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Chihuahua Travel Guide

Mexico › Chihuahua
Updated: November 2, 2020

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Chihuahua is one of our favorite provincial Mexican cities, with a wealth of historic attractions, grand 19th-century mansions, and the former home of Pancho Villa. This is also Mexico’s cowboy heartland, its markets crammed with vaquero boots and bargain leather gear.

Frequently Asked Questions about Chihuahua

Where is Chihuahua?

Chihuahua is a city in Mexico, the capital of the northern state of Chihuahua. The largest Mexican state, Chihuahua comprises vast areas of desert and mountainous terrain and runs along the US border. Chihuahua City lies around 155 miles (250 km) west of Presidio, Texas, and 240 miles (386 km) south of El Paso, Texas. The city is 1425 km northwest of Mexico City.

Non-stop flights to Chihuahua take 1 hour 25 minutes from Monterrey, 1 hour 45 minutes from Tijuana and Guadalajara, 2 hours from Dallas and Denver, and 2 hours 5 minutes from Mexico City.

How big is Chihuahua?

Chihuahua has a greater metro population of just over 1 million. The main city is hemmed in between mountains along the valley of the River Chuviscar.

What is the history of Chihuahua?

The Spanish largely ignored the harsh deserts of Chihuahua, home to nomadic peoples such as the Chichimeca. The city was officially founded by Spanish captain Antonio Deza y Ulloa in 1709, though it was originally dubbed “Real de Minas de San Francisco de Cuellar” after nearby silver mines. It remained small and largely unimportant well into the 19th century, though the Spanish imprisoned and later executed Independence hero Miguel Hidalgo here in 1811. The city received a boost when President Benito Juárez made Chihuahua his capital-in-exile during the French Intervention of the 1860s, and its growing importance led to Pancho Villa establishing his base here during the Mexican Revolution. Thanks to booming cross-border trade with the US, Chihuahua has since blossomed into one of Mexico’s richest cities.

How do I get to Chihuahua?

Chihuahua is connected to the US and cities throughout Mexico by numerous non-stop flights; Dallas, Houston, and Denver, as well as Mexico City, Tijuana, Guadalajara, and Cancún. Flights from Canada and Europe route through the US or Mexico City.

Within Mexico, first-class long-distance buses are an economical and comfortable alternative to flying – buses to Ciudad Juárez (5–6hr), just across the border from El Paso, Texas, run hourly to and from Chihuahua. Chihuahua’s Terminal Central de Autobuses (main bus station) is an inconvenient 10km east of the city center; local buses run from right outside to and from downtown, but arriving here it’s far easier and quicker to take a taxi – taxis should have meters (Uber is also available).

What are the options for Chihuahua airport transportation?

Taxis are the best option for getting to and from Chihuahua airport. Chihuahua’s airport is 18km northeast of the city, and a fixed-fare taxi system operates – buy a voucher before leaving the terminal (around M$350 for downtown; the trip takes around 30 minutes).

Can I use Uber in Chihuahua?

Uber does operate in Chihuahua (assuming your phone has roaming, and the app works), but drivers are usually reluctant to pick-up from the airport due to hostility from the airport taxi union. However, Uber should be available heading back to the airport for as low as 115 pesos. Once in the city, getting an Uber should be no problem, and can be cheaper than regular taxis.

Various other ride-sharing apps operate in Chihuahua, with Chinese-owned DiDi offering slightly cheaper rates, but we’d recommend sticking with Uber for first-time visitors.

Can I drive to Chihuahua?

Driving down to Chihuahua from the US border is relatively straightforward – the main highway is well-maintained and fast. It takes around 4 hours to drive to central Chihuahua from the border city of Ciudad Juárez, and just 2 hours 40 minutes from Ojinaga, across from Presidio, Texas. However, parts of Chihuahua state have been affected by drug cartel violence – driving at night is definitely a bad idea. Check the latest travel advisories at travel.state.gov or ask the hotel. Drivers also need a Mexican “Temporary Importation of Vehicle Permit”.

Renting a car is much easier to do on the Mexican side of the border, as taking US rental vehicles into Mexico comes with all sorts of restrictions.

