Real de Catorce is a ghost town in San Luis Potosí. The former silver mining boom town has lost over 90% of its population since its heyday in the late 19th century, and only about 1,400 residents remain (2010). Real de Catorce has been designated as one of Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos.
This old ghost town is very popular with tourists from Texas, especially the Austin area. Many of the old haciendas are being restored to former glory. The surrounding high desert area is becoming a popular area for horseback riding.
Although a town had been there for many years, silver was discovered in the local mountains in 1772. In 1779 the village was founded. The parish church was built between 1790 and 1817. Real de Catorce's heyday was in the late 19th century, when it had a population of 15,000, with some of Mexico's richest silver mines, a mint, a bullring, and shops selling European luxury goods. It was almost completely abandoned when the price of silver plummeted after 1900; only a few people remained in this ghost town, eking out a living from mine tailings and an annual influx of pilgrims to a reputedly miraculous image of St. Francis in the parish church. Today, its main income comes from tourism.
Several major commercial motion pictures have been filmed in Real including Bandidas (featuring Salma Hayek and Penélope Cruz), The Mexican (featuring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts), and some scenes of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (featuring Humphrey Bogart), and of Puerto Escondido, directed by Gabriele Salvatores.
Real de Catorce is benefiting from the renaissance that is sweeping across many of the forgotten colonial gems of the northern deserts.
Although in the southern range of the Chihuahuan desert, due to its altitude, Real can be very cool at night. Although days, particularly in summer, can be very hot, it is advised to always bring a jacket, even in summer.
The nearest airport is San Luis Potosí (SLP IATA), with flights to destinations in Mexico and the USA. Monterrey Airport (MTY IATA), some 379 km away, has additional flights to both Mexico and the USA, as well as nonstop services to Central America and Europe.
From the San Luis Potosí airport it is a 15- to 20-minute drive via bus or taxi to the "Central de autobuses". From the Monterrey airport, a Noreste bus to the Monterrey bus station is M$115 (March 2022).
Intercity buses from Saltillo, Monterrey, and San Luis Potosí stop in Matehuala. Multiple bus companies like Frontera and Senda serve the route. From Matehuala go the combis of Expreso Vanced to Real de Catorce. They depart at 8am, 2pm and 5pm from the address Altamirano 104 next to the shop Onix Bisutería.
Other intercity buses from Monterrey, Saltillo and SLP go to the village Estación Catorce. The route is served by Frontera. On the website are the departure times shown. From Estación Catorce go 4x4 cars the 12 km to Real de Catorce.
In order to get to Real de Catorce you have to go through a very narrow 11-km tunnel. At the high tourist seasons (Oct and Apr) you will have to leave your car outside the tunnel and take a horse and carriage in to the pueblito.
A driver offered direct service for M$9 per km (May 2017). From San Luis Potosí it is about ~250 km which would be around M$2,250 which may make sense for groups.
Once in Real de Catorce you get around by walking mostly. Cars are not allowed to drive in the city. To get to one of the far away tourist destinations you travel by horse, donkey or mule.
- Quemado hill (Cerro el Quemado). Wixárika (Huichol) indigenous peoples walk across miles of desert from Nayarit, Durango, Jalisco and Zacatecas to visit the valley of Catorce every spring to leave religious offerings at the Cerro Quemado, a ceremonial center to the east of their mystical religious territory. Quemado is, according to their ancestral beliefs, the birthplace of their "Tatewari" or Grandfather Fire.
- The graveyard
- Purisima Concepcion Church
- Ogarrio Tunnel
- Coin House
- Old Silver Mines
- Mountain biking
- Equestrian riding
- Peyote with a shaman
- At almost 2,700 m, the city is an excellent training ground for bicyclists and runners.
Home made crafts... made with minerals found in caves
- Gorditas from street vendors
- Many Italian restaurants
There are several hotels in Real de Cartorce.
- El Ángel Y El Corazón, Iturbide No. 3 (Zona Centro), ☏ +52 488 8875062, firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: 12:00.
- Hoteles Teléfono.
- Hostal Alcazaba, ☏ +52 488 1010244, email@example.com.
- Mesón Del Refugio, ☏ +52 488 8875068, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hotel el Real, morelos # 20 (one block from main plaza), ☏ +52 1800-836-6006. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. 28 rooms, divided in two houses, Hotel el Real 1 and Hotel el Real 2. Best social club in town, featuring weddings, birthday parties, live music. US$55 and up.
- wild camping, quemado hill and cemetery. Wild or freedom camping is possible in Real. The most popular and safest option is the local cemetery. Expect to share the area with other travelling hippies. Camping atop quemado hill is also possible and will provide epic views of the sunset, starry night skies, and beautiful morning sunrise. free.
Houses can be rented in the surrounding small ghost towns (without electricity or running water) for about US$100 monthly, its a popular option for artists and craftsmen.
Your next destination for staying can be:
To the east:
- Matehuala 60 km
To the north:
To the south:
- San Luis Potosí 250 km