Treasure of Sierra Madre
After a couple of days at the top of the canyon, our next stop is Batopilas , an old silver mining town at the very bottom of the canyon. Reputed to be the most spectacular drive in North America, the six-hour trip to Batopilas is just that -- breath-taking.
As our guide maneuvered the car around blind curves on a one-lane dirt road, spectacular views give way to even better ones; purple mountains and chasms so deep that we could have been on the set for Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Our party contained some seasoned, almost-jaded travelers who'd been everywhere and seen everything, but even they were overwhelmed. "There's a National Geographic photo around every corner," and "This makes the Grand Canyon look like a pothole" were typical of their comments.
After hours of visual overload, we finally reached Batopilas, nestled at the bottom of a 6,900 foot canyon. The Spanish found silver here in 1632, and the town was a mining center for centuries, until all the mines were closed by government edict shortly after the Mexican Revolution. Just one street wide for most of its length, Batopilas is sandwiched between river and canyon. Subtropical, the town is bursting with orange trees, bougainvillea, butterflies and humming birds.
From the outside, our hotel was non-descript. Once inside, however, we felt like we'd walked into an M.C. Escher print. The hotel is a deliberately dizzying array of courtyards, each at a slightly different level, and each surrounded by three or four guest rooms. Almost every room or courtyard is reached by a half flight of stairs, and there doesn't seem to be a right angle anywhere. This hacienda has been restored in turn-of-the-century style, and each guest room (many are large enough to be considered suites) contains hand-carved four-poster beds, Moorish arches leading to spacious bathrooms, and elegantly situated claw footed bathtubs.
Most socializing here at the Copper Canyon Riverside Lodge is done in the huge drawing room, beneath a huge allegorical mural depicting important events in the history of Batopilas. The interior courtyards are filled with lemon, orange and banana trees, and double as alfresco dining rooms. After dinner, guests can climb up to the observatory to watch the stars. While there are a couple other place to stay in Batopilas, we found this to be the perfect base from which to explore this fascinating area.
We were lucky to have chosen a time when resident guides Carl Franz and Lorena Havens were on site. Author and editor, respectively, of The People's Guide to Mexico, they were walking encyclopedias for information on Batopilas and the Copper Canyon. They suggested we visit the Mission at Satevo, and arranged for a guide, Luis, to take us.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication