Explore Real De Catorce: A Lively Mexican Ghost Town

categories: mexico travel

Real De Catorce

After traveling around Mexico for over three years, we’re excited to share our special experiences in Real De Catorce. This place is a true gem, and through this post, we hope to inspire you to explore and fall in love with it just like we did. Welcome to our journey in Real De Catorce!

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Where is Real De Catorce?

Real de Catorce is a small town (~1,000 people) situated in the heart of the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, nestled on a desert plateau within the Sierra de Catorce mountain range.

Real De Catorce

Why Visit Real De Catorce?

Real De Catorce, once a thriving silver mine, is not just a typical Mexican town, it’s a journey into a world where history whispers from the ancient stone walls. It offers a rare blend of experiences you won’t find elsewhere.

For the spiritually inclined, Real De Catorce serves as an important pilgrimage site for Huichol traditions, providing a unique insight into Mexico’s diverse cultural fabric. The Huichol people are an indigenous people of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains. The Huichol people embark on annual pilgrimages to sacred sites around Real De Catorce. These pilgrimages are a colorful and deeply spiritual part of Huichol culture, involving traditional peyote rituals, ceremonies, and offerings.

Nature enthusiasts will be in their element too. The town is surrounded by the high desert, offering hiking, horseback riding, and bird-watching opportunities. The untouched beauty of the surrounding landscape, with its cacti, rugged mountains, and clear blue skies, provides a stark contrast to the bustling cities of Mexico.

Real De Catorce History

Real De Catorce’s story is a compelling tale of rise, decline, and revival. Founded in the late 18th century, this Mexican town blossomed with the discovery of silver, rapidly becoming a prominent mining hub in the 19th century. Its prosperity, however, came with a cost. The local miners, who were integral to the town’s success, often worked in grueling conditions, facing the hardships and death, typical of the era’s mining industry.

The Huichol people, native to this region, also experienced significant changes. The mining operations impacted their sacred lands, creating a complex relationship between the town’s economic activities and the Huichol’s spiritual practices. Despite these challenges, the Huichol maintained a strong cultural presence, contributing to the area’s rich cultural tapestry.

By the early 20th century, as silver depleted and the Mexican Revolution unfolded, Real De Catorce’s fortunes dwindled, eventually transforming it into a ghost town. Yet, in recent years, it has seen a resurgence as a cultural and historical site, attracting visitors fascinated by its past and the enduring spirit of its people. The town now stands as a symbol of resilience, where the stories of its miners and the Huichol are integral to its enduring legacy.

Real De Catorce

How To Get To Real De Catorce?

Reaching Real De Catorce is an adventure in itself. The town is most accessible from San Luis Potosí, which is well-connected by air and road to major cities in Mexico. From San Luis Potosí, the journey to Real De Catorce involves a drive of approximately four hours, taking you through a changing landscape of desert plains and mountainous areas.

Public buses and private taxis are available for this route, but for a more flexible and immersive experience, many visitors prefer renting a car. This allows for stops along the way to enjoy the stunning vistas and the small, traditional Mexican towns that dot the journey.

Real De Catorce Tunnel

The Tunnel

The most remarkable part of the journey to Real De Catorce is passing through the Ogarrio Tunnel. This one-way, 2-kilometer-long tunnel is the only entry point to the town and feels like a passage to another time. Carved out of solid rock and barely lit, the tunnel creates an almost mystical experience, setting the tone for the unique and historical ambiance of Real De Catorce.

Once you emerge from the tunnel’s dimly lit confines, you are greeted by the breathtaking sight of Real De Catorce, sprawling across the rugged landscape. This dramatic entrance to the town is an integral part of the visit, symbolizing a literal and figurative journey from the modern world into a place where history and legend intertwine.

Real De Catorce

Things to Do in Real De Catorce

Real De Catorce offers a plethora of activities that cater to various interests, from cultural immersion to adventure. Here are six must-do activities when you visit this unique town:

1. Explore the Ghost Town: Start with a guided tour of the town’s historic sites. Wander through the abandoned buildings and cobblestone streets, learning about the town’s mining past and the stories behind its current ghost town status. This walk is both an educational and visually captivating experience.

2. Visit the Church of St. Francis of Assisi: A symbol of the town’s spiritual heritage, this church is not only architecturally stunning but also a center for both Catholic and Huichol spiritual activities. The mix of religious traditions here offers a unique cultural insight.

