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Santiago Nuevo León is a small town in Northern Mexico, about 40 km from Monterrey. It is a popular weekend destination because it offers the most interesting shopping in the Monterrey metropolitan area, and is a gateway to many of the recreational areas of the Cumbres de Monterrey National Park. There are beautiful natural areas all around Santiago with forests, waterfalls, rock climbing, caving, and hiking. The town is a designated Pueblo Magico.



Santiago is an old town that really came into being only after the Spanish conquest. Although Chichimeca people lived in the area long before the conquest, the Chichimeca were a hunter-gatherer society with more in common with the Plains Indian tribes of the American southwest than with the Mesoamerican societies of most of Mexico, which were city-builders with sophisticated agriculture, architecture, and distinct noble and religious classes. Mexicas (and other) Mesoamerican cultures regarded the Chichimeca as barbaric savages.

Santiago was founded as a town by Diego de Montemayor in 1646. In the 17th century, it was initially populated by families establishing haciendas for agricultural use.

Get in[edit]

Most people drive their own (or rental) cars. From Monterrey, take federal highway MEX 85 south for 30 km. There are roadside vendors starting around Cavazos and various attractions close to the town. The colonial small town of Santiago will be on your right and up a hill.

A taxi from Monterrey will cost about M$200, though it might be worth hiring the driver for the day so he can take you to different sights and drive you back to the city when you're ready. Uber drivers will often do this as well. The cost is quite reasonable.

Get around[edit]

Map of Santiago (Nuevo León)

You can get by with walking in the town itself and in the shops along the Carratera, but it's best to have a car to get around the many natural attractions.


The colonial town is an unexpected jewel, perched high atop a hill overlooking the highway and lake below. It's shockingly quiet as many of the weekend visitors from the city come for the shopping or the outdoor adventure activities, never even bothering to go up the hill to see the town itself. That's a shame because it has much of the charm of colonial towns in the Bajio or Central regions. There are a number of buildings that date from the 17th through the 19th century.

Santiago Church on Day of the Dead
  • 1 Parroquia Santiago Apostol (Church of St James the Apostle), Juarez, Santiago, +52 81 2285 2725. Historic neo-classical church with the sober and stark decor that's typical of northern Mexico churches (very different from ornate churches in the Bajio and Central Mexico regions). The stone parts of the building are the oldest, dating from the 17th century. The church goes all out to celebrate Easter and Day of the Dead when elaborate decorations adorn the church and grounds.
  • Plaza Ocampo (Zocalo), Juarez, Santiago. The town square is a beautifully manicured garden with walkways crisscrossing it and plenty of benches to sit and feed the pigeons or just watch people and enjoy the day.
  • 2 Museo de la Historia Santiago (Santiago History Museum), Jose Mariano Abasolo 100. Small local history museum with 2 rooms of exhibits that include some fossils and relics of the early Chichimeca inhabitants as well as displays about early settlers and the town in the 20th century and beyond. Free.


Cola de Caballo
  • 1 Cascadas Cola de Caballo (Horsetail Falls), Carr. a Cola de Caballo (N.L. Hwy 20), +52 81 3581 5240. 09:00 - 18:00. Beautiful waterfall at the end of an easy 15-minute hike. Hotel and restaurant on-site.
  • 2 Cueva de los Murcielagos (The Bat Cave), N.L. Hwy 35. sunset. During warm weather months, about a half million bats stream out of the cave each evening at dusk. An observation platform is available and vendors sell drinks and snacks on weekends. Free.
  • Cumbres de Monterrey National Park (Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey). Mexico's largest national park. More than 1,770 square kilometres (680 sq mi) of rugged mountainous terrain boasting deep canyons, rivers, waterfalls, and scenic mountain peaks. Very popular for climbing, hiking, rappeling, caving, and canyoning. Santiago is the closest park access point for the Matacanes canyon area. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
  • 3 Cielo Magico, Juan Tamez SN-C, Las Cristalinas. Outdoor festival that's mainly a hot air balloon festival but also includes live music, zip lining, arts exhibits, and plenty of food and drink. Last weekend in October.


Shops line both sides of the highway at Los Cavazos

A couple kilometers before you arrive at the turn to the town of Santiago, you'll be in the colonia of Los Cavazos, and that's where the fun starts if you're into shopping. Both sides of the highway are lined with shops selling everything imaginable, but especially Mexican handcrafts and artesanias. Some shops sell mass-market junk, but you only have to walk next door to find one selling excellent quality folk art, or handmade furniture. You can find things like Saltillo blankets at the same price as you could bargain for them in Saltillo. You can find wood carvings, metal work, textiles and glassware. And of course, glorias and other local leche quemada candies. Bargaining is allowed.


