If you are looking for a distinctly unique place to visit, and have a special interest in surrealist art, then the place you absolutely must see is Las Pozas. Built in, and almost a part of, the Mexican rainforest by British poet Edward James, it has managed to stay well off the beaten track and remains a place only for particularly discerning art connoisseurs.
As you might expect from a surrealist expression, there are no adequate words to describe Las Pozas, so I’ll let the attached gallery speak for itself. The name derives from the brook that starts out as a spectacular waterfall and curls around a tree-clad summit through three crystal-clear pools, or pozas in Spanish.
James built all of the structures himself over an impressive 34 years. The labour of love has lamentably fallen into some disarray recently, but it still conserves its natural charm. Most importantly, it’s not flooded with disrespectful tourists. An early morning or evening visit almost guarantees having the place entirely to yourself.
It’s a good idea to schedule at least five or six hours to explore, if not an entire day. Particularly enthusiastic surrealists might want to schedule several days or a lifetime. It is located miles from the nearest habitation, surrounded by tree-covered mountains. Just the views are beyond spectacular.
While the place is relatively isolated from the main tourist trails, it’s not all that hard to get to. The nearest town is Xilitla, which is built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley of the same name. The surrounding area has a wealth of natural and cultural attractions, enough to make it a destination for an entire vacation.
To get from Xilitla to Las Posas, your best option is the vans that leave from the central plaza area. They charge (or charged when I was there) 3 pesos to go down, and 5 pesos to come back up. They are part of scheduled routes farther away, and leave every ten minutes or so. They leave you at the crossroads about a kilometer from the entrance. A taxi directly to the entrance costs you around 80 pesos, but the walk along the gravel country road is worth a lot more than the cost of the taxi.
The best way to get to Xilitla depends on your disposition. If you are young and hardy, you might take the overnight bus from Mexico City. There are three buses a day, leaving between eight and ten at night, and arriving around 6:00Am the next day. There is an all-day bus option as well, but it only become scenic in the last two hours of the trip. The rest is a five hour drive through Mexico’s desert central valley. If you want to shave off some time from your trip, you can fly to Tampico, along the Gulf coast; and from there take bus into the mountains. I can’t recommend that trip, simply because I don’t have any experience with it.
Traveling through central Mexico remains relatively safe, though of course you should still stick to standard traveling precautions. Xilitla and the surrounding area are not major tourist destinations, so it’s likely you could be the only foreigner on your bus or on the road. Some local curiosity is to be expected, and most Mexicans are really friendly and helpful.
If you’ve become curious about visiting Las Pozas, it’s definitely worthwhile looking into the attractions around Xilitla, and scheduling some time to visit them as well.