3. Horseback Riding in the Desert: Experience the natural beauty surrounding Real De Catorce on horseback. Riding through the high desert landscape provides a different perspective of the area and a chance to connect with the land traditionally.

4. Attend a Huichol Ceremony: If your visit coincides with a Huichol ritual, don’t miss the chance to witness it. These ceremonies are a profound display of the Huichol’s rich cultural and spiritual practices, offering a rare glimpse into their ancient traditions.

5. Roof Top Jeep Tour to the Abandoned Gold Mine: A thrilling adventure awaits with a jeep tour to one of the old gold mines. The most exhilarating part? Riding on the roof of the jeep, feeling the wind as you traverse rugged landscapes, culminating in an exploration of the mine where you can delve into the town’s mining legacy.

6. Explore the Local Art Scene: Real De Catorce has become a haven for artists. Spend some time visiting local galleries and artisan shops where you can admire and purchase traditional crafts, including the intricate beadwork and yarn paintings that reflect Huichol’s spiritual beliefs and connection to nature.

Real De Catorce

Haunted Places In Real De Catorce

Real De Catorce’s enigmatic past and its status as a ghost town contribute to several tales and legends about haunted places within its boundaries. Here are some spots known for their eerie atmosphere and mysterious stories:

Palenque de Gallos: This old bullfighting ring, now in ruins, is shrouded in legends. Locals and visitors often speak of strange sounds and an unsettling feeling when near this site, especially at dusk.

The Abandoned Mint (La Casa de la Moneda): Once the center of the town’s wealth, the Mint is now a shell of its former self. Stories of ghostly figures and unexplained noises are common among those who’ve dared to explore its ruins.

El Teatro Principal: This old theater, though restored, is said to be home to the spirits of performers from the past. Visitors have reported sightings of ghostly apparitions and hearing phantom applause.

The Old Hospital: Now in ruins, the hospital is a site of many ghost stories, often linked to the miners who were treated there. It’s a place where the past seems to linger in the air, creating an eerie ambiance.

Callejón de San Antonio: This narrow street is famous for its spooky tales, including sightings of a woman in white and unexplained shadows that move in the corners of your eyes.

Real De Catorce

Accommodation In Real De Catorce

In Real De Catorce, the hotels and hostels are as unique as the town itself. During my stay, I found a variety of options catering to different preferences.

For a touch of luxury, I opted for Hotel Hacienda Encantada. Set in a historic building, this hotel is a blend of history and luxury. The building’s architecture reflects the colonial heritage of Real De Catorce, with its classic façade and interior courtyards that evoke a sense of the past. It is also conveniently located within walking distance of the main square of the town. This is one of the more expensive options at $900mxn per night.

Budget-conscious travelers can find comfort in the hostels of Real De Catorce which will cost around $300 – $400mxn per night. The hostels here have a warm and welcoming atmosphere and lively communal areas. The accommodations are more basic but clean and comfortable, with options ranging from dormitory-style rooms to private rooms for those seeking a bit more privacy. These hostels are social hubs where you can meet backpackers and budget travelers from around the world, share experiences, and get insider tips on exploring Real De Catorce.

Airbnb accommodations in Real de Catorce offer a range of options suitable for various budgets and group sizes. Prices vary from about 400 MXN to over 10,000 MXN per night, catering to both economical and luxury preferences. These properties are particularly ideal for larger groups or families, especially for stays longer than a couple of nights. Airbnb rentals often provide more space and amenities such as multiple bedrooms, kitchens, and living areas,

enhancing the comfort of a longer stay and offering a more immersive experience in the local culture and lifestyle of Real de Catorce.

Hotel rating cost    
Casa Curtos 9.8 $ 1 mile from city center Book Now
HOTEL MINA REAL 9.5 $$ 1.1 miles from city center Book Now
Hotel Hacienda Encantada 8.9 $ 1.2 miles from city center Book Now
Hotel Amor y Paz 8.8 $$ 1.1 miles from city center Book Now

Real De Catorce

Eating Out In Real De Catorce

Eating out in Real De Catorce was a delightful experience, blending traditional flavors with a unique local ambiance. The town boasts a variety of dining options, from charming cafes to more formal restaurants, all serving a mix of authentic local and regional Mexican dishes. Here’s a couple of the places I enjoyed:

Meson de la Abundancia: This quaint Mexican restaurant stood out with its comfortable ambiance and the pizzas were a delightful fusion of local flavors and traditional techniques. Although the prices were a bit higher than some other local spots, the portions were satisfyingly generous, making it a value-for-money choice. The restaurant’s setting, with its warm and inviting décor, added to the overall pleasant dining experience.

