Day Trips to Durango, Durango State (GPS N24°01' W104°40' - N24.02' W104°66') from Mazatlan, Sinaloa on the new Mexican Federal Highway 40D Day Trip Road Tours and excursions to Durango and popular Rural Sinaloa Communities and Pueblo Magico near Mazatlan in the Sierra Madre mountains of Sinaloa, Mexico
Durango -- the capital of Durango State -- is an exciting new day trip option that has rapidly become ver popular with Mazatlecos, seasonal residents and tourists alike. The city of Durango sits at over 6,000 feet and has a lovely climate year-round. For those visiting Mazatlan during the hotter and more humid summer months, a day trip to Durango is quite literally a breath of fresh air!
While little more that 110 miles from Mazatlan as the crow flies, Durango is separated from the coast by the spectacularly rugged Sierra Madre Occidental mountains.
For centuries the journey from Mazatlan to Durango was a dangerous multi-day affair.
Even in modern times travel between Mazatlan and Durango took 6 - 8 hours of arduous -- though scenic -- switchback driving on Mexico Highway 40.
This over 180 mile long 20-foot wide snaking ribbon of a road was built in the 1940s, and was -- immediately and appropriately -- nicnamed the "Devil's Backbone" of the Sierra Madre. The old Highway 40 was all that connected Mazatlan to Durango from the late 1940s until 2013.
The landscape of transport across northern Mexico changed forever when the new Mexico Federal Highway 40D was opened in October, 2013.
This superbly engineered super-highway cost over 2.2 billion USD to construct, and it cuts the Mazatlan - Durango drive time to under three hours -- making day trips from Mazatlan to Durango possible.
But before we talk about the sightseeing attractions in Durango, just take a look at the spectacular sightseeing that is integral to the journey!
The photograph to the right is of the Baluarte Bridge (Puente Baluarte) when under construction.
This miracle of modern highway engineering is located about 40% of the way from Mazatlan to Durango: at the border between Sinaloa and Durango States formed by the Baluarte River.
With a clearance from the river bottom in excess of 1,300 feet, this over 3,600 foot long suspension bridge is the highest in the world.
While record-setting, the Baluarte bridge is not an engineering anomally on Mexico Federal Highway 40D: the route from Mazatlan to Durango has 115 bridges -- eight over 900 feet high -- and 63 tunnels nearly 11 miles long in total!
In short, the drive from Mazatlan to Durango is worth the trip itself, and many people have already taken the drive just for the fun of it!
For more information about the history of Mexican Federal Highway 40 and the new Highway 40D between Mazatlan and Durango, please click here.
Durango is an enormously interesting city with a stunning array of colonial and post-colonial buildings, cultural artifacts and sightseeing that reflect its over 450 year history and relationship with both Mazatlan and Sinaloa State.
Formally named Victoria de Durango, the city was founded in 1563 by Francisco de Ibarra, the same Conquistador who founded Copala just a year later.
Located in the lush Guadiana valley in the heart of Durango State, the city is now home to well over 600,000.
Durango's long history as a major city in central Mexico has left it a legacy of important buildings -- nearly 1000 in the Centro Historico alone -- that encompass everything from examples of the earliest colonial architecture of New Spain to expressions of present day Mexican architectural sensibilities.
Many feel that walking through the Durango Centro Historico is like taking a top rated architecture class while sightseeing: the city is home to the largest number of historic buildings in northern Mexico, a living legacy that earned Durango recognition by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
This hertiage has been well preserved.
The city of Durango has re-purposed many historic mansions into fascinating museums and cultural centers.
These popular Durango museums exhibit priceless art objects, antiquities and historical archives that document both the works of the Spanish conquerers and the artistry of the indigenous people who preceded them.
The Museo Regional de Durango pictured to the left is a good example.
Some recommended Durango day trip attractions
•Plaza de Armas -- pictured at the top of this page -- is a delightful urban plaza filled with fountains, greenery and a spectacular gazebo at its center. Located in the heart of Old Durango, it is the front yard of Catedral Basílica de Durango.
•Cathedral Basilica de Durango (formally: Catedral del Basilica Menor) is the largest church in Durango, and a must-see on any day trip! Begun in 1695 and designed by Mateo Nuñez, this church is considered one of the most beautiful anywhere in Mexico and took until 1787 to complete. From the intricate Baroque facade to the Neoclassical altar, this is an unsurpassed expression of religeous faith in Colonial Mexico.
•Teleferico Durango is a cable car that runs from the Centro Historico to the top of Calvary Hill, a distance of nearly a kilometer that it tranverses at a height of nearly 300 feet. Opened in 2010, Teleferico Durango can transport over 5000 people per day and is a very popular and highly recommended day trip attraction!
