Sierra Madre Express Takes Visitors Back to Colonial Times

TUCSON, Ariz.--Sierra Madre Express is expanding its offerings beyond the Copper Canyon.

The firm, which has operated soft-adventure rail journeys through northwestern Mexico's remote Copper Canyon region for the past 10 years, will launch a seven-night colonial cities train program in celebration of the new millennium.

With two departures offered in January 2000, the itinerary will highlight historic locales that retain the flavor of Mexico's Spanish colonial era-- Guadalajara, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende and Queretaro.

"We thought it would be a wonderful way to bring in the new millennium, combining the old with the new," said Patricia Rondelli, director of sales and operations for Sierra Madre Express.

The company will use the same train it operates on the Copper Canyon route: five fully refurbished and restored cars originally built from 1947 to 1951. "Our tours are designed to recreate train travel as it was in the golden years," Rondelli said.

The 44-passenger train features sleeper and lounge cars, and a combination dome and diner car. The train is stocked with American food and purified water, and alcoholic beverages are included in the rate.

The colonial cities program will incorporate one night in Tucson, two nights aboard the train and five nights in the featured destinations. The majority of the trip will feature train travel, although a short portion will be operated aboard a motorcoach.

The program will travel between Tucson and Mexico City, and both southbound and northbound departures will be offered. The train will pass through the Sonoran Desert, the front range of the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, and the high plateau of central Mexico.

During stops in the colonial cities, passengers will stay at historic hotels including Camino Real in Guadalajara, Parador San Javier in Guanajuato and Hacienda Antigua Galindo in San Miguel de Allende.

The itinerary will feature two nights in Guadalajara, one night in Guanajuato and one night in San Miguel de Allende.

Excursions will take participants to Tlaquepaque, an artist's community near Guadalajara, and the historic city of Queretaro. The fully escorted program will offer opportunities for guided city tours in each colonial locale, as well as free time to explore the cities individually.

Rondelli said the colonial cities train tour will mainly target senior travelers, who make up the majority of passengers on the company's Copper Canyon rail tours.

Based on the success of the two millennium programs, Rondelli added that Sierra Madre Express will consider implementing more colonial cities departures.

The southbound departure from Tucson is scheduled for Jan. 8 to 15, 2000 and the northbound departure from Mexico City is set for Jan. 16 to 23.

A two-night extension also is available for Mexico City. The add-on package includes accommodations, transfers and a choice of tours spotlighting attractions such as Mexico City's historic center, the archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan or the floating gardens of Xochimilco.

The trip is priced starting at $2,700 per person, double, including train and motorcoach transportation, accommodations, most meals, sightseeing, gratuities and transfers.

In the Copper Canyon, remaining 1998 departures for Sierra Madre Express' train adventure are scheduled in September and December, as well as throughout 1999.

Special New Year's tours also are available.

Sierra Madre Express, Phone: (800) 666-0346, Fax: (520) 747-0378.

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