Welcome to the
Soul of Mexico
Exploring Mexico's Silver Road
Join us for a fantastic exploration of Mexico's Silver Road! Our tour will depart from Zihuatanejo on Saturday March 2, returning on March 16. If you are elsewhere in Mexico, you can fly into Leon and join us in Guanajuato. This tour includes walking, high altitudes, beginner level horseback riding and two underground experiences. If you are claustrophobic, please contact us about the Ogarrio Tunnel, as this tunnel is the only entrance and exit to Real de Catorce.
Our La Puerta del Camino Real tour is an historical exploration of an area once known as The Door of the Royal Interior Road. This course extended from the Valley of Mexico to the Rocky Mountains and was Spain's most important trade route for almost 300 years. The 2560 KM (1600 Mile) route from Mexico City to San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico, was originally established by indigenous groups due to a thriving trade route based on turquoise, obsidian, salt and feathers. After the Spanish conquest, this course was utilized as a means for transporting Spanish exploits of Mexico's silver mines. The entire silver route is protected by UNESCO - and is called El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro - which translates as The Royal Road of the Interior Land.
We will stay in the historical centres of Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Morelia, which are all designated UNESCO sites. We will also stay in the Pueblos Magicos of Real de Catorce and Mineral Pozos, both of which are ghost towns. We will have a one night stop in the historical centre of San Luis Potosi. We will visit one winery, an archaeological site, abandoned mines, the sacred Huichol site of Wirikuta, a highly rated Spa, a street-theatre performance, walking tours in historical areas, the Pueblo Magico of Dolores Hidalgo, where the Mexican Revolution began, and several museums, including the National Museum of Death and the Mummy Museum. (These are all outlined in our in-depth itinerary)
Altitude: Seated at 8950 feet, visiting Real de Catorce may not be a good idea for anyone who suffers at high altitudes.
Horseback Riding: Real de Catorce has two tours that can only be done on horseback. These tours are not mandatory; however, if you are not interested in horseback riding, there is little to do. Depending on your personality, you may just enjoy soaking up the ambiance of this quiet ghost town, and walking around the interesting streets.
Meals: We are opting to leave the majority of our meals separate, as this allows our group more flexibility to enjoy some free time, and to choose restaurants with menu's that appeal to you. Some of you may have allergies, while others are vegetarian etc...
Claustrophobia: If you suffer from severe claustrophobia, please contact us about the Ogarrio Tunnel. This tunnel is 2 KM long, and is the only entrance/exit to Real de Catorce. We will drive through the tunnel, though some guests may choose to walk through it. The tunnel is lit, but as it is a one-way tunnel, it is narrower than typical highway tunnels. If you have concerns, please check out the Youtube clip below. If you do suffer from claustrophobia, we would recommend skipping the mine tour in Zacatecas. We can work with you to find another activity for that day.
Inhabited from ancient times by the Chupicuaro and later the Chichimeca, Guanajuato was colonized by the Spanish starting in the 1520's. Guanajuato is located in the Trans-Mexico Volcanic Belt and Mexican Plateau, and the discovery of minerals near the city of Guanajuato saw the construction of a lavish and opulent city built from the riches of the mines. Though the city of Guanajuato was founded in 1548, it wasn't until 1883 when a solution was finally found to ward off the annual flooding of the Guanajuato River. An incredible series of tunnels were thus constructed to divert the waters, with additional tunnels being constructed as late as the 1960's and 1990's. Eventually, due to the damning of the river, need for these tunnels subsided at a time when a new problem had emerged - traffic. The tunnels provided the perfect solution - and are now the foundation of Guanajuato's road system. Some of these tunnels are long, and their numbers are many. Though they are safe to walk through, the traffic fumes are quite unpleasant.
