One of the most magical places I visited in Mexico was the village of Xilitla, tucked away in the lush forests of San Luis Potosi state. It is part of the stunning region of Mexico known as La Huasteca Potosina, and home to one of my favorite places I visited in Mexico. Although very popular among Mexican tourists, it is still a bit of a hidden gem among international travelers. Actually, you may have seen Xilitla before and not even known it. There are music videos, commercials, and more all using the famous surrealist garden as their backdrop.
You don’t want to miss out on this pueblo magico. La Huasteca Potosina is a region of Mexico that few international travelers make it to, but for those that do, they are rewarded beyond their wildest dreams.
How To Get To Xilitla
Despite its popularity, Xilitla is still quite difficult to get to if you don’t have your own car. It’s a small village and deep in the heart of La Huasteca Potosina. I spent a lot of time on public transportation while I was exploring this region. Thankfully, Xilitla is just one bus ride away if you decide to use Ciudad Valles as your home base. The bus ride from Ciudad Valles takes about two hours. You can go with the company Grupo Vencedor, which leaves Ciudad Valles’ main terminal pretty frequently.
The landscapes were reminiscent of South East Asia’s lush landscapes, and it brought me back to the rural areas of Laos. Once you get to Xilitla, you’ll be dropped off on the main road just outside of the city center. From there, your accommodation should be within walking distance, unless you decide to stay in one of the coolest places I’ve stayed at in Mexico.
Where To Stay in Xilitla
Casa Caracol. I don’t have any other recommendations because Casa Caracol is simply it. It is about a 20-minute walk from the center of Xilitla, but right across from the Edward James Surrealist Garden. The property is peaceful, beautiful, and affordable. If you want to have an unforgettable experience in Xilitla, I’d recommend staying in one of their beautifully-decorated teepees. They are basic on the inside, but for the price, you receive great value. You’ll want to be spending most of your time outdoors anyway. Casa Caracol is the perfect place to immerse yourself in nature and get yourself in the right mindset for visiting Edward James’ castle.
If you want something a little more central and in town, then Sukha Hostel is a good option. I stayed at Sukha Hostel in San Luis Potosi city, but opted for Casa Caracol while I was in Xilitla. If the Sukha in Xilitla is anything like the one in San Luis Potosi, then I know it will have a great and welcoming vibe for travelers.
What To Do in Xilitla
Obviously, the main draw to Xilitla is the otherworldly Edward James Surrealist Garden. Who is Edward James? Well, let’s just say Salvador Dali himself called Edward James “crazier than all the surrrealists put together”. This is located about a 20-minute walk from the center of Xilitla. You can also take a taxi there, since the walk is mostly along muddy roads and some steep uphill and downhill stretches through town. The walk is quite scenic though, and you’ll stumble into a waterfall here or there along the way. Once you start to run into the vendors selling their wares outside of the garden’s entrance, you’ll know you’ve arrived.
Keep in mind that you might have to buy tickets in advance. I was able to get last-minute tickets through Casa Caracol, although it was more expensive as it was through a private guided tour. When I went, people were given time slots. I’m not sure if that was a COVID-precaution or how they normally operate, so try and double-check a few days in advance to make sure there’s a time slot for you to visit when you’ll be in Xilitla.
The garden itself is absolutely breathtaking. It often feels like another planet, a mix between Lord of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland. If you have access to some psychedelic substances, I can imagine it would augment the experience to inter-dimensional levels. The garden is beautiful and nonsensical, but one of the most picturesque places you’ll ever roam through. Along with the array of wacky sculptures and structures, you’re fully immersed in stunning natural beauty. The lush green forest will surround you every step of the way, but you’ll also stumble into waterfalls, rivers, and the occasional colorful bird or snake. I won’t post too many pictures, because I want you to experience the wonder and awe fully on your first visit to Edward James’ sculpture garden.
There are other things to do in Xilitla, mostly revolving around the natural scenery in the area. You can use Xilitla as a home base to check out some waterfalls or do some more adventurous activities. La Huasteca Potosina has no shortage of outdoors adventures. Although Xilitla is a can’t-miss destination in La Huasteca Potosina, it might not be the best home base to use for exploring the area. Although Ciudad Valles might be the ugliest city I visited in Mexico, it has everything you’ll need and has a more central location to get to places like Tamasopo, El Naranjo and beyond. Here’s my full guide to La Huasteca Potosina.
Within the town of Xilitla itself, you won’t find too much. It is picturesque in its own way, with the lush green mountains serving as a beautiful backdrop to the colorful city. However, it is definitely not as clean or as modern as Mexico’s more internationally-known destinations. I didn’t have any food that really wowed me, and as far as I know, nightlife isn’t a big thing here. There are a few museums, and the can’t-miss one is the Leonora Carrington Museum right in the city center. If you haven’t had your fill of surrealist art from the garden, then you can indulge in the renowned Mexican artist’s work. She is perhaps the most famous female artist from the surrealism period.
Xilitla is truly an otherworldly experience and remains one of my favorite places I ever visited in Mexico. It is a bit of a detour from the more popular destinations of Mexico, but if you can make it here, do not pass up the opportunity.
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Also, be sure to check out my complete itinerary for backpacking in Mexico!
My Complete Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
By popular demand… Here is the complete itinerary for one of my favorite countries in the world, Mexico. In this 68-page guidebook, I cover 30 of my favorite Mexican destinations, including how to get to each city, where to stay, and the best things to do in each city. I also include tidbits of useful information like things to know before going to Mexico, as well as my favorite party destina…