In September 2015, I spent a week in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. I visited the city of San Luis Potosi as well as the small mountain town of Real de Catorce.
Real de Catorce sits at an altitude of around 9,000 feet (2740m), nestled between higher hills. It’s in the north central Altiplano area of Mexico. The Sierra Madre Occidental (West) and Sierra Madre Oriental (East) mountains block a lot of moisture from arriving here, so this “high plain” is pretty dry.
Real became an important mining town in the late 1700s when silver was discovered in the local mountains. The town grew in size and status until the 1900s, when the price of silver dropped and the mines began playing out. The population dropped from over 15,000 to just a few hundred people, and much of the town fell into ruins. After many years of neglect, the town has undergone a revival in the last couple of decades.
Real de Catorce is accessed through the mile and a half long Ogarrio tunnel, built in 1901. You can drive through the tunnel to Real, but the streets in town are not good for cars. Most people who drive park near the tunnel and leave their car there while they are in town.
On my trip, I first took the bus from the city of San Luis Potosi north to Matehuala. This took about 2 hours. I had intended to arrive in Matehuala around 9:30 a.m., with hopes to take the 9:45 bus to Real. Alas, the 9:45 bus which was noted on many websites no longer exists. I waited in the rather small bus station until 11:45, and took that bus, which took almost another two hours before arriving at the tunnel.
The large bus from Matehuala to Real stops on the east side of the tunnel — it cannot fit through the tunnel, it is too tall. You board a smaller bus, with a much lower ceiling (I could not stand upright in it). That bus takes you through the tunnel, and drops you on the other side. From there, I walked to my hotel.
I quickly became enamored with Real de Catorce. The pace was much slower, I didn’t feel the urge to rush around. Most tourists come on weekends, there was a definite lull during the week (I was there Monday-Thursday). I had intended to spend only two days, I extended my visit to four days.
I spent a lot of my time either hiking in the hills above town, or just wandering around taking photos. I had some good food (and one not-so-good meal), talked to some interesting locals, and really enjoyed my time there. Here’s a selection of photos from Real, I hope you enjoy them.