We visit our own Grand Canyon and stand at the rim, looking down into the vast distance below and are amazed at the grandeur of nature.
There is, however, a canyon not too far away in Mexico that is four times larger and 1,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon. It is the Copper Canyon and accessed by railroad.
The Chihuahua-Pacifico Railroad is, in fact, one of the great engineering feats in the world. An American engineer conceived it in 1872 and it took almost a century to complete. It required 87 tunnels and 36 bridges.
How about a trip to this spectacular canyon in luxury, aboard an American owned and operated train? The Sierra Madre Express company is based in Tucson and managed by Connie Dudley, president of the company. It has been operating for more than 20 years, offering an all-inclusive vacation value and an exceptional experience.
The train consists of cars built in the streamlined era of American railroading in the ‘40s and ‘50s. The equipment has been completely refurbished and is a wonderful and relaxing method of travel. The Sierra Madre Express is usually operated with five cars, consisting of Pullmans configured with drawing rooms, compartments, bedrooms and roomettes.
All rooms have wash basins; the larger rooms have full facilities. There are general restrooms at the end of each car.
One of the cars comes from Union Pacific's famous "City of Los Angeles" and features dining in a Vista Dome. I did this once and I still remember how great it was to dine surrounded by glass, as the scenery rolled by. Another is a round-end observation car, which was operated by the Northern Pacific Railroad between Chicago and Seattle on their luxury "North Coast Limited."
The eight day itinerary begins with arrival in Tucson with a get-acquainted cocktail reception and dinner. The hotel is included.
Second day, after breakfast, you board a motor coach for a tour of Tucson with stops. Lunch is at the Rio Rico Resort. Later in the afternoon, you are transferred to Nogales, where you board the train and head south. You'll enjoy a full dinner on the train and sleep this night in your cozy room aboard the train, as it clicky-clacks onward.
Day three offers breakfast and lunch aboard the train and you begin the ascent into the Copper Canyon area.
Later, the train arrives in Bahuichivo, where you detrain and board a bus for a 45-minute ride to Hotel Mision in Cerocabui. Here, there will be a reception and dinner in the dining room. After, you might want to explore this little town before going to bed.
Day four, after breakfast you can take a tour by bus to Gallego Outlook. Here are fantastic views of Urique Canyon. Lunch at the hotel, then you'll return to the train for the trip to Divisadero, where the Posada Mirador Hotel perches on the rim of Copper Canyon. There will be a reception with entertainment in the lounge by the Tarahumara Indians. From the balcony of your room, you can watch night fall over the Canyon.
Day five, after breakfast, you'll depart on the train for Creel, which is in the heart of Tarahumara country.
You'll be able to tour Cusarare, an old village and maybe pick up some handicrafts. Then back on the train for lunch in the Dome. Dinner will be at the Mirador Hotel.
Day six, after breakfast is the final opportunity to view the spectacular scenery, as the train descends from the Canyon. There will be a lunch and farewell dinner in the Dome car, which is the last night on the train.
Day seven and eight are the return to the U.S. and on to Tucson, with meals and an overnight stay. Again, all meals, sightseeing, transfers, entertainment, on-board open bar, hotels and the train are included in the price of the trip.
The maximum altitude will be 8,000 feet. The train usually carries only 54 guests on each trip, with the five rail cars. How much?
Fares begin at $2,895 per person for a single occupancy roomette and move up to $3,595 for a compartment.
For a free brochure call Sierra Madre Express at (800) 666-0346 and visit www.sierramadreexpress.com.