Sonora is the Mexican state that shares a large portion of its northern border with my home state of Arizona. So, this sister state was the first part of Mexico that I ever visited. Like many Arizonans, we visited the very popular beach town of Puerto Peñasco or Rocky Point. For my family, we went on an nearly monthly basis. But it wasn’t until 2023 that I had the opportunity to learn more about Sonora and explore it more thoroughly. This state is characterized by the Sonoran Desert, for which it is named. Its sweeping beaches are only over-shadowed by its impressive mountains, volcanoes and islands. And of course, Sonora is also home to places marked by history and culture, found nowhere else in the world. In recent years, it has gained a reputation for being dangerous, but as of 2023, there were still portions of the state that can be safely visited. Please check current safety recommendations before planning your own trip.

General Information

Type: State of Mexico (1824)

Region: Central America

Official Languages: Spanish

Population: 2.9 million (2020)

Capital: Hermosillo

Currency: Mexican Peso

Outlets: A and B

Highpoint: Cerro Pico Guacamayas

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 2/3 Sites visited

National Parks: None

Pueblos Mágicos: 2/4 visited

The Nature of Sonora

From the Sonoran Desert Museum.

The state of Sonora is the second largest in Mexico, and it is characterized by its deserts, mountains, and dramatic western coast. To the east of the state, the Sierra Madre mountains stretch down through the southern stretches of the Sonoran Desert.

There are a variety of ecosystems in Sonora, but as per its name, it is primarily home to the Sonoran Desert. Shared with Arizona, and the Baja Peninsula, the Sonoran Desert is one of the world’s wettest deserts. And it is home to the tree-sized cacti – saguaro and cardons. To the south and east of the state, there are other eco-types, particularly in the mountains. In these parts of the state, there is more water and more plant life – thornscrub and even tropical deciduous forests.

My Posts On the Nature of Sonora

san carlos sonora

Nacapule Canyon (c) ABR 2023

Visiting La Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar – This large Biosphere Preserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes roads and trails to explore a volcanic landscape in the Sonoran Desert.

Beauty and Nature in San Carlos – On the western coast of Sonora sits the famously beautiful town of San Carlos. This Pueblo Magico is home to many exceptional trails to couple with delicious food and kind people. It’s a must-visit in Sonora, Mexico.

More Resources

Geography of Sonora

The Desert Museum on the Sonoran Desert Region

(A Little) History of Sonora

small towns of Sonora

Inside the tomb of Father Kino (c) ABR 2023

People made their home in what we now know as Sonora more than 13,000 years ago. They built adaptive societies, participated in trade networks, and perfected agriculture in the region. In the 1400s, it is believed that climate change led to major shifts in culture and life ways. However, the Yaquis and Mayos have long thrived in Sonora and continue to call the state their homeland today. In fact, when the Spanish first started exploring Sonora in 1533, they were expelled by the combined forces of the Yaqui and Mayos peoples. Violence between indigenous Sonoran peoples and European colonists continued into the 17th Century and beyond.

small towns of Sonora

An arch in Magdalena de Kino (c) ABR 2023

At the same time, Jesuit missionaries played a major role in the Spanish colonization of this area, working their way northward and bringing Catholicism to indigenous peoples along the way. Among the most famous of these was Father Kino, who is also known in Arizona for his development of many missions across the Sonoran Desert. In the 1700s, with the discovery of silver in Sonora, the Spanish took more interest in the area, and began establishing towns to support mining activities.

Sonora played an active role in pivotal national and regional events, and was home to many famous Mexican leaders. From mining rebellions to the Mexican Revolution, people from Sonora have played key roles in making Mexico the place it is today. And it remains a central player in the story of the country, as it is home to spectacular historic locations and thriving culture, but also internal and international struggles.

Our Posts On Historic Sonora

what to do in Hermosillo

(c) ABR 2023

Puerto Peñasco for Nature Lovers – Puerto Peñasco or Rocky Point is a well-known vacation town in Arizona. But besides resorts and parties, the local culture here is beautiful and the town is surrounded by the vibrant, natural world of Sonora. If you want to visit but take the lesser traveled path, this guide will offer you some suggestions.

Hermosillo – Hermosillo is the capital of Sonora, Mexico and it is full of spaces to learn about the culture and history. AND it is also full of amazing food.

Magdalena de Kino, and Kino Bay + Other Pueblos Magicos in Sonora – Sonora is home to four Pueblos Magicos, and we couldn’t see them all. But the small towns of Sonora are all very different from one another, and I loved exploring each one and learning about the history of each place. This little guide will give you some ideas about the small towns that you might want to check out.

More Resources

Explore Sonora – A Brief History of Sonora

History.com –  Sonora

Itineraries

Due to the changing conditions in Sonora – I’ve decided not to do a post on an itinerary here. Please do your research on where is safe to visit before you plan out your journey. There is plenty to see in the state, so you can stay in safe areas and have a great time.

Where I Have Been

More Information From Around the Web

You can look up specific information on safety in Mexican states at the US Department of the State Website, here.

(When I planned my trip, I used some other blogs to plan, but since then Google has updated with a bunch of AI junk. If you have a great blog on Sonora travel, please let me know).

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