A Central Mexico Roadtrip; Driving through San Miguel de Allende + Querétaro + Xilitla + Tamasopo + San Luis Potosí + Real de Catorce

February 16, 2018

Willy's Jeep Ride in Real de Catorce

In July I did what my parents had always warned me about – I met up with people that I had met online and took it to the next level by going on a Mexico road trip. Turns out that one of the best things about having a blog is being able to connect with and meet amazing people on the internet. I met Kiona from How Not To Travel Like A Basic B*#ch through Instagram and Lauren from Northern Lauren through a facebook group. It turns out that they were both going to be in Mexico at the same time so naturally we planned a Mexico road trip. 

Our trip started in San Miguel de Allende where I met up with Lauren and we explored San Miguel’s Art District of Guadaloupe as well as the Pueblo Magico of Dolores Hidalgo. 

READ: A Street Art Guide to San Miguel’s Art District: Guadaloupe

Colonia Guadalupe

Colonia Guadalupe with cat street art

San Miguel de Allende -> Santiago de Querétaro (1 hr & 15 mins) 

After a few days in San Miguel de Allende, we met up with Kiona and her amazing mom. We headed off on our road trip starting off with the beautiful city of Querétaro where we dropped Kiona’s mom off at the bus station before checking in to our Air Bnb. We then preceded to explore the colorful streets of Querétaro.  

Brave Girl vs.Bull in San Miguel de Allende

Breakfast in San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende at night


We were only able to spend the day in Querétaro so we decided that the best way to get a feel for the city was to simply walk around and explore via foot. Starting on the main streets of Calle 5 de Mayo and Calle 16 de Septiembre we were eventually led to the plazas, parks, and churches in the Centro Histórico.

Pink and Yellow Streets of Queretaro

Downtown Queretaro

Some things we didn’t see that were recommended to us were the famous pink Aqueducts, the Regional Museum and the Art Museum. Querétaro also has the second largest mall in Latin America, so if you are in dire need of a mall or live in Mexico I would definitely recommend visiting.

Paletas in Queretaro

After walking around Santiago de Querétaro we headed back to our air bnb, stopping at the supermarket to pick up snacks for our trip.

Santiago de Querétaro to Bernal ( 51 min) 

The next morning we woke up early to start our drive to Xilitla making a quick pit stop for some breakfast in the Pueblo Magico of Bernal. Bernal is home to Peña de Bernal – the 1,421-foot monolith. Peña de Bernal is one of the largest monoliths in the world. A monolith is a geological feature consisting of a single massive stone or rock -(if you were unsure of what a monolith was).

Pena de Bernal

Orange wall in Bernal, Queretaro

Bernal to Xilitla ( 4 hrs & 15 min) 

After our quick breakfast stop, we continued our Mexico road trip with the drive to Xilitla, driving through the Sierra Gorda Biosphere along the way. We were astounded by the diversity and beauty we encountered during our short drive within the Biosphere and found ourselves repeating – “this is not what people think of when they think of Mexico.”

Beautiful View

The Sierra Gorda Biosphere was established on May 19, 1997, because of its variety of species and ecosystems. The reserve stretches over 988,000 acres over the Mexican states of Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo, and Guanajuato – roughly the size of Rhode Island. 

drive to xilitla

The road to Xilitla was quite perilous as it was majorly comprised of switchbacks and canyon roads. Thankfully both my passengers and I made it through unscathed – the same cannot be said for my Chevy Cruz. While driving around the mountain a small burst of rain caused my car to slide and the breaks to lock up. We slid off the road (mountain side) hit the rain drain and were popped back onto the road like nothing happened. Thankfully the only thing wrong with the car was the steering – allowing us to drive the car for the rest of the trip. Minutes after our incident we were greeted with a stream of cars with their flashers on. Slowing down, even more, we followed the mountain road to a car flipped over and resting on the side of the cliff – instantly thankful that the people were safe and our incident didn’t bring us into similar circumstances. 

small town of xilitla

Once we arrived in Xilitla we were on the hunt to find our Air Bnb which turned out to be quite a challenge in a city where multiple streets have the same name. After knocking on doors and trying to get ahold of our Air Bnb host we finally found it. 

Our Air Bnb was cheap, only $21 USD a night and had a great view. With great views often come steep roads and it was a little bit of a challenge to drive to. However, if you take the bus I imagine your stay will be a little less hectic. Our host was wonderful; providing us with directions, recommendations of where to eat, and even drove my car down the steep slippery roads. 

Xilitla Air bnb views

Xilitla is known for its delicious dark coffee, but we were unfortunately there in July which is not its peak growing season – so no delicious coffee for us. However, we did get try the Enchiladas Huastecas con Cecina – a traditional dish of Huasteca Potosina. 

dish of xilitla


The next morning we woke up and headed out to Las Pozas, Edward James Surrealist Garden in Xilitla. The garden was created in 1947 by an eccentric surrealist English poet and artist named Edwards James. James acquired a coffee plantation in Xilitla – now known as Las Pozas – and created a flower garden and a spot for exotic animals. An unexpected frost came in 1962 and wiped out his 29,000 orchids. After the frost James started to construct a perpetual garden that wouldn’t die like his orchids. The sculpture garden was inspired by his orchids, the Huastecan jungle, and the Surrealist movement. 


