I stumbled upon the most whimsical, dreamlike sculpture garden nestled in Mexico’s rainforest by chance (or algorithm, rather). When planning my trip to the Huasteca Potosina region of the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, Edward James’ Surrealist Garden came up as a related image. I had spent hours researching hidden waterfalls in the region, but Las Pozas was perhaps the most intriguing. Named Las Pozas for the series of pools formed by the waterfalls running through it, Edward James Surrealist Garden in Xilitla is a feast for the eyes, and a perfect example of nature taking over.
Las Pozas is a figment of imagination come to life by English writer, Edward James. Originally painted in vibrant color, whimsical concrete structures and staircases to nowhere find themselves intertwined with the rainforest’s floral and fauna. The sculpture garden is full of symbolism. When the paint wore away from the concrete, management decided not to restore the color as the rainforest had become overgrown with the sculpture garden, forming something entirely new and romantic in its own way. Now, visitors who manage to make the trip to the remote mountain town of Xilitla can take guided tours of the property for just a small fee.
Of course, when I came across images of Edward James’ Surrealist Garden, I had to add it to my Huasteca Potosina itinerary. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite attractions in Mexico, and one of the most unique attractions I’ve been to in the world. I’ve yet to see any other place in the world that could truly be called similar.
As beautiful as this destination is, it’s almost equally as confusing to get to. These days, it seems like most of the places I end up are. The most stressful trips usually make for the most gratifying final destinations, and Las Pozas is no exception. I’ve made the journey and worked out the biggest issues you’ll encounter. If you’re looking to learn more or make the journey for yourself, keep reading!
HOW TO GET TO LAS POZAS – EDWARD JAMES’ SURREALIST GARDEN
DRIVING TO LAS POZAS
Like most attractions in La Huasteca Potosina, renting a car and driving is the best way to reach Las Pozas is by far. We picked up our rental car at the San Luis Potosí airport, and kept it for the entire duration of our trip. Click here to view rental car options at SLP. For the Huasteca Potosina region as a whole, I strongly recommend trying to rent a high clearance vehicle or SUV such as a Jeep, if possible. There’s a lot of off road driving with very rough road conditions. Our little economy car managed to make it through, but not without some tense and uncertain moments.
I stayed in Ciudad Valles, the largest and most central town in the Huasteca Potosina region. Most of the drive between Ciudad Valles and Las Pozas is very straightforward and on the highway. When you begin reaching the sculpture garden, the road narrows and eventually turns into dirt. It goes without saying, but when this happens, drive slowly and with caution. The dirt road is filled with tons of potholes. Large stones and roots emerge from all over the road, making it easy to get into a less than optimal situation.
Edward James’ Surrealist Garden is located just a few minutes from the mountain town of Xilitla, however, and I can’t emphasize this enough, both are very remote. When I describe Xilitla as a mountain town, I really mean it. Think Positano on steroids, with rougher roads.
Most travelers to Las Pozas will never need to go all the way to Xilitla if they’ve purchased tickets online. I, however, did not do that, so we ended up on a topsy turvy, rollercoaster of a drive to the top of Xilitla, where the ticket kiosk is. My friend, as the driver, was less than amused. Me, as the passenger, who did not need to navigate the absolute wall of a road we drove up, found Xilitla incredibly charming.
I’ve honestly never seen a town with such extreme roads. Roads in Xilitla are crazy narrow, are steep enough to be the incline on a rollercoaster, and are filled with tight turns. The roads are paved (thank goodness), but are still really bumpy. When you reach the center of town, it’s worth it. The town is really cute and I recommend that any traveler to Edward James’ Surrealist garden takes the time to walk around there before or after.
Keep an eye on gas during this drive. Xilitla doesn’t have a gas station to my knowledge, and gas stations are few and far between while driving between Ciudad Valles and Xilitla.
