The abandoned silver-mining ghost town of Real de Catorce is only about an hour off the main highway route from Laredo to San Miguel de Allende or to Yucatan via Puebla. But Real is light years away in essence. Crumbling history crunches underfoot, the people seem rooted in another reality. Huichol Indians trek thousands of miles to Real de Catorce for religious peyote ceremonies. Once the second-richest city in the New World, it is now a funky, offbeat and most worthwhile destination. Cars and motorcycles can drive to it via a tunnel. RV's can park their rig in nearby Matehuala San Luis Potosi, at the Las Palmas RV park in town and get to this ghostly village in their tow vehicle or a tour. But get there, thee must!
Even direct routes don't have to be boring. After traversing the 1.5 mile (2.4 KM) Ogarrio Tunnel, you feel like you've shed two centuries. Some customers eschew sightseeing and tell me they just want the easiest, fastest way. I give you that. But, just in case the Magic of Mexico touches your soul (or your partner's), I include side trips like this whenever possible. I present them - you take them or leave them.
Real de Catorce was once the richest city in the New World, due to it inexhaustible supply of silver and the Spaniards' insatiable greed. The silver was mined and brought to the sunlight on the backs of slaves, mostly indigenous people. An African-American man I met there told he he could hear their cries at night. He, I and my first ex-wife are the only ones I've ever met whosay they encountered ghosts, but if you are especially sensitive to the paranormal, you'd best beware of Real de Catorce. If, however, you are the type who seeks out haunted houses and hotels, goes after ghost sightings and generally enjoy contact with the supernatural, what are you waiting for?
Real de Catorce is cool in the summer, frigid in the winter and cold the other two seasons. Altitude is 9,022 feet / 2,750 meters. For photographers, this is an ideal spot. The old crumbling stone houses, once majestic, now decrepit scream for B&W photogs who can use light and shadow. The old cemetery and a model could provide days of enchantment. The crystal clear sky and wispy clouds whispered polarizer to me.
You can take horseback or Jeep tours (called Weel ees) of the mountains. Both are scary.
You might feel the presence of ghosts, not always benevolent. Most people rave about Real and never feel any vibrations. I do, but have never been attacked by one, so they are probably harmless.
It’s only 35 miles to Real, but the last 12 miles are on a cobblestone road. After 5 miles, the novelty wears off and you just have to pee a lot. Don’t worry about stopping on the road and doing so, it is okay. The trip will take about an hour. But there could be a ½ hour wait for the tunnel traffic.