manuel-loya@hotmail.com. 

(PS I’m not getting anything for this recommendation, didn’t even tell them I was a blogger).

Recommendation: reach out to Taramuri tours. Or wait until you get to Creel – you’ll see other local options and your hotel might also have some recommendations. But forget those tour companies you find on the internet who will quote you in USD. Go local.

 

Self-Made Tours around town

– rent a bike. They’ll give you a map and you go have an adventure in the area (again, ask at your hotel – there are much cheaper bike rental options than the ones listed on Trip Advisor)
– walks. You can go up Cristo Rey, you’ll have great views over town. You can also walk in the hills on the opposite side of town in the direction of Lake Arareko.
– you can rent ATV’s or ride a horse.

Below: On the first day I went for a walk in the hills around town with my friend from the hotel. We got lost. Never mistake a chihuahua for a collie because they’ll just stare at you with a dumb look on their face when you tell them “Casa! Vamonos a la casa!”.

 

Restaurants and Hotels

Although it is the main tourism hub in the region, the number of hotels surpass the number of visitors (unless you go during Mexican holidays). You will be approached about accommodation when coming off the train or you can even walk down main street and have a look at the different options. Shop around.
My only recommendation: get something on Main Street (I had booked something further away and had to walk 15 min and contend with loose dogs especially in the evening).

– There are quite a lot of restaurants in town. Over 3 days I ate at 3: Veronica’s, Tio Molcas, and La Cabana. All were good.

Below: Tio Molcas

 

 

But here is what you should know

Creel is fine, it’s a nice little town and there are lots of tours of the region that will keep you busy.
BUT, if you’re here to see the Copper Canyon you won’t see it here. I think it’s important to point that out because some of the information you find on the internet might not be clear. And chances are that if you are taking El Chepe through the region you probably really want to spend some time right at the canyon. I did that at Divisadero, my next stop, and it was the highlight of my trip.
[Divisadero is the stop right after Creel when coming from Chihuahua. It is 46km from Creel].
I just wanted to really clear up any confusion there might be about that.

Below: Views at Divisadero…no such views like this anywhere around Creel.

Note: Creel is a stop on the famous El Chepe train that goes through the Copper Canyon. A fantastic experience (one of my favorite travel experiences) which I will be writing about in detail in the near future. 

Below: El Chepe route (click to see full size)

 

Have any questions or comments? I’ll help you out best I can 🙂

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Comments

  1. That girl looks like she’s just itching to be pushed :-). Haha!! I would be bored with all those tours too. Someone should start a food tour!!!! :-).
    Kemkem recently posted…Postcard From The Land Of Haggis. ScotlandMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      It’s just that first tour that was boring really…and it’s the standard Creel tour. The other one to Basaseachic was great.
      Just imagine a plate of paella at the end of that hike Kemkem if that motivates you. For me it’s usually dreaming of a nice cold beer that keeps me going.

  2. As always, a witty round up of your latest destination! Thanks for the giggles, Frank. Really good to have information about the Canyon and proximity to Creel, reckon I need a train trip down there too!

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      The train trip was great Jane, I’d call it a journey for reasons I’ll explain. Once in a lifetime experience.

  3. Going with a local tour company is always my favourite option, I rather put my tourist dollar into the local economy like you have advised here Frank. Great tips, sometimes Trip Advisor does fail to give the full picture, nothing like talking to the locals for finding the best deals. Great photo of the smiling dog, looks like Mexico has a few stray dogs?…a problem we have in Brazil also.
    Gilda Baxter recently posted…Fifty Shades of Downsizing – It’s NOT A One Size Fits All ApproachMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Most of the dogs in Creel not strays – they’re owned by locals but are allowed to wander. It’s funny, on main street there’s this one corner where they all seem to gather and watch the world go by and bark at the occasional guy on a horse or motorcycle. It’s country, I think people have a totally different concept of dog ownership. But owned dogs usually worse because they get territorial, stray dogs don’t.
      Yes, nothing exists these days without Trip Advisor. At least for Western tourists. But it creates a whole other market. Imagine getting quoted $300 US for a private tour of 1-4 people to Basaseachic when I’m instead paying $39 to go with a local company.

  4. #1 Why do stupid people do stupid things like hanging out over a fence for a picture, when clearly, the fence was put there for a reason.
    #2 I did see an elephant in one of those boulders.
    #3 What’s wrong with the dog’s eye?
    #4 The canyon photos look so pretty, and continued safe solo travels.

    Side Note: Thanks for posting the comment, your thoughts were spot on. We are still here, still waiting. Eight weeks and counting with only 3 weeks before we’re supposed to start our train trip. Augh! 🙂
    Patti recently posted…Great Falls National Park ~My Profile

  5. Creel looks like a pretty little town and it seems that the Pueblo Magico designation and tourist dollars have really helped the local economy. I agree with your tip about waiting to book a tour until you arrive. It’s almost always much cheaper and a lot of times you’ll find even better suggestions from the locals. As for your options: I’ll bet you’ve seen Mennonites already (they don’t smile much, do they?), thermal baths in June in Mexico would hold absolutely no appeal for me and looking at someone else’s idea of what a rock looks like is like having someone name cloud formations in the sky for you! I’d be game for a ride on the Teleferico or the visit to the Basaseachic Waterfall like you did and then scarfing down some of the local food. And then, on the next stop!
    Anita recently posted…Kutna Hora: Medieval Beauty and Bones, Flying Buttresses and Frescoes, Gothic Splendor and GargoylesMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I actually don’t know much about the Mennonites, I get them mixed up with the Amish. I don’t know much except they’re good at farming and that Kelly McGillis looked hot (for an Amish girl) in Witness.
      Rock = clouds. Totally agree.
      I guess you’re on the same food tour as Kemkem, just watch out for the salad. Lost 5 lbs (in 2 days) on the Mexican shit die a couple of years ago.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Tips on visiting Creel, Copper Canyon, Mexico. And what you really have to know.My Profile

  6. Love your capture of the vivid colors. Is it possible to see some of these places without going on a tour?

  7. Love the canyon view. Thanks for sharing beautiful places.

  8. looks brilliant Frank! Were you tempted to saddle the barriers too?

    One wonders if getting the photo is actually worth the risk taken there…
    Andrew Boland recently posted…PanAsia Panorama – MongoliaMy Profile

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