Whether you are driving to Mexico with a dog or sightseeing and taking a road trip with your dog, put Real de Catorce on your list to visit with your furry friend.
Real de Catorce is by far one of the best Pueblo Magico towns in Mexico!
We travel with dogs all the time. Olivia and Sofia go everywhere with us.
I heard many nice things about Real de Catorce, so we planned a day trip with the dogs.
Driving to Real de Catorce
Real de Catorce is located about 7 hours from the Texas border (Laredo Texas). Or 1½ hours from the town of Matahuala – a major stop-over town for those driving through Mexico.
For us, instead of just stopping over in Matehuala for one night, we decided to stay a few days at the Las Palmas Hotel. It is a popular hotel for those traveling with dogs in Mexico.
The hotel is only 1½ hours from Real de Catorce. Much closer than driving from downtown San Luis Potosi (3 hours).
From Matehuala driving to Real de Catorce was very easy and straight forward.
We drove down highway 62 and then turned off to an unmarked road towards the mountains.
Apparently, this road used to be train tracks to the town of Real de Catorce.
The tracks were eventually replaced with cobblestones.
The cobblestone road is about 17 miles (28 kilometers) long. Needless to say, it was a very bumpy ride!
Real de Catorce is on the other side of those mountains in the distance.
Since the town is on the other side of the mountain, you must go through a one-lane tunnel.
This tunnel is about 1½ miles long. It was hand dug (no boring machine!) and was originally used by the train which carried the silver out of Real de Catorce.
This is the only way into and out of Real de Catorce. There are attendants at each end of the tunnel that help to manage the flow of traffic in and out of the town.
Once you emerge from the tunnel you find yourself transported back to the 1800s and where time has stood still.
The view once you emerge from the tunnel.
Nestled in the Sierra de Catorce mountain range, one of the highest plateaus in Mexico, at 9,000 above sea level.
Real de Catorce was a silver mining town founded in 1779.
The name came from the 14 Spanish soldiers who were ambushed and killed by a band of Chichimeca warriors.
Real de Catorce = The Royal Fourteen.
In the 1800s the silver mine flourished and so did the town.
With a population of 15,000 at its peak, it was one of the richest silver mines in Mexico.
It even had its own mint for making silver coins.
The town was almost completely abandoned when the price of silver drastically dropped in 1900.
Less than 1,000 people live in Real de Catorce today.
What to do in Real de Catorce
We got there early in the morning around 9:30 am when the town was just waking up and shop keepers were setting up.
This is my favorite time of day to visit a place. There are not many other tourists. I can stroll along the streets and soak up all the sights without running into a lot of people.
Real de Catorce is pet-friendly. We were welcomed into the restaurants with Olivia and Sofia. We only saw a few street dogs and they kept to themselves.
Gorditas with nopales (catus paddles) and cheese with café de ollo. Yum!
There are souvenir shops and restaurants along the main street, Lanzagorta Street. It eventually leads to the zocalo area called Plaza Hildalgo.
Walk further away from the center of town and you will discover abandoned buildings built with fantastic stonework that has withstood the test of time.
Visit historical places:
La Purísima Concepción Parish
This church was built in the 18th century. It features a 1,200 tubular pipe organ.
Every Oct 4th, thousands of pilgrims visit this church. This is during the week of Saint Francis of Assissi.
The pilgrims come to express their gratitude for the miracles and favors they have received that year.
They often leave small devotional paintings or artwork at the alter.
Notice the original pinewood plank floors.
Visit the cultural center
Located across the street from the church. The building was built in 1863 and was originally the Mint which made silver coins.
In 2007 it was turned into the Cultural Center. Be sure to check it out when you arrive and see what events are taking place.
This was the second plaza area to be built in Real de Catorce. The first one is in front of the La Purísima Concepción Parish church.
In 1885, the land was leveled and a garden with a fountain was installed. The fountain had clean drinking water for the folks to use.
Fifty-two benches were then placed around the garden area with iron filigree railings and entryways.
In 1928, the fountain was replaced with a kiosk (gazebo).
This was, and still is, a social gathering place for the townspeople.
Visit the Ghost Town
There are two ways to get to the ghost town, which is about a few miles outside of town.
You can hire one of the vaqueros in town to take you up by horseback. It is about half an hour by horse.
Or you can walk the up the steep dirt road. It will take about an hour.
What you will see are the remnants of the old settlement and a marvelous view down to the main town.
Cerro del Quemado
This is a spiritual settlement believed by the local indigenous people, the Huichols, to be the birthplace of the sun.
The Huichols, who now have settled in the state of Nayarit, visit this scared site once a year.
They perform ceremonies and give offering to the sun.
To get there you can hire a tour operator. There are several ones to choose from in town.
Leaving Real de Catorce
The small tunnel opening is the only exit out of town.
Once on the other side of the mountain, the views open up to expansive beautiful scenery.
Goats on the hillside leaving Real de Catorce.