La Esquina Chata: This Italian restaurant was a charming discovery. All of our food was cooked to perfection and had a wonderful balance of flavors that reflected the chef’s expertise. Located just off the main plaza, it provided a lovely backdrop for meals, whether a quick lunch or a leisurely dinner.

Cafe Azul: As a café offering European fare, Cafe Azul was my go-to spot for lighter meals and excellent coffee. The café’s atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming, ideal for leisurely afternoons. The menu items, from sandwiches to pastries, were prepared with a focus on freshness and quality. This was a great spot for a casual meet-up or a quiet moment to enjoy a good book.

El Cactus: This restaurant was in the heart of Real de 14. It offered a variety of dishes, each bursting with authentic flavors. The pizzas were especially memorable, with a perfect crust and a delicious blend of toppings. The staff’s friendly and attentive service made dining here a pleasant experience, and the prices were justified by the quality of the food.

While these restaurants were memorable for their quality and ambiance, I also learned to steer clear of some overpriced tourist traps. It’s always a good idea to ask locals or check online reviews to find the best places that offer good value for your money.

Bars In In Real De Catorce

As night falls in Real De Catorce, the town’s bars and pubs come alive with unique charm and energy. Among these, I enjoyed some drinks at Tolentino’s Bar which also stands out for its homemade pizzas and lively night atmosphere with live music. The attentive staff and neat service at Tolentino’s have earned high ratings from visitors.

Another noteworthy spot was Billar Saldaña Cantina de Tradicion, a local traditional cantina. It had a very friendly environment filled with locals and it’s a perfect place for socializing over pool games and enjoying cold beers. The very local vibe and music add to its appeal, along with the bartender’s telling stories about the town.

These bars, set against the backdrop of historic buildings, not only offer a great spot to enjoy a drink but also an immersion into the rich history and culture of Real De Catorce. The blend of traditional Mexican cantinas and contemporary bars, each with its distinct atmosphere, ensures an unforgettable nightlife experience.

Real De Catorce

Is Real De Catorce Safe?

Safety is a common concern for travelers exploring new destinations around Mexico. Fortunately, this unique town is safe for tourists. Its small size, coupled with a tight-knit community and a steady flow of visitors, contributes to a secure and welcoming environment. The locals are known for their hospitality and are often eager to help visitors enjoy their stay. Check out more of the safest places to visit in Mexico here.

Wifi in Real De Catorce

Most hotels, guesthouses, and several cafes and restaurants will offer wifi, allowing guests to access the internet, although it can still be patchy. The connectivity here isn’t as robust as you might find in urban areas of Mexico. For mobile networks, Telcel reception is available and generally more reliable than other providers, which still can struggle to find a strong signal in certain sections of this remote location. While the WiFi provided by most accommodations and eateries can cater to basic online needs, it’s a good idea to set expectations for slower speeds and occasional connectivity issues or explore some other options to stay connected here.

Real De Catorce


Real De Catorce stands as a unique testament to Mexico’s rich history and cultural diversity. This enchanting ghost town, resurrected from its forgotten past, now serves as a captivating destination for those seeking an experience beyond the typical tourist path. Its blend of hauntingly beautiful landscapes, historic ruins, and the enduring spirit of both its past and present inhabitants creates an atmosphere that’s both mystical and inviting. Whether it’s exploring the remnants of its silver mining glory, experiencing the deep spiritual traditions of the Huichol people, or simply savoring the local cuisine, Real De Catorce offers a journey that’s as enriching as it is memorable.

The town’s safety, combined with a variety of accommodations, ensures a comfortable and enjoyable visit for all travelers. Real De Catorce is not just a place to visit; it’s a destination to be experienced, offering a unique window into a bygone era and a chance to immerse oneself in the beauty and resilience of Mexican culture. This hidden gem, with its blend of history, mystery, and natural beauty, promises an unforgettable adventure for anyone who ventures into its captivating embrace.

Explore Real De Catorce: A Lively Mexican Ghost Town #mexico #realdecatorce #ghosts #travel #vacation #trip #holiday

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Warren Morelli 

by Warren Morelli 

Warren and Natasha, creators of Nomad Hive, first crossed paths 7 years ago in Thailand. Bonded by a shared love for travel, they journeyed together, uncovering and sharing their favorite locations around the world. Their mission extends beyond travel, as they have tested and perfected many strategies for making money online, they now empower others to learn new skills and create a digital nomad lifestyle for themselves.

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