Flowers in Xilitla

James spent millions of dollars employing masons, artisans, and local craftsmen. By the time he died in 1984, he had built 36 sculptures spread out over more than 20 acres. In 2007 Fondo Xilitla acquired Las Pozas with the purpose of conserving the sculptures and the land. 

We left around 8 am for the gardens, getting there around 8:30 am and were surprised that it was already so packed with national tourists. We soon realized that we had planned our trip during the Mexican weeklong summer holiday. I am also not going to include any photos of me here because I was a sweaty mess in this jungle heat and humidity. 

Las Pozas Garden in Xilitla

We booked our accommodations in Cardenas, SLP because everything close to Tamul and Tamasopo was completely booked up due to the high holiday season. 

Cardenas Street View

We didn’t have any expectations for Cardenas – other than a place to sleep. Initially, this town really creeped us out at first when we saw a total of two people in the entire town but grew on us with its ghost town feel and some bomb gorditas. I was also able to have a doctor consultation here for only 50 pesos ($2 USD) after my stomach didn’t agree with some street food in Xilitla. 

Cardenas, San Luis Potosí

House in Cardenas

The following morning we woke up really early to make it to the Tampaon River where the Tamul waterfall was located trying our best to get there before all the other tourists. We ended up waiting around for about 10 other people where we then jumped in a canoe and rowed upstream for about 45 minutes to the see the beautiful waterfall of Tamul. We rowed up to a big rock situated in the middle of the river where our guide tied up our boat allowing everyone to stop and take photos.

Tamul is the tallest waterfall in the state of San Luis Potosí measuring 105 meters high. After seeing Tamul we paddled back downstream where we stopped at the sunken Huastec Cenote that is over 25 meters deep.

We were super happy to see that the waters were the turquoise blues we all saw in the photos. Since it was the rainy season we expected that we might see some chocolate-milk-like water.


Paddling to the Waterfall

Teal Water in Mexico

Paddling to Puente de Dios

Waterfall in Huasteca

Puento de Dios

After spending the morning in Tamul we decided to fit Tamasopo and Puente de Dios into our day as well. Previously reading that Tamul was an all-day affair we were happy that it had only occupied our morning.

Once arriving at Puente de Dios that told us that we could pay and walk down all the stairs to see the waterfalls, but we could not swim in the waterfalls because the water levels were too high and the currents too strong. We decided to pay and go see them anyway because we had come all this way to see them.

Tamasopo was also insanely packed with people – like the local’s natural Disneyland – so much so that we had decided to not even swim. This was also where I became sick from the street food we had been eating.

Tamasopo, San Luis Potosí

Huasteca, San Luis Potosí

The next morning we woke up to go find some food and some antibiotic and probiotic for my stomach issues.

After we found a doctor and some medicine we continued our Mexico road trip with our drive to San Luis Potosí and spent the day there recouping before our next adventure to Real de Catorce. We dropped Lauren off at the bus station who was headed back to Mexico City. 

Downtown Center in San Luis Potosí

Church and Fountain in San Luis PotosíCathedral in San Luis Potosí

After recouping at my home in San Luis Potosí for two days we took a bus to our final destination on our Mexico road trip, Real de Catorce. 

READ: An Expat’s Guide to San Luis Potosí: Things to Do + Where to Eat, Drink, Shop, and Sleep 

Real de Catorce view of the city

Kiona on a horse in Real de Catorce

Huichol People in Real de Catorce

Willy's Jeep Ride in Real de Catorce Mexico Road trip

After our adventure in Real de Catorce Kiona and I headed back to SLP where we finished our Mexico road trip and parted paths where Kiona headed on to Guanajuato to meet up with our mutual friend Saya.

READ: 4 Things to Do in Real de Catorce other than Peyote

Central Mexico Roadtrip with waterfalls, green space, and jungle.

More about Eemma Iseman

    1. Aaaah, these photos bring back some memories! I think you’re the first of us all to actually write anything about this!? Hahaha. And I still need to make it to Real!

      1. Yeah! I know it! So many memories! Tope! Will you have the opportunity to visit Real after you are staying in Guanajuato? How long will you be in Mexico when you come back?

    1. Wow! You, girls, had a blast! This is such a great road trip. Lately, I’ve been dreaming on going back to Mexico, so this is definitely something I will include during my next visit to Mexico.
      Thanks for the share.

    1. Wow! Looks like a great road trip! I haven’t been to this part of Mexico (or hardly any of Mexico), but have been thinking it is time. . .

      1. Central Mexico is so rarely visited by tourists, but hopefully this will change soon! It just has so much to offer! You should definitely make a trip soon!

    1. You’ve had an amazing road trip! So jealous! I’m stuck on this one island in Thailand (which is not all bad, to be honest). That riding part would’ve been my favourite part probably =)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge