A Gringo’s Guide to Copala, Mexico


The old lady point at the pickup truck that cruised by with two local boys, maybe 19 years old. Mas o menos. 

I was in the smallest town I’d ever been to, San Jose de Copala, Mexico. And there was no doubt everyone knew everyone.

That old lady certainly knew those two young men were working for the cartels – and she wasn’t all too thrilled about it.

The population sits around 400 people, although I couldn’t find any exact statistics online.

But there’s no way there are a thousand people in this tiny mountain town situated between Mazatlan and Durango.

And that’s all part of the charm.

Copala, Mexico is sleepy and tranquil. You walk the cobblestone streets of what was once a mining town. You check out the stunning church. Take a few photos. Hang out with a couple street dogs…

My best friend in Copala, Mexico 🙂

It’s a day trip. You’re not meant to stay. Just check it out. Relax and unwind. Then back to Mazatlan or Durango.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

P.S: Just make sure you speak a little Spanish before you go. English levels aren’t high in Copala!

How to Get to Copala, Mexico

Well, you may not want to ask me.

Because my Uber driver got lost. Twice.

Yes. She got lost with a GPS running from Mazatlan to Copala, Mexico. A trip that doesn’t look too difficult on a map.

Pero, asi es la vida…

Honestly, it should be easy to get from Mazatlan to Copala for a quick trip. The mining town is about an hour and a half from my village by the sea.

From Durango, you’re looking at two and a half hours to Copala, Mexico.

Is there a bus to Copala?

Well, yes and no.

There’s a second-class bus that runs along a route near the city, but you’d have to know when to get off and then you’d walk about 2-3 km before arriving at the church in Copala.

Probably not recommended.

A few tour companies offer packages to Copala, but they tend to charge $30-50 USD per person and only go if they have multiple people who want to check out the small town.

The best option is Uber.

Even though my driver got lost repeatedly, the trip was incredibly pleasant and cost $800 Mexican Pesos roundtrip.

Ida y Vuelta. 

P.S: Another great day trip from Mazatlan is El Quelite. Learn more here.

Things to Do in Copala, Mexico

You shouldn’t visit Copala, Mexico if you want to “do” things. Trust me.

There’s not a lot to do here. You visit Copala for one reason and one reason only…

To relax and unwind.

If that’s not what you’re into, then head elsewhere. This isn’t a place for adventure tourism or rumba. But, there are a few things to do in Copala, Mexico other than relax and wander:

  • Check Out the Church: The church in this small mining town is over 400 years old. It’s not massive, but still, quite a spectacle to see.
  •  The Weird Masks: The owner of the only restaurant in town also owns an art studio filled with weird leather masks. The guy’s name is Alex and the masks are really cool. I haven’t seen anything like them before. If the shop is closed, ask around. Someone will find the owner and open it.
  • Dogs Galore: There were dogs all over this little town in the mountains. Well, maybe a handful. But they’re friendly and fun to play with and feed. This was probably my favorite part of the trip. Just messing around with the dogs in Copala.

Copala, Mexico in Photos

Now, Copala probably doesn’t sound awesome after this ringing endorsement of a blog post.

But it’s a pretty place.

Just look at Copala, Mexico in photos…

View of the church in Copala, Mexico.

Old hotel in Copala and one of Al’s favorite haunts.

More old church.

Side view of the church in Copala, Mexico.

“City” views in Copala.

A Gringo’s Guide to Copala, Mexico

Well, that’s about it, senoritas y caballeros.

There’s just not much to say about Copala, Mexico. Visit the small mining town if you want to truly unwind and relax in the mountains.

If not, give it a skip.

Copala is truly off the beaten path and well worth a day trip if you’re in Mazatlan. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to check it out if I’m only at the beach for a week or two.

Que te vaya bien

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Jake Nomada

Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.

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