How to Visit El Triunfo, Mexico: A Complete Travel Guide
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Whether you’re familiar and well-traveled in the region or have never really considered a trip, it’s safe to say that Baja California Sur (and its northern neighbor of a similar name) is a place full of incredible experiences and warm hospitality. This includes the big – and better-known – cities like Cabo San Lucas, San José del Cabo, and La Paz, as well as smaller towns. One you have perhaps never heard of – even if you know BCS well – is the tiny town of El Triunfo.
I’ll be honest: I came to El Triunfo by complete chance. As part of my trip to visit (and go stargazing at) Rancho Cacachilas in late 2018, my driver-guide wanted me to experience more of Baja on the way from La Paz to the resort – and it was lunchtime! As you’ll see, there’s some incredible food in El Triunfo, despite its small size.
Whatever brings you to or through El Triunfo, it’s a town that offers far more than you might guess from what you see while passing on the Carretera Transpeninsular. From the smokestacks you can’t miss to the intruiguing museums and restaurants you spot, I recommend tapping the brakes, turning off, and spending some time in El Triunfo.
To be honest though, El Triunfo is not a big enough place – or travel destination – to necessitate a bunch of different posts about things to do, places to eat, and where to stay; I have a post about the best things to do, and then this post covering everything else. I recommend using the Table of Contents (below) to read the different sections you need to plan your trip to El Triunfo, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Pericú peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
The History of El Triunfo
For what appears to be a small town today, El Triunfo has a fascinating history… its boom and bust story reads more like a chapter in the book of the American Wild West – then again, it is the American Wild West, below the border!
I should of course start by saying that there were indigenous groups throughout Baja California Sur since Time Immemorial; many of these cultures were lost completely when the Spanish arrived and began exploring the Baja Peninsula in the mid-1530s. (This was part of Cortez’s explorations, hence the body of water near Baja bearing his name.)
El Triunfo itself doesn’t earn much historical notice until a mine was established here in the late 1700s; the mine was largely unproductive and caused tension between miners and missionaries. The discovery of silver and gold in the southern part of the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range in 1862 kicked off a gold rush to El Triunfo, where the mine was already established; many of these were ’49ers from (U.S.) California seeking their fortunes.
At one point, the town was home to over 10,000 miners – not including all of the other people who usually called these communities home (and weren’t counted in society or censuses.) This made it the largest town in BCS, more than twice the size of La Paz.
In the height of its boom days, El Triunfo – The Triumph – was a cultural center and modern metropolis: El Triunfo was the first town in the region to install electricity and telephones, and pianos and other instruments were brought in from around the world. (A piano museum still exists, more on that later.)
El Triunfo’s mines shut down in 1926, and most people left shortly thereafter; the 2020 census counted just 313 residents. Perhaps it was this rapid “bust” with so much left behind that helped make El Triunfo one of the best-preserved 19th and 20th-century mining communities in North America.
How to Travel to El Triunfo
So how do you get to this fascinating little spot for American mining history? El Triunfo is located along Mexican Federal Highway 1 – the Carretera Transpeninsular – or, as I like to call it, Baja’s Pacific Coast Highway. It’s 32 miles (45 minutes) south of La Paz and about 95 miles (2 hours) north of Los Cabos. As El Triunfo is located in the northern part of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains, I’ve overestimated these times a little.
Most people fly into Los Cabos to visit Baja California Sur, so you’ll probably do the same – you can take a connecting flight to La Paz from cities like Mexico City, Tijuana, Guadalajara, and Mazatlan (but not Los Cabos, strangely!). All this to say, you’ll probably need to fly and then drive to reach El Triunfo. You could also visit it as part of a PCH road trip if you’re driving the Baja portion. (Still on my bucket list!!)
Now that we’ve gotten some of the general info out of the way, let’s dig into why you might want to visit El Triunfo in the first place (which, let’s be honest, is probably why you ended up here in the first place!).
