Founded in the sixteenth century, EL FUERTE is a tranquil, verdant town of handsome colonial architecture and lush mango trees. In the 1800s it became rich from mining, and was made a city in 1906; the Revolution devastated the place and it’s been a backwater ever since. In 2009 the town joined Mexico’s burgeoning Pueblos Mágicos programme, and since then the otherwise doomed-to-decay Spanish architecture near the plaza has gradually been restored. Though several boutique hotels have opened up, thanks to low tourist numbers El Fuerte has yet to see a full-scale transformation – the commercial area along Juárez remains just as scrappy as ever, the plaza relatively tourist-free and most of the restored buildings are still empty. Bizarrely, recent attempts to market El Fuerte as the home of Zorro – the fictional character whose adventures were set in California – seem to have worked, with nightly shows at the Posada del Hidalgo.
Located 75km northeast of Los Mochis on the rail line, El Fuerte certainly makes a pleasant alternative start (or end) to the Copper Canyon train ride, and is a far more appealing place to stay than Los Mochis. Just make sure you take insect repellent – Fuerte’s bobos (tiny two-winged insects more officially known as Paraleucopis mexicana) are a real pest in the spring.
The town centre is small and easy to navigate, being focused on the elegant portales of Plaza de Armas, with its grand Palacio Municipal (1907), the modest Iglesia Sagrado de Corazón (1745) and the fort (fuerte) itself, a short walk south (and clearly visible).