Don’t expect to see real Chihuahua dogs running around the city. // © 2017 Mark Chesnut – LatinFlyer.com
Feature image (above): Chihuahua visitors can watch a Pancho Villa-themed show, sample local burritos, visit the city’s cathedral and more. // © 2017 Mark Chesnut – LatinFlyer.com
In Mexico’s portfolio of world-famous vacation destinations, the city of Chihuahua — which is the capital of the eponymous state — may not rank highly on most visitors’ bucket lists. But this northern city of just under 1 million residents offers an array of unique reasons to visit, from natural beauty to Mexican history and a healthy serving of authentically norteno cuisine and culture.
Here’s why Chihuahua should be on your next itinerary.
Access to the Copper Canyon
Mexico’s gorgeous Copper Canyon, which is actually a group of canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, is a well-known natural attraction with stunning views, interesting indigenous culture and a variety of activities, including hiking, boating and even rappelling and ziplining.
The most relaxing way to visit the top sites, the Chepe train, has a terminal in the city of Chihuahua, making the city a logical place to start or end the trip. Savvy travelers will plan a few extra days to explore the city and its surroundings.
Chihuahua is a rewarding place to explore Mexican history. Francisco “Pancho” Villa, one of the most legendary figures in the Mexican Revolution, served as provisional governor of the state of Chihuahua in 1913 and 1914. One of his homes, an elegant residence built between 1905 and 1907, is now home to the Historical Museum of the Revolution , and is a must-see for history buffs. It’s filled with antique furnishings, historic artifacts and engrossing exhibits, as well as the Dodge automobile that Villa was driving when he was assassinated in 1923.
Plaza de Armas, the historic main square, is also worth a visit, as the baroque cathedral — built between 1725 and 1826 — is the most eye-catching structure in town. And if you absolutely must have a photo of a Chihuahua dog as a souvenir, there’s a large wall mural on the city square that depicts the popular canine, which was named after the state. It may be surprising that you won’t see many of the actual dogs running around in the city.
A quick walk down a shop-lined pedestrian street from Plaza de Armas will bring you to Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace), a lovely 19th-century edifice with a courtyard that’s graced by 1950s murals depicting Chihuahua’s history.
Excellent cuts of beef are a staple of Chihuahua cuisine, as are burritos and cheese produced by the large Mennonite community that lives outside of the city. Settle into a hearty serving of steak at El Rodeo; a tasty international dish at the contemporary and trendy Epoca restaurant; or the classic La Casona, which is located within a 19th-century mansion.
Chihuahua’s dramatic geography — which includes sprawling plains and soaring hills — is ideal for exploring. Top attractions include the Grutas Nombre de Dios (“Name of God Caves”), which sit just northeast of the city. Guided, one-hour tours take groups through 17 underground chambers filled with stalagmites, stalactites and rock formations. Nature lovers should also consider a visit to El Rejon Metropolitan Park, which opened in 2011 and offers kayak and pedal-boat rentals as well as extensive paths for joggers and runners.
This relatively spread-out city has far fewer traffic problems than larger destinations, making it easy to transit and easy to tour. A company called Chihuahua Barbaro offers a variety of excursions, including Segway tours, trolley bus itineraries and after-dark outings that stop at traditional cantinas. The company also offers a Spanish-language city tour, during which actors portray famous people from Mexican history (including Pancho Villa). A company called Planntur, meanwhile, offers visits to a nearby Mennonite community, just an hour away from the city, to show how this tight-knit group lives.