Northern Mexico

Northern Mexico is a vast desert region bordering the United States of America. The north is sometimes referred to as "unknown Mexico" or "lost Mexico" because it is ignored by the vast majority of tourists.


Regions map
  • Chihuahua - The biggest state in Mexico, Chihuahua served as the battle ground between federal and revolutionary forces led by Pancho Villa and has played a crucial role in the development of high-tech enterprises in Mexico.
  • Coahuila - Mexico's top mining state, Coahuila has also been a leader in modern policies such as offering civil unions to same-sex couples and, like Baja California, plays an important role in Mexico's wine production.
  • Durango — The least developed state in Northern Mexico, but still above the Mexican average, Durango is a land rich in mineral and forest resources, a large mountain range, a colonial-style capital and it is the state with the average coldest temperature in the North.
  • Nuevo León - Mexico's industrial heartland, Nuevo León is home to world-renowned companies Cemex, Bimbo and Femsa (Coca-cola in Latin America) and has a high standard of living.
  • Sinaloa - Right under the state of Sonora on the West coast of Mexico. Its music is more influential than any other Mexican state and its climate is unique among the other Northern states since it is mainly tropical.
  • Sonora - Quintessentially northern in lifestyle and traditions, Sonora was the original destination for European immigrants during the Mexican gold rush in late 1800s, the same immigrants that would later spread into the rest of northern Mexico. Sonora also generates the most extreme temperatures throughout Mexico, with snow covering the peaks of Sierra Madre Occidental during winter and heat waves reaching 50 degrees Celsius during the summer.
  • Tamaulipas - Strongly focused on export-oriented manufacturers (maquiladoras), the average wage for an employee in Tamaulipas is the highest in Mexico, and its literacy rate is among the highest.


Map of Northern Mexico
  • 1 Chihuahua - large bustling city, capital of the state of Chihuahua, starting point for the famous Chepe train through the Copper Canyon. Second largest city in northern Mexico.
  • 2 Ciudad Juárez - sprawling border town and home to the original "burrito"
  • 3 Creel- popular base camp for adventure travelers and gateway town for treks into the Copper Canyon or to Basaseachic Falls National Park.
  • 4 Culiacán - capital of the state of Sinaloa. It is located at the center of the state.
  • 5 Durango - a colonial city, capital of the state with the same name, it has a moderate climate and a growing economy.
  • 6 Monterrey - a large, vibrant, modern city, it is the center of industry in Mexico. Largest city in northern Mexico.
  • 7 Puerto Peñasco - originally called "Rocky Point" by the British, it is the nearest beach resort to Arizona.
  • 8 Saltillo - small city with colonial charm, capital of the state of Coahuila.
  • 9 Tampico - busy port city on the Gulf of Mexico.

Other destinations

Arareco Lake, near Creel.
  • 1 Copper Canyon- extensive canyon system with backcountry recreation opportunities and a world-famous train
  • 2 Cuatro Cienegas - protected nature preserve with unique desert oasis ecosystem. Snorkeling and swimming is allowed in some pools.
  • 3 El Cielo Biosphere Reserve - unusual subtropical rain forest in southern Tamaulipas, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
  • 4 Isla Tiburón - the largest Island in Mexico, located in the Sea of Cortez and a part of the state of Sonora
  • 5 Paquime Casas Grandes, Chihuahua on Wikipedia - archaeological site at Casas Grandes in a remote area of Chihuahua. Related to Pueblo culture of southwestern United States
  • 6 Sierra del Carmen Biosphere Reserve- just across the river from Big Bend NP is a largest wilderness area, owned by Monterrey's Cemex corporation; no tourist infrastructure


See also: Old West

This is not the tourist Mexico of the Colonial altiplano or the southern beach resorts. Rather the Norte is the Mexico of popular imagination. A place of vaqueros, horses and small towns, soaring mountains and sweeping deserts. But at the same time with some of the more modern cities in the country. Truly this is a very rich and virgin region. Visit Chihuahua or Coahuila and you will be far off the well worn gringo path. In many ways traveling to the north is like traveling through an old Western movie.

Northern Mexico is one of the country's most wealthy and modern regions. Maquiladoras (foreign owned factory warehouses) are located in many northern states. America's music, television, and other forms of entertainment are present near the American border. A lot of Mexicans cross the border to shop or work.



As in the rest of the country, Spanish is the predominant language. The variety of Mexican Spanish spoken in the region distinguishes itself from the rest of the country with its strong intonation, contraction of words, and tendency to end every sentence with a pejorative. Due to its proximity to the United States, it receives a great deal of influence from English. For example, English words such as troca (truck), and lonche (lunch) are of common usage.

Education in English is widespread among the middle and upper economical classes of the population, albeit with varied degrees of fluency. Students and business people would the best bet if you need to ask something in English on the street.

Northern Mexico has the lowest concentration of indigenous communities of all regions in the country. There is no a single indigenous language that surpasses 100,000 speakers. Some of the most significant indigenous languages include Tarahumara, Mayo, Huichol, and Paipai. It is not necessary to learn any of these languages unless you go into a very remote area or you want to be immersed in the local culture. The great majority of indigenous people are bilingual in Spanish as well.

