The Magic Town of Cosala in the Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico

Cosala, the birthplace of Sinaloa, is a friendly town with a wealth of historical sites, legends, notable persons, historic architecture, delicious food, unique handicrafts, stunning natural beauty, and a strong desire for alternative tourism.

The Magic Town of Cosala in the Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico
View of the Church of Santa Ursula in Cosala, Sinaloa. Credit: Sectur

In the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental, in a small valley surrounded by mountains, is the beautiful Magic Town of Cosalá. It is an important part of the history of the state of Sinaloa, and time seems to have stopped there with all its stories.

Its vernacular buildings and houses from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, as well as its uneven and sloping cobblestone streets, take us back to a time of splendor. This, along with its beautiful surroundings and the fact that it has kept its traditions, makes it a great place for alternative tourism, which helps the local people.

Cosalá comes from the Nahuatl words Quetzalla or Cosatl, which mean "Place of beautiful surroundings" or "Place of macaws," respectively. It is located 158 kilometers north of Mazatlán, the main port of the state, in the northwest of the Mexican Republic, by federal highway 15/6 or 161 kilometers by the coastal highway, and 156 kilometers south of Culiacán, the capital city, by the free highway or 164 kilometers by the expressway.

Cosalá was home to Tepehuanes, Acaxees, and Xiximes people before the Spanish came. It was founded in 1562 as the Royal Mines of the Eleven Thousand Virgins of Cosalá. Amador López saw that there was a huge amount of mining potential in the area, so he started exploring the hills around the valley.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the treasures taken from its mines made Cosala the wealthiest town in the northwest of Mexico. In 1820, it became the capital of the State of the West, which was made up of what are now the states of Sonora and Sinaloa.

This town, which is also called "The Cradle of Sinaloa," is where Don Francisco Iriarte Conde was born. He is known as the "Father of the State" because, in 1830, he paid the legal fees to separate Sinaloa from Sonora and set up the new state, becoming its first governor.

It is also the home of Heraclio Bernal Zazueta, who was born in 1855 and is known as the state's most famous person. He was a visionary who was ahead of his time and helped start the Mexican Revolution.

The Historic Center of Cosala

From the lookout point, which is next to the arch of the town's main entrance and the cemetery, you can see the white church of Santa Ursula with its tall tower and dome, the chapel of Guadalupe, and the houses with red tile roofs.

In the Historic Center, visitors can see the Plaza de Armas and its beautiful wooden kiosk, the Mining and History Museum, "La Chinche," a large house where the first printing press in the Northwest was set up and the first newspaper, "El Espectador Imparcial," was printed, and the Quinta Minera.

On one side of the church is the municipal presidency, which is the only building of its kind in the state to have a sundial on its roof. Behind it is the market, and on Aquiles Serdán street is the Chapel of Guadalupe with its beautiful altarpiece.

You can enjoy the Jesuit and Franciscan convents, as well as the alley where "The Country Troubadour" (Luis Perez Meza), a popular composer of folk music, lived.

Cosalá is a town to walk around to enjoy its streets, alleys, history, legends, and, of course, regional food, such as machaca, grilled meat, chorizo, tamales, cheeses, empanadas, and the famous papaya preserve for dessert. The town has 250 old buildings that watch the passing of time. The rooms are nice and not too expensive.

Must see in Cosalá, Sinaloa

Higueras de Padilla, which is 2.5 kilometers from the town's center, still mills sugar cane, which is used to make juice, honey, honeydew, simple and compound sugar cane, and sweet candies.

El Rodeo is 5 kilometers from Cosalá. It is an artist's town where leather, leather goods, ixtle fibers, and papaya preserves are made.

Vado Hondo Waterfalls are eight kilometers from town on a paved road and three kilometers on a dirt road. There are waterfalls and natural pools surrounded by lush vegetation where you can go zip-lining and hiking. You can also ride horses, camp, and look at the stars at night.

Ecological Reserve of Mineral de Nuestra Señora is eight kilometers from the capital of the municipality. It is a place where you can learn about mining exploration and production using both modern and old tools. The reserve is a great place to go hiking, and the river has a zone with rock art. It also has an enclosure for macaws.

Guadalupe de los Reyes is 35 kilometers from the capital of the municipality. Its Historic Center shows the glory of Cosalá in the 18th and 19th centuries, which was made possible by a mining boom. There are guided tours of the church, the kiosk, the streets and alleys, the river bridge, and the cell where the legendary Heraclio Bernal was locked up. The natural environment is very beautiful.

San José de las Bocas is a mining town that is 27 kilometers from Cosalá. It is famous for its thermal waters, which are thought to be sacred because of their magical and healing effects. It is a great place to see plants and animals, go hiking, swim in natural pools, and ride horses.

Grutas México is a geological wonder that hasn't been explored much. They are on a hill called "La Gruta," which is 20 km north of Cosalá.

There is a lot of bass and tilapia in the José López Portillo Dam, which is 33 kilometers from Cosala. It is a popular place for sport and recreational fishing, and it also has beautiful scenery.