Planning on staying in Ciudad Valles? If you don’t have a rental car, taxi, private driver, or tour might be your next best option. I wouldn’t recommend taxi compared to rental car, as it will likely end up being much more expensive. Taxis are scarce outside of Ciudad Valles. For that reason, if you take a taxi anywhere in La Huasteca, I strongly, strongly recommend that you hire the taxi for the full day, and request that they wait for you at your destination. I cannot stress enough that if you don’t arrange for a taxi to wait during the day, you might find yourself stranded and unable to find another.
While researching online, you might find that private tours and drivers in La Huasteca Potosina are few and far between. As San Luis Potosí is still an under-the-radar destination for many international travelers, many local tour agencies still do not have online listings. I recommend reaching out to your reception at your hotel, as they likely know of local tour operators who can assist you.
If you are more comfortable arranging a tour in advance online, click below to explore your options!
JARDÍN ESCULTÓRICO EDWARD JAMES HOURS
Edward James’ Surrealist Garden is currently open from 9 am to 6 pm, Wednesday through Monday. The garden is presently closed on Tuesdays.
LAS POZAS ADMISSION FEE AND TICKETS
Admission to Las Pozas can be purchased in advance online, or in person in Xilitla. Locating the ticket kiosk in Xilitla is simple in theory, stressful in practice. The ticket kiosk is in Xilitla’s town square at the top of the town. Sounds simple, right? In actuality, not so much. As previously mentioned, Xilitla’s roads are narrow, and extremely vertical. Add an extra half hour to your drive time if you’re trying to reach the town square, because you might need it.
When you reach the ticket kiosk, you’ll be asked for which time of entry you would like. The entrance fee at Las Pozas is $125 pesos ($6.15 USD) per person. Included in the cost of admission is the mandatory guided tour.
It’s important to know that you cannot purchase tickets at Jardín Escultórico Edward James itself. Speaking from experience, if you reach the entrance to the sculpture garden without purchasing admission online or in person, they will turn you away and point you towards Xilitla. Reaching the garden requires driving through some bumpy, pothole filled dirt jungle roads. You definitely don’t want to have to drive down those roads more than you need to!
LAS POZAS GUIDED TOURS
If a third party tour group tries to get you to book a tour for Edwards James’ Surrealist Garden, don’t do it. The sculpture garden has their own tour guides, who are incredibly knowledgeable about Edward James, Xilitla, and the history and construction of the sculpture garden.
The only way to view the garden is to go on one of Jardín Escultórico Edward James’ official guided tours. Previously, free exploration and swimming in the waterfalls and pools was allowed, however due to the global situation, this has changed. The tour is included in the price of the admission, and is a group tour. Groups can be up to 25 people, however we only had 10 or so on ours.
Tours are offered both in Spanish and in English. Keep in mind that Spanish tours are offered much more frequently than English tours, so if an English tour is a must for you, you may end up waiting a few hours for one. The tour itself is an hour and a half, however the tour I was on ran longer.
As only elementary, barely conversational Spanish speakers, we definitely should have been on the English tour. However, our tour guide easy to understand (meaning that I picked up about every third word, enough to piece together a narrative). We got lucky enough to meet a few other people who spoke English on the tour. All in all, we ended up having a laugh and making friends with some really wonderful travelers.
WHAT TO BRING TO LAS POZAS
There really isn’t anything near Xilitla for miles, so it’s important to come prepared for the full day! Here’s your must haves for Las Pozas:
It goes without saying that as a sculpture garden, Jardín Surrealista de Edward James is completely outdoors. Although overall it is heavily shaded, I do still recommend bringing sunscreen, especially if you plan on walking around Xilitla, which is full sun!
When in Mexico, I highly recommend using a biodegradable, reef safe sunscreen to product the local environment and aquatic life. Although this isn’t relevant to Las Pozas directly, as presently swimming isn’t allowed (although it has been in the past), the Huasteca Potosina is filled with water attractions where it’s important to be mindful of this.