Get in



  • 1 Monterrey International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Mariano Escobedo, MTY IATA), Apodaca (24 km northeast of Monterrey). Largest airport in northern Mexico with connections to most Mexican destinations and major U.S. cities. Hub for Viva Aerobus. Monterrey-Gen. Mariano Escobedo (Q767660) on Wikidata Monterrey International Airport on Wikipedia
  • 2 Chihuahua International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional General Roberto Fierro Villalobos, CUU IATA) (18 km (11 mi) southeast of Chihuahua City). Large airport with several daily flights to major Mexican hubs including Mexico City and Monterrey. Chihuahua International Airport (Q732278) on Wikidata Chihuahua International Airport on Wikipedia
  • 3 Ciudad Victoria International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional General Pedro José Méndez, CVM  IATA) (20 km east of Ciudad Victoria). Smaller regional airport serving eastern part of the region. General Pedro J. Méndez International Airport (Q3273846) on Wikidata Ciudad Victoria International Airport on Wikipedia



Buses are an economical way to cross the border and many options are available. Greyhound has buses that will take you from southern U.S. cities to northern Mexico cities and many Mexican bus lines offer trans-border service to the interior of the U.S. or the interior of Mexico. See the main article for Mexico for details about using the buses.

Get around

La Muralla, Coahuila

Northern Mexico has the best highway system in the country. Additionally, the area's sparse population means heavy traffic congestion is seldom an issue (outside of the Monterrey area). As a result, taking the bus or finding a few friends to carpool with are probably the best option for getting around. If you are short on time there are many regional flights between the larger cities. If you have plenty of time buying a horse or bicycle would really allow one to slow down and absorb the region's unique scenery, culture and lifestyle; it could be the travel experience of a lifetime.





Explore a largely overlooked area that is several times the size of Spain.



Northern Mexico is home to several folk art traditions (artes populares) that offer meaningful souvenirs you can treasure for generations. No need for plastic junk sold in cheap souvenir shops when there are authentic pieces of local heritage at often shockingly affordable prices. Some of the most representative folk art traditions of Northern Mexico include:

  • pottery and ceramics - many regions of Mexico have ceramic art traditions, and Northern Mexico's most famous ceramics are from the workshops of Juan Quezada in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua. Quezada is internationally famous for re-creating the ceramic techniques of ancient Paquime, a civilization dating back far before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. The unique pottery is often sold as Mata Ortiz pottery. The pottery workshops welcome visitors, but Paquime is very remote and its more likely you will find Mata Ortiz pottery in artesania markets or in upscale decorative arts galleries throughout Mexico. It is well worth seeking out.
  • sombreros - Northern Mexico is home of the charros --- cowboys in the English vernacular, though horsemen might be more appropriate. And where would a Mexican charro be without an impressively ornate and impossibly wide sombrero to keep the searing sun off his face and neck? Don't accept cheap souvenirs. The best sombreros are made of high quality materials and feature elaborate embroidery. The worst are made of straw, have "Mexico" stitched sloppily across the front, and are on sale in airport gift shops. Vicente Fernandez would never be caught dead in a straw sombrero! Sombreros are sold widely in Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, Durango, and Coahuila.
  • blankets - Many travelers bring home inexpensive cotton blankets, but the most emblematic blanket in the region is the brilliantly colorful light blankets from Saltillo called sarapes. (The sarape is such an icon of Saltillo that their local AAA minor-league baseball team is the Saraperos!)
  • baskets - baskets are widely available in markets throughout Mexico, but there are baskets and then there are baskets. In Northern Mexico, you will often find handmade baskets crafted by local Seri and Tarahumura indigenous peoples. Seek them out. Excellent Indian-made baskets are most often found in Chihuahua and Sonora and indigenous people often sell them at stops for the Chepe train through the Copper Canyon.


See also: Mexican cuisine
  • Coyotas - Round, flat and oversized sugar cookies filled with brown sugar and traditionally prepared at Villa de Seris, Sonora.
  • Tortillas de Harina - The most popular tortilla in Northern Mexico. Unlike corn tortillas, a traditional flour tortilla is at least twice the size of a corn tortilla.
  • Machaca con huevo - Traditional scrambled beef and egg dish served with flour tortillas.
  • Quesadillas - Tortillas grilled with white cheese and salsa.
  • Burritos - flour tortilla wrapped around cheese, beans and meat, the dish originated in Juarez.
  • Cabrito - Young goat.
  • Ensalada Cesar - originated at Tijuana's Hotel Cesar, it's a romaine lettuce with croutons salad mixed with olive oil, sliced garlic, wine vinegar, lemon, raw egg yolks, parmesan cheese and Worcester sauce.
  • Asado de chile colorado - Pork with ancho and guajillo chilies and cumin.
  • Charro beans - Cowboy-style beans with bacon and chilies.
  • Coahuila sausage - Made of pork seasoned with ancho chiles.
  • Enchiladas de olla - Ancho chili, tortillas, poblano and grated cheese.
  • Menudo norteño - Tripe soup with ancho and guajillo chilies.
  • Cajeta de membrillo - Carmelized milk candy flavored with quince.
  • Empanadas de Santa Rita - Stuffed with pork fried with onions, almonds, raisins.


  • Wines: You might wish to try L.A. Cetto Wine, world-renowned wine produced in Baja California and known for its outstanding quality of Merlots and Cabernets. Casa Madero in Coahuila is the oldest winery in the Americas.
  • Beer: Several major beers are produced in Monterrey, including Dos Equis and Tecate. See the Monterrey article for more info.
  • Sotol: A unique distilled spirit that is similar in character to mezcal (but made from a different type of plant) is produced only in the state of Chihuahua.
  • Bacanora: Distilled spirit similar to tequila (but made from agave pacifica, not agave weber (blue agave)) produced only in the state of Sonora.

Go next


Go south! Explore the beaches of the Pacific Coast. Head down the Gulf Coast toward Veracruz, or catch a flight to Mexico City.

This region travel guide to Northern Mexico is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.