The Chihuahua-Pacific Railway is also known as El Chepe, and it resumed operations in July 2020. It offers a journey through one of the most beautiful places in Mexico. During the trip of approximately 10 hours, El Chepe travels more than 200 miles from Los Mochis, Sinaloa, to Creel, Chihuahua, through an area known as Copper Canyon, Barrancas del Cobre, which are a series of imposing canyons that link these two states at the north of Mexico. Accessible only by train, discover the remarkable beauty of the heart of the Sierra Tarahumara.
My Summers by Train
For several years during the 90s, I was fortunate enough to take one of the most spectacular railroad trips of my life. I was only in high school when, with my comadre Bárbara and her family, we traveled from Los Mochis to Creel aboard the Regional Chepe.
The trip started in Culiacán, from where we drove to Los Mochis. When we could, we would sleep the night before boarding the train, and when we couldn’t, we would arrive directly at the station at around 4:00 a.m. In the wee hours of the morning, the closed station would be barely lit by a dim lightbulb, and we would be overjoyed to be the first ones in line to buy our ticket to Chihuahua.
The rush we felt was more significant than when waiting to ride a rollercoaster, and we would long for 5:00 a.m. for the ticket office to open and sell us our tickets. Since we were in high school or college, we were given good discounts, and then we were ready to board the scenic red and green train at 6:00 a.m.
The Chepe: A taste of Paradise With Sceneries That Take Your Breath Away
Aside from the unforgettable views of the Sierra Tarahumara, and the scent of burning wood in the air, the next best thing is eating chile chilaca burritos, fried and filled with cheese. Follow this tip: when you get closer to the Témoris station in Chihuahua, prepare yourself to buy those burritos to the Rarámuri that come close to the train, even if the train has not entirely stopped.
It always strikes me as attractive that the train was full of Europeans instead of Mexicans. The idea of cultural exchange was intriguing, yet so many foreigners have a simple explanation: the train travels through truly majestic scenery, gorgeous woods, rivers, and mountains with deep canyons and hollows. It is a sight to behold.
Even though the Sierra landmarks are diverse, the Copper Canyon is the main attraction because it is three times deeper and more extensive than the Grand Canyon.
Every summer, we would repeat the same route. For over a decade on board the Chepe, we experienced Over a decade taking the Chepe; we encountered everything: the train left us behind, waiting in the middle of nowhere while crew fixed the tracks due to landslides, but it was always worth it.
Deluxe Service on Board of The Chepe Express
Today, the experience aboard the Chepe has improved. In 2018, Ferromex opened the Chepe Express, a premium concept that allowed the train to offer a more attractive journey. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, this service was on hold, but it resumed its traditional route on July 17th, 2020. The digital magazine México Desconocido awarded it as Best Tourist Route 2020.
The Chepe Express represents comfort and innovation. It has a bar, a terrace to take pictures without obstacles, and a double-decker coach with a first-rate restaurant called Urike, run by the chefs Ovadia and Orozco, with service that will leave the most experienced traveler satisfied.
It also has a Wi-Fi connection, but you should not expect it to work during the journey because the train travels through 86 tunnels and over 37 bridges that interfere with the signal due to the orography. Yet, with those views, you will not miss it.
How much Does It Cost to Travel on Board The Chepe Express?
The rates of the Chepe Express vary according to the station where you start and end your journey. They also vary depending on the class you choose: Tourist, executive, and first-class. You have to buy your tickets in advance because due to Covid 19 restrictions, the train travels with reduced capacity. The good news is that you don’t have to wait in line at 4:00 in the morning. Instead, you have to buy them online or through their call center 800 122 4373, for tickets are not sold onboard.
Tourist Class: A Modest and Relaxing Journey
This ticket is perfect for large groups, for it includes reclining seats, access to the restaurant, and snacks and beverage service. It doesn’t include meals.
Single trip: from 730 to 2,300 pesos per person (between USD 36 and USD 115).
Round trip: from 1,200 to 3,200 pesos per person (between USD 60 and USD 160).
Executive Class: A Luxurious and Comfortable Trip
This class is an excellent option for families or small groups. It includes reclining seats, access to the bar with a panoramic view, and the Urike restaurant, snack and beverage service, and luxury restrooms. It doesn’t include meals.
Single trip: from 980 to 2,800 pesos per person (between USD 49 to USD 140).
Round trip: from 1,400 to 3,950 pesos per person (between USD 70 to USD 197).