Do I need a car in Chihuahua?

It’s relatively easy and cheap to get around Chihuahua on foot, by bus, or taxi/Uber – most taxi trips in the city should be 50 to 80 pesos. Local buses are cheap but are unlikely to be needed.

When is the best time to go to Chihuahua?

Chihuahua has a mild, dry climate, with the wettest months July through September. There’s no real “bad” time to visit, though it can actually get chilly from November to February. March through June, and October, are probably best when the weather is pleasantly warm, the days are dry, and crowds low-key.

Where should I stay in Chihuahua?

Aim to stay in the atmospheric center of old Chihuahua, close to all the sights, best restaurants, and attractions. Modern hotels and motel chains have sprung up around the city, near the major highways, and can offer good rates, but these are all a long way from the action and it can be hassle shuttling back and forwards. We love the stylish and modern Hotel Plaza Chihuahua, and the atmospheric San Felipe El Real, set in a fabulous adobe mansion built in 1882.

What are the best things to do in Chihuahua?

Chihuahua is an incredibly historic city, and anyone interested in Mexico’s past is in for a treat – though with so many vaqueros around it’s also the best place in Mexico to buy authentic cowboy boots.

Start exploring on Plaza de Armas, the city’s main square, dominated by the Chihuahua’s fine 18th-century cathedral. Pedestrianized Libertad street runs from here up to Playa Mayor (another large square), but it’s worth detouring to the Museo Casa de Juárez (Juárez 321), a museum housed in Benito Juárez’s base during the French Intervention. Plaza Mayor itself is home to Casa Chihuahua, the former federal government building and now a museum that preserves “Hidalgo’s dungeon” and has exhibits on the history of the city. It’s also worth popping into Chihuahua’s Palacio de Gobierno across the street to view the florid murals by Aarón Piña Mora.

For many Mexican tourists, the Museo Histórico de la Revolución (aka Casa de Villa at Calle 10 no. 3010) is the city’s premier site, the lavish mansion and former home of Pancho Villa himself (though he didn’t spend as much time here as his “official” widow Doña Luz Corral). The collection inside includes the bullet-spattered limousine in which Villa was assassinated in 1923. An even more ostentatious mansion has been preserved as the Centro Cultural Universitario Quinta Gameros (Paseo Bolivar 401), briefly the home of ex-president Venustiano Carranza.

What are the restaurants like in Chihuahua?

Chihuahua’s restaurants are surprisingly varied. Our favorites include the Casa de los Milagros at Victoria 812, set inside a pretty colonial courtyard, and offering an eclectic menu of Mexican and international dishes.

For a splurge, book a table at La Casona (Aldama 430), which offers contemporary Mexican and Argentine cuisine in a grand colonial-style mansion. For good coffee and excellent value breakfasts, it’s hard to beat El Hojaldre at Allende 200. Be sure also to visit legendary local taco chain Chih’ua Tacos y Cortes.

What currency is used in Chihuahua?

The Mexican peso (often prefixed with a “$” sign) is the currency of Mexico and Chihuahua. Most major shops and restaurants in Chihuahua accept credit cards, but it is a good idea to have some peso cash on hand for museum entry and small purchases like bottled water and snacks. ATMs are easy to find in Chihuahua around Plaza de Armas.

Is Chihuahua expensive?

It’s easy to visit Chihuahua on a modest budget. To save cash, stay in the cheaper B&Bs (budget Airbnb deals are also a viable option), and eat at local restaurants and taco stalls. Buses and taxis are cheap, and museum entry is rarely more than US$2–3.

Is Chihuahua safe?

Though drug cartels do operate in Chihuahua state, the historic heart of Chihuahua city has generally avoided the violence. Take the usual precautions, especially at night, and keep valuables in room safes.

Do Chihuahua dogs really come from here?

The tiny bug-eyed dog was really named after Chihuahua state, but they are not especially common in the city today. They likely did originate somewhere in Mexico, back in pre-Hispanic times, but their modern history isn’t well known and the current breed emerged relatively recently. In recent years Chihuahua City has sponsored a “dog parade” each summer, where multicolored Chihuahua sculptures are dotted around town.

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