Our journey will take us through another important historical route known as La Ruta del la Libertad. This route follows the journey of the founding father of Mexico's Independence - a priest by the name of Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. It is said that at 5 AM on September 16, 1810, the church bells rang out much earlier than usual. Called "The Cry of Dolores," it was Hidalgo beckoning his congregation to enlist in a movement against the gapuchines - a term referring to the Spanish overlords who ruled Mexico at that time. In neighboring San Miguel de Allende, Ignacio Allende joined Hidalgo despite personal differences, as he too believed in a need for Mexican Independence. It wasn't long before the citizens of Guanajuato City had joined this call to arms, helping to temporarily seize the city from the Spanish loyalists. Unfortunately for them, once the Spaniards regained control, a gruesome punishment was administered upon the public. Known as "The Lottery of Death," this sentence involved drawing random names of the forlorn "winners," who were then tortured before being hanged. La Ruta del la Libertad also includes Morelia, where Hidalgo arrived one year after his call to arms. Hidalgo and his rebels were successful in overtaking the city, which was known then as Valladolid. This siege ended slavery in Mexico, and the city was later renamed Morelia after Mexican Independence hero Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon. Tragically, Hidalgo did eventually meet his demise in the city of Chihuahua. Intending to purchase arms and employ mercenaries from the United States, Hidalgo's mission failed when he and his men were captured in 1811. After being executed by firing squad, their heads were sent to Guanajuato City where they were strung up in cages on the Alhóndiga de Granaditas. Revered as martyrs, the execution and voyeuristic exhibition of Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama and Jiminez only fueled the rage of their followers. Ten years later the loyalists were defeated - and the Declaration of Independence was signed on September 28, 1821 in Mexico City.
To this day, each year on the eve of Independence Day, the Cry of Dolores is re-enacted by the President, using the very bell Hidalgo used.
City of Tunnels
Day 1 - Saturday March 2
We will depart Zihuatanejo by 8:30 AM, stopping at La Rancho Mesa for lunch. We will head to the Pueblo Magico Cuitzeo del Porvenir for a short tour of the Ex-Convent of St. Maria Magadelena. We will arrive in Guanajuato around dinner time.
Day 2 - Sunday March 3
Our day will begin with a 10 AM arrival at the Mummy Museum. From there, we will head out on a walking tour of Guanajuato City. In the evening, we will enjoy a street-theatre performance, which though in Spanish, is highly enjoyable for those who don't understand the language.
Day 3 - Monday March 4
Today we will explore the city of Leon to visit a shoemaker, leather factory, the Templo Expiatorio Diocesano del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús and a specially catered dinner by Chef Israel Salazar.
Zacatecas is a Nahua word that loosely translates as "where there is abundant grass (zacate)." It was here, on September 8, 1546 near Cerro de la Bufa, Chichimeca men presented Spaniard Juan de Tolosa with several pieces of silver-rich ore. The Chichimeca peoples consisted of 8 different semi-nomadic tribes in an area that stretched between Guadalajara, Durango, Guanajuato and Zacatecas - an area known as the Bajio. Due to their reliance on hunting and gathering, the Chichimeca were strong in their resistance against the Spanish conquest for silver that followed the events of September 1546. In 1550, the Spanish launched an assault on the Chichimeca peoples - triggering a 40 year war that ended when the Spanish ultimately opted to pay the Chichimeca peoples for peace with food, clothing, lands and red-haired women from sea-side villages. These women were offered for the specific return of gold and silver that had been seized during the 40 year conflict.
Founded in 1548, Zacatecas played a prominent role in the economic riches of Mexico due to her abundance of minerals and development of the Silver Road, which was mainly supported by the mines of Guanajuato, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi. Mining is still an important industry in Zacatecas, with the state boasting two of the worlds largest silver mines. The state continues mining about 17% of the worlds supply of silver today.
Place of Abundant Grass
Day 4 - Tuesday March 5
We will depart Guanajuato at 9:00 AM for the city of Aguascalientes. Here we will have lunch and visit the National Museum of Death & Parque Tres Centurios. We will stop at Vinedos Campo Real for a wine-tasting
Day 5 - Wednesday March 6
Today we will meet at 10AM for a tour of the Santo Domingo Church and the El Eden Mine. This is a fascinating tour that concludes with an elevator up to a gondola ride across the city to La Bufa. After lunch, we will view a spectacular mask collection at the Rafael Coronel Museum.
