©istock.com/DarioGaona
©istock.com/DarioGaona

San Luis Potosi: Mexico’s topographical phenomenon

4 minutes to read

Mexico is a massive country as diverse topographically as it is culturally; from the tropical rainforests of Chiapas to the deserts of Sonora, from the tranquil turquoise waters of the Caribbean to the massive wave sets of the Pacific, and from the coastal plains of the Mexican Gulf to the majestic peaks of the Sierra Madre, every part of Mexico is worth exploring. Every state has its claim to fame whether it be Quintana Roo’s Caribbean beaches or Chihuahua’s impressive canyon system, however, the state that wins the geographical prize- and consequently, my heart- is San Luis Potosi. San Luis Potosi is a geographical anomaly that offers two completely opposite climates and topographies bisected by the state’s picturesque capital city with the same name. Additionally, there is very little international tourism to San Luis, so both nature and culture are immaculately conserved.

©istock.com/danyboyfarias
©istock.com/danyboyfarias

West

The western part of San Luis Potosi is a stark but beautiful desert with a mountain range locals call “El Quemado” as a stunning backdrop. The mountain range was heavily mined over the last two centuries, and small mining towns and a railroad system were built to transport miners from the towns to the mountains. Mining has since ceased as has the use of passenger trains along the old railroad route, converting the mining towns into veritable ghost towns. Each town along the old rail route is till named “Estacion” or station and is still sparsely populated by locals who rent rooms of their home to travelers wishing to venture into the vast expanses of desert in search of peyote.  Peyote is a cactus with hallucinogenic properties that grows wild in the desert spanning from San Luis all the way into Arizona and is used medicinally and spiritually by indigenous cultures both in Mexico and in the United States. In fact, the indigenous peoples of the area are the only people who can legally collect peyote. Many national and international travelers have taken to ingesting peyote recreationally or as a sort of new-age spiritual quest, but the desert has plenty more to offer than a hallucinogenic trip.

©istock.com/Hansjoachim
©istock.com/Hansjoachim

The most famous ghost town that lies along the old railroad route is called Real de Catorce, and is nestled into highlands of el quemado mountain range with an altitude around 2,750 meters. Real de Catorce has become a known tourist destination and is well worth the visit. It is both charming and eerie with cobblestone streets and incredible views of the mountains. Another lesser-known ghost town at the base of the mountain range is called Estacion Wadley. There is not much to the town, but the surrounding desert hikes to small oases are spectacular.

Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi
Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi
Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Estacion Wadley, San Luis Potosi
Estacion Wadley, San Luis Potosi
Estación Wadley, San Luis Potosi, Mexico
©istock.com/hansslegers
©istock.com/hansslegers

East

©istock.com/Luis Cuevas
©istock.com/Luis Cuevas

The eastern part of San Luis is known as La Huasteca Potosina and may be the most beautiful expanse of lush forest I have ever seen. La Huasteca is mountainous and green with hundreds of waterfalls feeding into pools and rivers that are so turquoise in color they appear to be dyed. The two most populous cities in this region are Ciudad Valles and Rio Verde; both are nice enough for hotel and dining purposes but are really just good jumping-off points to go chasing waterfalls. La Huasteca will have an article of its own as there are so many different waterfalls, rivers, lagoons and other hidden gems to explore. Suffice it to say that this region is the epitome of untouched paradise and deserves at least a week of your itinerary.

©istock.com/David Enriquez Lopez Photography
©istock.com/David Enriquez Lopez Photography

San Luis Potosi: Capitol

©istock.com/Roberto Armocida
©istock.com/Roberto Armocida

The capitol of San Luis Potosi shares the name of the state and is often abbreviated by locals who refer to it simply as SLP. San Luis bisects the eastern and western regions of the state but lies to the south. It has an airport and a number of reliable bus terminals. SLP is a beautiful city with a great historic center, vibrant outdoor markets, and delicious food. Perhaps the most popular international Mexican food craze behind tacos are enchiladas which originated in San Luis. I would also recommend trying Costanzo chocolates which are fabricated in the city, are fabulous, and are hard to come by outside of the state. SLP has an arid climate, is generally always sunny during the day, and refreshingly cool at night. The inhabitants of the city and the state are known as "Potosinos" and are among the nicest people I have met in Mexico.

©istock.com/carlosrojas20
©istock.com/carlosrojas20

If you are planning a trip to Mexico, please consider visiting San Luis Potosi. The topographical diversity, cultural purity, and welcoming “potosinos” will dazzle your senses and warm your heart.


The author

Julia Holland

Julia Holland

Hello, I am Julia and I live in Mexico. I came to Mexico as an anthropologist working in Chiapas and I fell in love with this country: the pure and savage beauty of nature, the humility and warmth of the local people, the rich and varied culture. I decided to stay and Mexico is what I call home.

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