•Cerro de los Remedios is a perfect observation point located at the top of Calvary Hill, the endpoint of the Teleferico ride. Enjoy fabulous views of the city and visit the lovely small Nuestro Sonora de los Remedios church.
•El Parque Guadiana (Guadiana Park) is really an urban forest. Located in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Durango -- not far from the Centro Historico -- the park is a shady relaxing space filled with trees, several lakes, fountains and lots of bird life. For those with more energy, El Parque Guadiana has an Olympic size pool, running paths and bike trails, and kids love the miniature train that snakes through it. A visit to Guadiana Park should be included on any day trip to Durango!
•Museo Regional de Durango -- pictured above -- is a marvelous re-purposing of an 1800s Durango mansion. Exhibits include a broad overview of the history of both the city of Durango and the state, with particular attention paid to mining during and after the colonial era as well as, of course, Pancho Villa! The museum also houses a substantial collection of paintings by Miguel Cabrera, arguably the most famous painter of the New Spain epoch. Much of the signage and exhibit descriptions are in English as well as Spanish.
•Durango Cultural Compound Set within a lush park, the Durango Cultural Compound is home to a number of museums including the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the Institute of Culture of the State (ICED) and other museums that preserve the history of both the city and the state. ICED, in particular, features exhibits that depict the Mexican Revolution in Durango that include photos, weapons the personal affects of various important figures of the Revolution. This park is a very popular day trip destination.
Recommended day trip attractions around Durango
For visitors from Mazatlan on day trips, the Durango Centro Historico and some of the top rated attractions listed above are probably all they will get to experience, but for those who extend their day trip for a day or two, a whole world of sightseeing and activities opens up.
Durango is brimming with lodging ranging from boutique hotels within the city center to cabins in the forests outside town that offer breathtaking views and tranquility, and the forested mountains around Durango offer the oportunity to hunt, fish and enjoy all sorts of popular outdoor activities like mountain biking and eco-retreats.
•Resevoirs created by dams are an important resource for Durango, assuring that the city always has plentiful water. They are also the setting for all types of water recreation including fishing, paddling and kayaking. Many visitors to Durango choose to picnic beside these tranquil and cool man made lakes.
•Hunting Ranches are an important draw for tourists visiting Durango because of the quality and diversity of hunting opportunities just outside the city. There are many hunting excursion companies -- virtually all of which offer door-to-door service from any hotel -- and two of the ranches stand out: Rancho La Muralla and Rancho El Durangueno. Rancho El Durangueno is a sprawling 55,000 acre hunting paradise set within mountainous terrain that is particularly known for its wild turkey and white-tailed deer. Rancho La Muralla -- in addition to its superb hunting -- also offers a very wide range of other fun outdoor activities including zip lines, horseback riding, rappelling, paint ball, mountain biking and playgrounds for children.
•Parque Natural el Tecuan is a spectacular eco-reserve less than 40 miles southwest of Durango. The new Mexico Federal Highway 40D bisects it, so you will have driven through it on your way to Durango from Mazatlan. Tecuan Park is a wonderful place to camp or simply take a day hike and observe the breathtaking array of native plants and animals.
•La Ferreria is a beautifully restored 1800s hacienda located just five miles south of Durango. Within its gorgeous grounds and gardens time stands still. The home is also the location of important archaeolocical ruins associated with the indigenous Chalchihuite culture, and a museum displays artifacts that were found at the site.
•Villa del Oeste is, as likely as not, where your favorite western film shoot-out was filmed. Located just 8 miles north of Durango, this sprawling movie set is now a souvenir-laden theme park with numerous gunfights staged on Saturdays and Sundays. On week days you can just wander around the town. Open from 11am - 7pm every day, on weekends buses run to Villa del Oeste from Plaza de Armas and admission is less than three dollars.
Day trips to Durango -- which is located northeast of Mazatlan -- actually begin by heading slightly south on Mexico Federal Highway 15 toward Villa Union.
At Villa Union you turn northeast towards Concordia (on Highway 40) and get on the new Mexico Federal Highway 40D -- unless you want to make a 6 - 8 hour drive exclusively on the old Federal Highway 40!
Once on Federal Highway 40D its pretty much a straight shot to Durango, with the toll portions branching off the old road (which is part of the new route) clearly marked.
The only significant town you will encounter between Mazatlan and Durango once you reach the state border is El Salto, Durango State.
There are four tolls between Mazatlan and Durango, and the total toll charges for the Mazatlan - Durango segment are roughly $50 (USD). There was some controversy when this high toll structure was announced, and there is talk that the tolls will be reduced in the future.
Before you get to El Salto, Durango State, you will have traversed the Sierra Madre over an astounding number of bridges -- including the Baluarte Bridge, the world's highest suspension bridge -- and driven through many of the 63 tunnels that are part of this remarkable new highway.