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Choosing A Package Or Tour Operator

A number of tour operators and packagers offer trips to the Copper Canyon. You can purchase your package through a travel agency; those that do frequent business with Copper Canyon trips have better knowledge of what's out there. Keep in mind that the travel agent may try to steer you toward one package over another because it pays a higher commission. The industry breaks down into the following categories:

Bus Tours -- Some outfits run buses from El Paso to Chihuahua or Tucson to Los Mochis, and then put their customers on the train. The usual length of stay in the Sierra is 2 nights before returning by bus to the U.S. These tours involve a lot of sitting on a bus or train, but they are the least expensive.

Train Tours -- Sierra Madre Express has stopped running trains into the Copper Canyon from Tucson, Arizona, probably as a result of the economic downturn -- perhaps, too, because of the bad press that Chihuahua is getting.

Standard Packages -- This option merely bundles airfare, train tickets, and lodging. Hotels in the canyon send drivers to meet the train, so getting to your hotel is not hard once you're in the canyon. With these tours, you can have more time in the canyon, but once you're there, it's up to you to line up activities.

Custom Tour Operators -- These outfits sell fixed package tours through travel agents only because it simplifies the agent's job. If you eliminate the middle person and call any of the outfits directly, you might be able to arrange a custom trip. Travel through these companies generally allows you more time in the canyon and a better experience. Some assemble small groups with a guide; some allow you to travel by yourself and supply you with contacts in different locations. As the number of people visiting the Sierra increases, these companies are taking people deeper into the mountains to get away from the effects of mass tourism. Two reliable operators are California Native, 6701 W. 87th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90045 (tel. 800/926-1140 in the U.S.; www.calnative.com), and Native Trails, 613 Querétaro, El Paso, TX 79912-2210 (tel. 800/884-3107 in the U.S.; www.nativetrails.com).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.