Mazatlán lies at the southern end of the vast state of Sinaloa, a landscape of scrubby desert and jagged mountains spilling into pristine beaches along the Sea of Cortez. The main city in northern Sinaloa is Los Mochis, an uninteresting destination in itself, but as the western terminus of the Copper Canyon railway, an important transport hub. Many train passengers prefer to head inland to El Fuerte, a tranquil colonial backwater some two hours east. In recent years Sinaloa has garnered a reputation as a centre of drug cartel violence, with a subsequent drop-off in tourist numbers, but despite the scary statistics the places of interest remain safe for visitors.

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