Seat of the last impenetrable Sinaloan stronghold and embarkation point for the world's most picturesque railway journey, old colonial El Fuerte has many a touristic quality to prise attention away from the Sinaloa state capital Culiacán. Built upon the banks of the gushing Rio Fuerte at the gateway to the valley of the same name, El Fuerte has long been considered the entry point for Copper Canyon, yet features a wealth of delights guaranteed to keep visitors abstaining from departure via the Chihuahua Pacifico rail route.
El Fuerte is named after the 16th Century Spanish fort which continues to dominate the river shore, guarding the city from water-crossing invaders. Bounded by the rugged knolls of the Sierra Madre Occidental foothills, the town is located within one of the last dry forest areas of North-Western Mexico, in the state known as Sinaloa. Situated just 81 km (50 miles) from the Sinaloan coastal jewel of Los Mochis, it remains the first and last stop for the “Chepe” railway system and a popular starting point for hikes into the Sierra Madre wilderness.
Steeped in history dominated by epic battles between the Spanish conquistadors of the 16th Century and native Zuaque people, modern El Fuerte is a far cry from the former mountain defense stronghold. Its streets, lined by imperial baroque facades and sky-scraping churches are peaceful, quaint - often permeated by the music of street fiddlers and market bustle. Once the seat of government and the capital of Sinaloa state, El Fuerte still carries many reminders of its past importance - notably the Municipal Palace within the central Plaza de Armas. The ostentatious facade features two tiers of white capped, pink arches running the perimeter of the building. Within the center of the courtyard sits the glittering Palacio Fountain, flanked by huge green shrubs and dedicated to El Fuerte's founding father Don Francisco de Ibarra. The Palacio Municipal carries great weight as a cultural and historic landmark to the people of El Fuerte, housing some of the most extravagant displays of wealth and art to be found in the town. With uninterrupted views across the valley and Rio Fuerte, the old fort is considered the gem of El Fuerte's attractions. Regular re-enactments of battles and shoot-outs occur upon the battlements, dragging El Fuerte back to its roots to the delight of tourists.
Snug beneath the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental, El Fuerte affords a great many opportunities within the immediate vicinity, without having to hop aboard the “Chepe” train. Cerro de la Mascara (Hill of The Mask) is a popular hike destination just four miles from El Fuerte, so named due to the many Toltec petroglyphs carved into the hillsides and cavernous chambers. Most are thought to be over 2,000 years old. Miguel Hidalgo (one of the largest dams within the municipality of El Fuerte) lures with the promise of big game fish and tranquil waters, while the nearby natural hot springs of Jipago are a welcome chill-out zone within a stunning area of canopied forest. With a wealth of natural beauty at the foot of El Fuerte, the town was honored with the title of “Pueblos Magicos” in 2009, confirming predictions that it is one of the fastest growing areas for tourism in Mexico.
Attractions & Things To Do in El Fuerte, Sinaloa
Fuerte Museo Mirador – situated adjacent to the El Fuerte fort on the banks of the shimmering river, the Museo Mirador hides an eclectic array of archaeological and historic exhibits. Some of Mexico's finest examples of Mayo arts and crafts can be found within this modern replica fort building, alongside the oil and watercolor efforts of esteemed Sinaloan artists. Open: Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm.