The north and east of Sonora is pure frontier country: the region's mountains and prairies convey what life would have been like for Spanish settlers centuries ago. This area is best known for its well-preserved Jesuit missions, many of which were established by Mexico’s famed missionary, Padre Eusebio Kino. Dreamy time-warped colonial towns here, including Baviácora, Banámichi and Arizpe, boast beautiful architecture, thermal baths and even good birdwatching.
Most travelers explore the area as a day trip from Hermosillo but for those inclined (and with more time), Magdalena de Kino is a great base. It’s a charming mission town, the final resting place of Padre Kino and within a stone’s throw of missions like Pitiquito (with outstanding indigenous art on the walls), Tubutama and the dramatic ruins of Cocóspera.