Day 6 - Thursday March 7
This morning we will depart at 9 AM for the archaeological site of La Quemada. We will head to the Pueblo Magico of Jerez.
Introducing Real de Catorce
Located in the Sierra de Catorce mountain range, the small ghost town of Real de Catorce lies hunched-up against a mountainside. Once boasting a population of 40,000 people, Real's population has decreased to just over 1000 residents today. It has remained an important pilgrimage site for Catholics and indigenous Huichol, whose territory covers regions of San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Durango, Jalisco and Nayarit.
Sources are conflicted about the name of the town - which means "Royal Fourteen." Some claim the name was originally "Real de Álamos de la Purísima Concepción de los Catorce" (Real de Alamos of the Immaculate Conception of the Fourteen), while the generally accepted history is that the town was named after 14 Spaniards who were ambushed and killed by Chichimeca warriors.
Though a town had long been established in Real de Catorce, it wasn't until 1772 when silver was discovered - leading to the founding of an official village in 1779. The Parish Church was constructed between 1790 and 1817, and other important buildings were later added - including a bull ring and a cock-fighting theater. Real de Catorce reached its heyday in the late 19th century, until it was abruptly abandoned when the value of silver plummeted. Few people remained in this isolated village, and the ones who did earned their meager living sifting through the tailings from the abandoned mine.
Real de Catorce was the second village in Mexico to be granted Pueblo Magico status - an honor it earned in 2001. As a village that is less frequented by foreigners, this charming town has managed to retain a sense of having traveled back in time. The government of San Luis Potosi is currently constructing two major parking lots on the entrance side of the Ogarrio Tunnel to manage the high traffic that arrives with the thousands of pilgrims arriving for the feast day of St. Francis of Assissi on October 4th. Real de Catorce is also of major significance to the Huichol peoples, who make an annual pilgrimage by foot across Nayarit, Jalisco, Durango and Zacatecas enroute to Wirikuta, which they believe is the birth place of the world. Tourists who are intrigued by Huichol shamanism are often drawn to Real de Catorce in order to visit the shamanic temple and partake in a cleansing ceremony.
Arriving in Real de Catorce is an other-worldy experience that involves passing through a 2 KM tunnel that was completed in 1882. After 5 minutes of driving through near-darkness, past mine-shaft openings, you will exit the tunnel feeling as though you have traversed a time warp to arrive at the end of the world - and considering the Ogarrio Tunnel is the only way back to reality - it's fair to say Real de Catorce truly is a realm beyond the edge of the time.
Real de Catorce
The Royal Fourteen
Day 7 - Friday March 8
We will depart Zacatecas and head to the Museum of Guadalupe, which is housed in an old Convent. This beautiful museum is full of amazing Baroque Era paintings. We will have lunch in Guadalupe and leave for Real de Catorce.
Day 8 - Saturday March 9
Our time in Real de Catorce is meant to be a bit more laid-back. This ghost town has two horse-back riding tours - so today, we can head up to Puebla Fantasma. This tour takes about 3 hours, which leaves time to explore the town on foot.
Day 9 - Sunday March 10
This morning we can embark on a second horseback riding excursion to a sacred Huichol site called Wirikuta. Wirikuta is the destination of an annual Huichol pilgrimage, as they believe the world was created there. This tour will take about 4 hours, leaving us more free time to explore the town.
Introducing San Luis Potosi
Originally called "San Luis de Mezquitique," San Luis was named in honor of King Louis IX of France. In 1592, the discovery of gold and silver inspired Spaniards with grandiose dreams to change the name to San Luis Potosi, in hopes of harvesting similar riches of the Potosi mine in Bolivia. Though the mines of San Luis Potosi never matched that of the Potosi mine, it certainly rose as a city of prominence along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.
San Luis Potosi is a beautiful city of many plazas and incredible churches. With a growing tourism industry and higher number of expats moving into the area, it is one of the cities expected to flourish in the near future.