First Class: An Exclusive and Glamorous Experience
First-class is the premium experience for the seasoned traveler. It includes reclining ergonomic seats, one meal on board depending on the route (breakfast, lunch, or dinner plus a snack and a non-alcoholic beverage), exclusive access to the terrace, and exclusive access to the domed dining room of the Urike restaurant.
Single trip: from 1,250 to 3,900 pesos per person (between USD 62 and USD 195).
Round trip: from 2,000 to 5,700 pesos per person (between USD 100 and USD 285).
The Chepe Express, A Fascinating Railroad Trip Through Chihuahua and Sinaloa
If you want to experience the complete route, you can board the Chepe Express at either Creel, Chihuahua, or Los Mochis, Sinaloa. The trip lasts around 10 hours, and the journey has three stops: El Fuerte, Bahuichivo, and Divisadero. The last station is one of the main sites to explore the Sierra Tarahumara.
Schedules for The Chepe Express 2022
- From Los Mochis it departs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8:00 a.m. and arrives at Creel at 5:40 p.m.
- From Creel it departs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 8:00 a.m. and arrives at Los Mochis at 5:40 p.m.
With your ticket, you can stop at any three stations, but you would have to stay two nights if you wish to continue your trip till the end.
Enjoy your Experience Through The Sierra Tarahumara
If you decide to stop at any of the stations, you could have a whole new experience, for there are different tours you can join. At El Fuerte you can visit el Cerro de la Máscara, an archeological site were you will be able to see petroglyphs, or kayak on the Fuerte River.
For the adventurers, at Divisadero you can find the Parque Aventura Barrancas del Cobre. It has much fun and challenging activities, like zip lines, the longest cable car in Mexico, hiking, suspension bridges across the Copper Canyon, rappelling, climbing, and Tarzan jumping! Great fun for the whole family!
At Creel, you may visit the Arareko lake and the pueblo mágico of Bocoyna, Chihuahua, with great sites like the Valle de Los Hongos and Valle de las Ranas, very close to one another. Or you could learn more about the Tarahumara culture at the Museo Tarahumara de Arte Popular.
If you have more time and wish to travel more around the area, you may still take the Chepe Regional, with less luxury, cheaper fares, and more stops along the route. Tourists often prefer the Chepe Express for the many conveniences, but you may find the information here if you wish to explore this alternative.
The Chepe Regional
If you want to travel more economically and with fewer luxuries, the option is to take the Chepe Regional. This maintains a tourist class rate but can only be used for a section of the Los Mochis – Creel route and vice versa, according to the following policies.
Policies for traveling in the Chepe Regional tourist class:
- As of May 1, 2021, Chepe Regional started again having tourist class.
- The section between Chihuahua and Creel may be used by any passenger, without any restrictions.
- Whoever needs to reserve a section between Creel and Los Mochis in the Chepe Regional will have to:
- Have a reservation at the Chepe Express.
- Once the section that the passenger will take on the Chepe Express is confirmed, another section can be sold on the Chepe Regional.
- It is necessary that the section took on the Chepe Express be longer than the Regional, that is, you cannot do Express: Creel- Divisadero and Regional: Divisadero- Los Mochis.
- Request your reservation via the call center 800 122 43 73 or at our ticket offices.
- For passengers moving between stations where the Chepe Express does not provide service, it is not necessary to have a reservation on said train.
- For the previous case, only direct sales at ticket offices apply.
- This service will be provided at the same times and frequencies that the Chepe Regional currently runs.
- Remember that the Chepe Regional can only be reserved through the call center or at the box office.
- Check schedules and rates here.
When is The Best Time of The Year to Travel on Board The Chepe?
All year round! Every season offers unique experiences. One of the most popular, and my personal favorite, is between June and October when the colors of the canyons change from the bright hues of copper in the summer to the lush greens after the autumn rains. During the spring, the canyons and hollows shine in varied shades, and during the winter, you can expect silvery snowfalls. You’d better have your camera ready.
Is it Safe to Travel During The Pandemic?
Since it is a world-renowned tour that travels through isolated places, Mexico’s government has made every effort to strengthen many safety measures to feel safe and without worries. As such, they have implemented hygiene and safety protocols established by the federal government: physical distancing, reducing the train’s capacity to 50%, mandatory use of face masks, daily disinfection, and deep sanitization of the whole train on Saturdays.
It is recommended to book your tickets through a travel agency so they can help you plan an ideal itinerary for your needs, offer support during your journey and save some time.
This is the railroad trip of a lifetime. Book it now!
Translated from Spanish by A.F. Bustamante: 01/16/22.