The state of Sonora, Mexico gives us perhaps the best of old world Mexico with its charming villages clinging to ancient culture and tradition and new world Mexico filled with growing cities, steeped in developing tourism. It also gives us a world in between, like its state capital, Hermosillo. While Hermosillo is largely an industrial and agricultural town that still has much to offer visitors looking for traditional Mexican architecture, it is also a municipality pushing for the “Priority Tourist Zone” located along the state’s eastern coast.

A border state in northern Mexico, Sonora has 916 km (568 miles) of mostly virgin coastline along the Sea of Cortez. Kino Bay, Puerto Penasco, and Guaymas with its San Carlos port are the primary tourist areas drawing visitors to their pristine white-sand beaches. Along their coastlines visitors can enjoy excellent diving and snorkeling on nearby reefs, deep sea fishing, jet skis, banana boating, and many more water activities. Even their marinas are being developed to encourage cruise ships and people to sail into their ports and stay a while. And, since the year 2000, when Sonora’s push for attracting tourists began, they’ve seen a steady increase in people enjoying everything the state has to offer.

The beaches, while spectacular, are not the only tourist draws in the state. The southern city of Alamos is the state’s shining star, having been designated a “Pueblo Máglico” town. This is a town designated by the government as a place that offers visitors a “magical” experience due to its inherent beauty, cultural riches and historical significance. For a truly wonderful cultural experience in a quiet town with a main plaza, cobblestone streets, and great historical architecture, you must visit Alamos.

The state has also developed and promoted tourist routes to draw its visitors to many other fascinating attractions worth seeing. If you have an explorer’s heart, tour along these unique routes laid out just for you!

The Missions Route covers the main stops of Eusebio Francisco Kino (1645-1711), an important Roman Catholic priest and missionary, as he established religious sites across the state. Along this route, visitors will see ancient churches and missions in cities like Caborca, Oquitoa, Imuris, and Magdalena. In Magdalena, view the Kino mausoleum where Father Kino’s remains rest.

The River Route follows villages and towns along the Sonora River. This route is particularly pretty in autumn during the chili pepper and peanut harvests. The route includes the towns of Ures, Baviácora, San Felipe de Jesús, Banámichi, and Cananea.

The High Mountain Route twists its way through the Sierra Madre Occidental highlands directing travelers along its streams and forests to noteworthy peaks and towns, many with ancient haciendas that are available for your exploration. Settlements along the route include Moctezuma, Granados, Bavispe, Nácori Chico, and Cumpas.

For a spectacular ecotourism experience, include a natural reserve in your vacation plans! Sonora is home to numerous natural protected reserves, which are open to visitors.

In the Cuchujaqui reserve, the elements are characteristic of tropical zones. Vegetation here ranges from pine and oak forests to jungle. The reserve offers an exciting glimpse into tropical wildlife with its abundance of turtles, boas, rattlesnakes, and pichihuatas - a very poisonous snake - as well as many other amphibian and reptile species. Mammals in the area include jaguars, ocelots, wildcats, and javelins, as well as over 300 species of migratory birds.

El Pinacate is a volcanic region located in northwestern Sonora covering an area of 714,566 hectares (1.7 million acres). The region, declared a biosphere reserve because of its beauty and biological diversity, is divided into two areas, one of which is for natural use like camping, rock climbing, cliff rappelling, and exploring; the other is called the nucleon land, whose purpose is to preserve the natural ecosystem. El Pinacate is an amazing territory where you can feel the real life of the desert and explore evidence of mystical times when the area was first inhabited.

If you are planning a trip to Sonora, check out the festivals going on during your trip – you might find something really exciting happening on a beach or in a town near your destination. If you love a celebration, check out the notorious Guaymas Carnaval or the annual Festival of Dr. Alfonso Ortiz Tirado (FAOT) in Alamos!

Any way you look at it, the state of Sonora really does offer something for everyone. Whether you love the beach or like to immerse yourself in culture, you will find it in Sonora.

Spanish version of this page: Sonora