San Luis Potosi
City of Plazas
Day 10 - Monday March 11
We will depart Real de Catorce at 9 AM for San Luis Potosi. We will have one full day to explore the many plazas of this beautiful city. The Hotel Concordia is located only one block from Plaza del Carmen and 1 block from the Plaza de Las Armas. It only takes a few minutes to reach the Nuestra Senora del Carmen Parish, National Mask Museum, the San Juan de Dios Garden, La Paz Theater and the Federico Silva Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The Plaza de Las Armas is a fantastic, traffic free zone lined with coffee shops. There is also an artisan brewery here, and some highly rated restaurants.
Introducing Mineral de Pozos
The region where Mineral de Pozos is located was originally settled by the Chichimecas and Huachichiles. Though the Jesuits were the first Europeans to arrive in 1576, it was in 1859 when Gonzalo de Tapia arrived to become one of the most revered missionaries, as he recorded different aspects of the indigenous culture, including their languages and explanations of their customs. Before his murder in Sinaloa in 1591, he was successful in negotiating and finalizing a peace agreement that ended the conflict between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples.
Mineral de Pozos was originally named Mineral de San Pedro de los Pozos. It was one of the most significant mining towns in the state from the end of the 19th century into the early 20th century, rendering silver, gold, copper, zinc and mercury. There were two disasters that struck Mineral de Pozos that lead to the decline of the mine. One was a flood which occurred during the Mexican Revolution, and the other was a massive rupture that killed approximately 13,000 workers. A depleted mineral source in correlation with many disasters reached a climax in 1965 when the Santa Brigida mine closed, and Mineral de Pozos was abandoned.
Mineral de Pozos remained a ghost town of crumbling ruins until 1987 when the Toltequidad Festival was repatriated. Celebrating various aspects of indigenous culture, this festival created a draw that attracted artists from around the region. In the late 1990's. artists began settling in the small ghost town, and the town began to bloom once again. Like Real de Catorce, Mineral de Pozos has never re-populated close to its heyday, meaning parts of the town is still abandoned. This makes Mineral de Pozos a picturesque town to explore.
Wells of Minerals
Day 11 - Tuesday March 12
We will depart San Luis Potosi by 9AM for Mineral de Pozos, making one stop to visit the Hacienda of San Diego del Jaral de Berrio. After checking in at the hotel, we have scheduled some free time for some much deserved pampering at Club Spa.
Day 12 - Wednesday March 13
We will begin our day at 9AM with some time spent exploring the Santa Brigida, Cinco Señores and San Rafael Mines. We will then return to the town to visit an artist who crafts pre-hispanic instruments, and a walking tour of this surprising town.
The capital of the state of Michoacán, Morelia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is often referred to in Mexico as the "Aristocrat of Colonial Cities." The title is well earned; the delicate pink quarry-stone structures are just as majestic today as they were in the 16th century.
Founded in 1541 by the first viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, the city was named Valladolid, after Mendoza's birthplace in Spain. As already discussed, the name was changed to Morelia following the Declaration of Independence. Today it is a modern, vibrant city with a historic heart and a youthful spirit.
Some of the key structures here include the oldest musical conservatory in the Americas, the second largest cathedral in Mexico, the gold-encrusted Sanctuary of Guadalupe, the famous aqueduct, the P'urhepecha Fountain and countless more. There are over 1000 protected buildings in the centro of this powerful, masculine city.
The Aristocrat City
Day 13 - Thursday March 14
We will depart Mineral de Pozos at 8:30 for Dolores Hidalgo. After visiting the small centro, we will move on to visit one of Mexico's most celebrated churches, fondly called "Sistine Chapel of Mexico" by the locals. We will stop for lunch and part of the afternoon in San Miguel de Allende before heading for beautiful Morelia de Ocampo.
Day 14 - Friday March 15
This morning, our walking tour will commence at 10 AM. We will have lunch at Lu Restaurant and enjoy some free time in the city. This evening, Lupe will prepare a feast at Casona Rosa B&B for our departing party..
Day 15 - Saturday March 16
This morning we will depart Morelia at 10 AM. We can make a stop at Costco if anyone needs supplies before returning to the beach.