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Creel

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Creel is a city in the Sierra Tarahumara in Chihauhua state in Mexico.

Understand

This area is rich in biodiversity, Cultural history, and is the site of a growing tourist infrastructure. The town of Creel is probably the most popular gateway to the canyonlands. But the town of Hidalgo de Parall to the south of Chihuahua City is a good alternative and is useful for exploring the largely overlooked Sinforosa Canyon. Within the canyons lie the towns of Batopilas and Urique. Life moves slower in these towns, and it can be hard to imagine you are in the same country that counts Mexico City, Acapulco, and Cancun among its attractions. Shops and restaurants tend to be simple affairs that open late and close early. That does not prevent them from being very charming and the small towns in the canyons are great places to slow down and unwind. There are historic Catholic churches often run by Jesuit missionaries from other parts of the Latin World. But the real attraction of the canyonlands is the natural splendor of the area. There are numerous waterfalls and hot springs hidden away in the backcountry. These are reached by hiking, horseback, or guided treks with burros. Camping out under the stars is wonderful on the countless sandbars that line the area rivers. The area does see other travelers and tourists but is hardly overrun. Rather, the small towns seem to have the right balance; enough other visitors so you can meet hiking partners and put together expeditions. But not so many that getting away from all traces of civilization is anywhere near difficult.

Get in

Estrella Blanca buses run about every other hour from Chihuahua City for about $20 one way. These are local(non-express) buses that make many stops along the way. So, they aren't real fast but are comfortable and convenient nonetheless. The train also leaves from Chihuahua City twice a day (once for 1st class service, another for 2nd class).

Get around

See

The scenery to the east, south, and west of Creel is breathtaking. The easiest area to access is probably the Mesa to the immediate east of town. This is the location of Lago Areko, the Rio Conchas canyon, and the Valley of the Frogs and the Monks (Valle de las Ranas, Valle de los Monques).

Do

Mountain biking, horseback riding, and rock climbing are all easy to arrange in Creel. During Semana Santa, helicopter flights through the surrounding canyons are also available (note: Creel is very crowded with Mexican tourists from the large southern cities during the week preceeding Easter Sunday).

Buy

The Tarahumara Mission store next to the Catholic Church on the town's main plaza is a good source for maps, guidebooks, and locally produced crafts. Some of the employee's are also good for area information. Lots of small souvenir shops on the town's main street (Indian blankets, sandals or huaraches, shirts etc)

Eat

Tio Molca's on the town's main street is probably the most popular eating establishment in Creel. There is also a popular but cozy bar that is attached. The food is good and reasonably priced. Bar has a good mix of locals and tourists. Its a good place to meet guides as well as travelling partners. The bar also has a fireplace which is very nice as Creel often gets cold at night. There are many other restaurants in town, the downside is they all have essentially the same menu. The food is good in most of them, but one wishes there was a little more variety available. Aspiring businessmen could probably do well to open a Thai eatery or a Pizzeria in Creel. The hangover hospital next to the railroad station is something of a local institution and should be given a try. Also at night there are food carts downtown selling tasty hot dogs and burgers (nothing fancy but delicious all the same). During the day there's usually a few grills going near the town's small market area.

Drink

Sleep

Creel is experiencing a building boom. Each year several new hotels/guesthouses are constructed. The standbys are the same as ever. Margarita's is the most well known of the bunch. It's a hostel with beds in large dorm for $8, beds in small dorm for $10 or private rooms from $20up. These prices include both breakfast and dinner. Meals are good but a little small to really be filling, but they're free. Margarita's has a common area, a kitchen, and also organizes trips and excursions. This is really the backpacker center of Copper Canyon and could be considered the northern terminus of the gringo trail (though some might argue that the trail really ends in Santa Fe NM).

Contact

There are numerous guide services available in Creel. Uramike's Expeditions run by a friendly Mexican man and his Welsh wife are often recommended. Even if you don't hire him, he is generous with information and area advice. But there are lots of others (Margarita's and many of the other hotels offer guided excursions) so don't hesitate to shop around.


Get out

Take the chicken bus to Guachochic, the cultural center of the Tarahumara as well as the jumping off point for Sinforosa Canyon (the queen of the canyons).


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