Who needs an adventure park? Batopilas citizens could make this argument, as the only road into their splendidly preserved, colonial (former silver-mining) village, deep in canyon country, has more twists, turns and heart-in-mouth vertical drops than any amusement ride. The road, indeed, is a reason to visit in itself, with mountain-biking trips down it a popular activity. The journey is certainly thrilling – from an altitude of 2330m at Creel to 460m at Batopilas – with dramatic descents and ascents through several canyons, climates and vegetative zones, ending in this stuck-in-time village straggling along the bottom of the Barranca de Batopilas, where the climate is subtropical year-round.
Batopilas, founded in 1708, peaked in prominence in the late 19th century when American Alexander Shepherd owned the mines hereabouts (quirky fact: in 1895 Batopilas became Mexico’s second town to receive electricity, after Mexico City).
Like Urique, Batopilas can be slightly rough around the edges. Marijuana fuels the local economy (look out for the state-of-the-art trucks and young men with expensive jewelry) and when the military sporadically destroys a crop, tensions escalate. The area has also experienced some robberies and kidnappings. Foreign tourists aren’t usually targeted, but do take local advice about out-of-town excursions.
Things shut up early here, save for some makeshift bars selling Tecates from back rooms. However, there are great excursions locally.
For an overview of this little town’s history, visit the Museo de Batopilas where proprietor Rafael will embellish proceedings with his own anecdotes. Tourist information on the following hikes and others is available at the museum. Just before you cross the bridge into Batopilas proper are the romantic ruins of the Shepherd’s Hacienda San Miguel
One of the most popular excursions is to the 18th-century Satevó Mission Church, in a remote spot 8km down the canyon. You can hike along the river (the mission suddenly appears, framed in a forested river gorge like something out of a Turner painting) or drive there in 20 minutes. There is also the challenging, spectacular two- to three-day Urique trek, probably the region’s very best.