  • 1 Las Palomas, Jose Mariano Abasolo 101, +52 81 2285 4332. 08:00 - 22:00. Upscale regional Mexican restaurant located in a historic hacienda. The dining room is decorated in bright colors and traditional furnishings. Extensive menu with traditional dishes and mesquite grilled steaks. A boutique bed & breakfast inn is on-site with 25 rooms. Very popular, especially on weekends, so reservations are suggested. M$300+.
  • 2 Casa de la Abuela, Morelos 112 (across the street from zocalo), +52 81 2451 4311. 07:00 - 19:30. Cozy, traditional restaurant with regional favorites, good cafe de olla, and a reputation for tasty home-baked treats. M$200.
  • 3 L'Anfora, Jose Mariano Abasolo 111, +52 81 1242 9610. 13:00 - 22:00 (until 00:00 F Sa). Elegant contemporary Italian restaurant with a spacious terrace offering views of the plaza. Wood-fired oven for pizzas, good cocktails and deserts. M$300+.
  • 4 El Zaguán, Zaragoza 106, +52 81 2451 4181. 11:00 - 22:00 (closed Tu). Casual, family friendly restaurant with regional Mexican cuisine specializing in antojitos. M$200.
  • 5 Butchers Steak Joint, Carr Nacional (MEX 85) Km 249, +52 81 8280 9102. 18:00 - 00:00 (closed M). Upscale steak house with mesquite wood grills. Locals recommend the Picaña. Live music on weekends. M$400.
  • 6 Valerie & Rubén, Río Bravo y La Madrid, +52 81 8096 3308. 13:30 - 23:30 (closed Tu W). Casual Italian restaurant serving pizzas and pastas. M$200.


  • 1 Cerveceria Guaxuco, Carr Nacional 331A, +52 81 3408 2672. F 17:00 - 02:00, Sa 14:00 - 02:00, Su 14:00 - 00:00, closed M Th. Local artesanal craft brewery serving their libations in an outdoor patio, light food accompaniments. Karaoke on Fridays, live music on Saturdays.


  • 1 Posada de Colores, Hidalgo 100, +52 81 1577 6043. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Casual, friendly inn that's part hostel and part boutique hotel. Pleasant outdoor courtyard and terraces. Good option for the budget traveler who wants to be in town. M$300 (shared), M$800+ private.
  • 2 Gamma Rincon de Santiago, Camino a la Cortina 119-122, Congregación (on Bahia Escondida), +52 81 2525 7000. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Waterfront hotel on the Presa de la Boca. (But be aware that Monterrey is sometimes subject to drought conditions and the lake could dry up (it did in 2022). The hotel is a modern boutique hotel with on-site restaurant and spa services. M$2500.
  • 3 Bahia Escondida, Falda Cerro de la Ermita 1010, El Cercado (on Bahia Escondida), +52 81 1291 9000. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Full-service resort hotel with tennis courts, swimming pools, and a marina where you can rent boats (when the lake isn't dried up). La Casona restaurant on-site and several casual snack bars. M$2500.
  • 4 Hacienda Cola de Caballo, Km. 6, Carr. a la Cola de Caballo (on N.L. highway 20), +52 81 2285 0660. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Family-friendly moderate hotel located at the Horsetail Falls. Comfortable, spacious rooms. Convenient place to stay if you are doing a Matacanes canyoning adventure trek since most outfitters leave from the hotel parking lot (talk to your guide service). M$1750.


There are several campgrounds and weekend cabins (cabañas) for rent along N.L. highway 20 going into the Cumbres de Monterrey National Park. Some are rustic sites with pit toilets and tent sites, others have RV hookups and other amenities. There are also glamping sites where you can stay in a yurt and sleep on a real bed. A couple of camping areas are run by indigenous groups who may charge an ejido fee to camp on their lands.


  • 3 Medalla Milagrosa (Miraculous Shrine), San Vicente. On a hilltop is a shrine with a statue of the Virgin Mary and countless baskets of flowers and offerings from Christian faithful who come to this place to pray for a miracle — usually a cure to incurable diseases. Many of the flowers are left as thanks from grateful petitioners whose prayers have been answered. The local parish conducts an outdoor mass here on Sunday afternoons. It is a quiet place for thoughtful reflection and many locals prefer to pray here than in the local churches.

Go next[edit]

This city travel guide to Santiago is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.