Driving the windy mountain roads that lead to the town of Xilitla, it was easy to see why Sir Edward James selected the hills of the Sierra Gorda for his surrealist garden. The panoramic views of forest canopy, and rolling hills are inspiring. It is no wonder Sir Edward James fell in love and built his dream gardens here. If you’ve heard of Sir James or Xilitla, you may be wondering how to visit Las Pozas. We’ve put together the guide to Las Pozas and Xilitla.
Xilitla’s remote location means that few international tourists make the trek to visit Las Pozas. Those who do are rewarded with the impressive surrealist sculptures and buildings of Edward James set against a backdrop of the subtropical rainforest.
Our guide will tell you all you need to know about how to visit Las Pozas and the town of Xilitla.
Who is Edward James? What is Las Pozas?
So why visit Las Pozas and who exactly is Edward James? Before you decide to visit Las Pozas you might want to know something about the guy who built these impressive gardens. Edward James was a British poet, however, he is most known for his efforts in the surrealist art movement and for his sponsorship of the famous painter Salvador Dali.
Having left London, James bounced around the US before decided that he wanted his own Garden of Eden. After first looking for the perfect location in Southern California, James ultimately decided Mexico was more romantic and relocated there in search for a home for his artistic expression.
His search resulted in the discovery of Las Pozas. The sub-tropical rain forest in Xilitla caught James’ eye and he enlisted the help of Plutarco Gastelum to build his dream garden. Between 1949 and 1984, James would employ many throughout Xilitila, spending more than five million dollars to make his dream come true. A surrealist garden spread over 80 acres of rainforest, waterfalls, and pools.
How to Get to Las Pozas
How to get to Las Pozas from Mexico City
Los Pozas is a seven-hour drive from Mexico City. The journey is along the Mexico 57D (toll road) and the Mexico 120. The road is windy but in good condition.
There is one direct bus from the Mexico Norte bus terminal. The bus departs each evening at 10:00 pm and takes 9 hours and 30 minutes to reach Xilitla. The route is operated by Ovnibus and costs $640 MXN.
When to Go to Las Pozas
The best time to go is whenever the locals do not go. Las Pozas is a popular holiday destination for Mexicans which means that it can be busy and overcrowded during the holiday season. To avoid long lines (reported to be as long as 2 hours) go when the locals are busy. That means avoid weekends and avoid holidays (including summer holidays – June and July).
When you do visit Las Pozas, make sure you arrive early to avoid lines and to capture the best lighting. Doors open at 9:00 am and close at 6:00 pm. We found the best lighting especially for the waterfall to be before 10:00 am when the sun is filtered through the rain forest canopy
What to Do in Las Pozas
Las Pozas is a sculpture garden nestled among the natural rain forest of Xilitla. Take your time exploring the gardens, but remember to be respectful and stay on the marked pathways. There are stone pathways navigating their way through the sculptures and the forest. Explore and awe at the creativity and expression of James.
Swim in the Pools Under the Waterfall
Halfway through the garden labyrinth, you arrive at a picturesque waterfall. Various sculptures frame the waterfall. Make sure you bring your swimsuit and take a dip in the cool water after working up a sweat climbing the stairs throughout the garden.
Hire a Guide in Las Pozas
You can hire a guide to escort you throughout the gardens providing more context to the sculptures and the history of the gardens. Guides are available just outside the gates.
Also, the website mentions a video/photography form and displays certain days when video/photography are not allowed. These restrictions apply to media professionals and not the average tourist. As a tourist, you can freely take photos and videos, however, tripods are not allowed.
Where to Eat in Xilitla
Giving homage to the indigenous culture of the area, Huasteca Grill is just off the main road heading into the city and not in the city center itself. This tiny restaurant offers a more modern feel than the other restaurants in the area with its rustic decor and clean toilets. With cups of coffee for $15 MXN, beers for $20 MXN and delicious food (trust me, try the queso fundido), it is the perfect place to stop after visiting Las Pozas.
- Address: Lopez Mateos Local 1-C, La Minita, 79900 Xilitla, S.L.P., Mexico
- Hours of Operation: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm Monday to Thursday and 9:00 am – 11:30 pm Friday to Sunday
- Cost: $
Just behind the church on the main square is a mercado (market). Don’t let the meat hanging from the ceiling deter you, head inside the maze of stalls in search of delicious tacos. We ate in the market twice while we were in Xilitla. All of the ingredients are sourced from the market. We even watched the ladies head over to the butcher to collect meat for the tacos she prepared for us. Make sure to eat here for a budget-friendly yet delicious meal!
Pro tip: Grab a couple of pieces of chicharron while in the market as an afternoon snack with your cerveza (beer).
Where to Stay in Xilitla?
Overlanding in Xilitla is not easy if you are on a budget. There are many options along the road to Las Pozas that will allow you to camp for anywhere between 70 – 100 pesos per person, but finding the perfect place with a view might be difficult. We slept one night in a large parking lot just east of the city here and another night stealth camping in the city here. No one bothered us and we did not have to pay, but it was not anything special.
Accommodation in Xilitla
There is a range of hotels in Xilitla. You won’t be spending much time there, so book a place close to the city center or on the road along to Las Pozas if you are looking for a bit of nature.
Other Things to Do in Xilitla
Wander the city center
Take some time to wander around the city center. Locals bustle around all day running errands and children run the streets playing games. Plus you can work off some of the tacos you consumed from the mercado.
Cueva del Salitre (Cave of Saltpeter)
Just outside of town is a cave that you can visit. While it is mainly unexplored, it is a popular place for rock climbers. If you are adventurous try your hand at rappelling!
Sotano de las Golodrinas and Sotano de Las Huahuas
Located a bit further north (1.5 hour and 1 hour respectively) are two more caves to visit. Each cave has an opportunity to see birds leaving their roost in the mornings and again during the evenings. Tours can be arranged at Destino Ligero on the main road in town. Or if you have your own vehicle, entry fees to each is $40 MXN per person.
Let us know what you think of the surrealist gardens of Las Pozas and enjoy exploring!
Continue your journey onwards in Central Mexico by visiting Bernal and the impressive monolith.
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