Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar

Top choice in Sonora

About 30km from Puerto Peñasco are the lunar landscapes of El Pinacate, one of the driest places on earth. This remote, spectacular 7145-sq-km reserve is a Unesco World Heritage site and contains ancient eroded volcanoes, giant craters, petrified lava flows, 400-plus ash cones and the continent's largest concentration of active sand dunes. Wildlife includes pronghorn antelope (the fastest land mammal in the Americas), bighorn sheep, pumas, reptiles and bountiful birdlife. There's an excellent, highly informative, solar-powered visitor center, interpretive hiking trails and two campgrounds.

The extraordinary landscapes here are so unusual that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin used this region in the 1960s to prepare themselves for their Apollo 11 moon landing.

Today over 70km of dirt roads (4WD only in parts) penetrate the reserve. Visitors must register to climb the 1190m Cerro del Pinacate volcano.

The visitor center is about 8km west of Km 72 on Hwy 8 (27km from Puerto Peñasco). The craters are accessed by a separate turnoff further north at Km 52 on Hwy 8.

CEDO in Puerto Peñasco organizes excellent tours to the reserve: good walking shoes are recommended, and note that there's no water or electricity available anywhere in the reserve, except at the visitor center.

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