The Best Things to Do in El Triunfo
I’ve got a whole separate post about the best things to do in El Triunfo with lots of detail, but here, I wanted to suggest what to do in El Triunfo when you have certain amounts of time.
- If you only have an hour in El Triunfo, be sure to visit the Museo Ruta de la Plata to learn about the mining history of Baja California Sur and the history of the town specifically.
- If you have two hours in El Triunfo, you might consider visiting the museum as well as Chimenea La Ramona, El Triunfo’s famous smokestack, and Mina El Túnel de las Almas, the mine entrance, to get some first-hand experience with the history in the museum. Don’t forget to walk up to El Mirador viewpoint too.
- With a half-day in El Triunfo, I suggest all of the above, plus a visit to Los Tres Panteónes del Triunfo (Ingles, Municipal, and Chino) as well as spending a moment near Tumba de la Niña Vidente del Triunfo. You also have plenty of time for a great meal in town before leaving.
- With a full day to visit El Triunfo, you can do all of the above, plus visit 1-2 of the other museums in town – Museo del Vaquero de las Californias and Museo de la Musica. El Triunfo has a lot of museums for a small town!
Don’t forget to check out my full list of the best things to do in El Triunfo if you want more detail about each of these and why I suggest them.
Where to Eat in El Triunfo
For such a small town, El Triunfo has some really impressive dining options – including one of the best meals I’ve had in all of Baja California Sur. Your restaurant options are limited enough that I’m going to list them all, with a few notes.
- If you’re planning to visit the Museo de la Ruta Plata, you can dine at Bar El Minero de El Triunfo, the onside restaurant and where I had an incredible meal including fresh oysters, sausages, and local Baja cheeses.
- Within that same museum complex, you can also find Margery’s Tea Room for a nice afternoon activity, as well as Toggle Wine Cellar for a happy hour option.
- Café Las Alforjas is part of the Museo del Vaquero de las Californias; there you’ll find traditional ranch foods that honor the vaquero lifestyle.
- For other options, you have some choices:
- El Rincón de El Triunfo offers breakfast and lunch most days, making it one of few options for early day meals if you’re staying overnight in/near the area.
- Toto Frito is a fun choice, and they offer fish and chips – a very long way from Britain, but very delicious indeed.
- Cafe El Triunfo claims to have the best coffee and best wood-fired pizza in El Triunfo, but I’m guessing they could compete with any in bigger cities like La Paz.
- I also know that there are a few smaller options, Loncheria La Pasadita and El Mesón de Carlota, which are local choices if you’re in the area for longer and want more options.
- Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Crunchy Nieves, an essential in every town: the delicious ice cream shop!
As you can see, there are more than enough restaurants in town to get you through your visit – whether that’s a few hours or a few days.
Where to Stay in El Triunfo
Speaking of staying a few days in El Triunfo, you might wonder: are there any hotels in a town this small? In fact, there are!
Your best bet is El Triunfo Cabañas Boutique Hotel. This is a nine-room property; each room is slightly different and the property has some really nice amenities including a pool, a beautiful viewpoint on the property, and a close connection with a local operator for tours. From $90 per night; book on Hotels.com.
For alternatives, you could try Casa Santa Cruz, a cute little hotel with cozy rooms and traditional style. It’s only a six-bedroom property, but that makes it feel quite intimate: there are common spaces including a fire pit and seating areas to spend evenings after you’ve explored town during the day. Room rates unknown; contact by phone to inquire: (206) 454-9343.
Finally, if you search Google, you’ll find Villa La Ramona. This entire property is available on Airbnb and a good option if you want a local stay and pelnty of privacy. You can also reach out over Facebook to inqurie about rates and availability.
There you have it – everything you need to know to plan a trip to El Triunfo, Mexico – a small town with a huge history in Baja California Sur. Have any questions about visiting El Triunfo? Let me know in the comments below!