Being in the rainforest, bugs are inevitable. When packing, make sure to throw in the bug spray! If packing it isn’t an option, I recommend picking it up at the Chedraui in Ciudad Valles. Chedraui is similar to Walmart and is my go-to for essentials that I may have forgotten to pack, such as a beach towel, sunscreen, bug spray, etc.
Las Pozas’ dirt and cobbled paths are not ideal for heels or sandals. I did wear flat sandals, which wasn’t awful, but given the hilly terrain and the fact that you’re in the rainforest, I definitely think sneakers are the way to go. The garden is known to get a bit of rain, which can make the stone paths slippery. As a general rule of thumb, always have a pair with you in the car when in La Huasteca Potosina, as many attractions require a short hike or climbing over rocks! Regardless, you will be doing some walking, stairs, etc. so plan accordingly.
My sneaker of choice is always the APL Techloom Pro. These lightweight tennis shoes are like walking on clouds. I wore these all through Mexico with no issue.
There are some concessions stands and restaurants outside of the entrance to Las Pozas where you can buy bottled water if needed. However, with a long drive to and from Ciudad Valles, you may want to pack some extra. If you want to go a more environmentally friendly route, buy large water jugs to refill a reusable water bottle, or bring a personal water purifier. Note that for Mexico, your water filter needs to be able filter out or purify bacteria specifically, not just dirt and particles.
Officially, the garden does not allow any food or beverage into the premises, with the exception of bottled water.
Whether on your phone or a DSLR, you’re definitely going to want to bring a camera! Edward James’ Surrealist Garden is one of the most interesting photo locations that I’ve been to in Mexico. I shot this garden on a Sony A7III with a kit lens. Leave the drone and GoPro at home. When I went, drones were not allowed at Las Pozas, and frankly, there’s so much tree coverage that it would be difficult to fly one well anyway. Despite Las Pozas translating into “The Pools,” there’s no swimmable water at Edward James’ Surrealist Garden, also negating the need for a GoPro.
Be mindful that the garden does not permit videography at this time. The garden also does not allow the use of tripods.
Cash is king in La Huasteca Potosina. Whether you need to refill on gas, purchase entrance tickets, or stop for a snack, you’ll need cash. When withdrawing cash in Mexico, I always recommend using an ATM at an actual bank, or at a Chedraui to avoid being scammed. Chedraui stores are guarded with armed guard, both periodically throughout the day, and all night, making them a safe bet for ATM use. In the region, I recommend withdrawing cash in Ciudad Valles at Chedraui before going anywhere. The towns surrounding Huasteca Potosina attractions are very small and do not have bank locations or big box stores.
WHERE TO STAY FOR LAS POZAS IN LA HUASTECA POTOSINA
POSADA EL CASTILLO
Although many tourists to La Huasteca Potosina know of Las Pozas, few realize that Edward James’ place of residence in Xilitla still exists, and is now operating as a hotel. The house was built by Plutarco Gastélum, who was Edward James’ collaborator in building the garden. Originally, El Castillo was Gastélum’s family home. The Gastélum family still maintains and runs the property today. Guests will notice that the beautiful home has some of the same architectural features as Las Pozas. Being in Xilitla, the house also has stunning views of the Sierra Gorda mountains.
For those staying elsewhere, Posada El Castillo does offer tours for $100 pesos per person. Tours last approximately 40 minutes, and are available between 1 and 7 pm.
Looking for a hotel in Xilitla that’s nestled in nature with beautiful views? Look no further than Hotel Tapasoli. This charming boutique hotel is known for its nest style rooms, and cozy, den style villas built into the mountain. Unlike Posada El Castillo, this property is surrounded by rainforest and right in nature.
HOTEL CASA ORTIZ
Edward James’ Surrealist Garden is one of the furthest destinations from Ciudad Valles, however if you’re interested in exploring other Huasteca Potosina attractions, Ciudad Valles is the best city to stay in. Ciudad Valles is central to many attractions, so even though you’ll still have a bit of a drive, you won’t be driving more than three hours any direction.
I stayed at Hotel Casa Ortiz in Ciudad Valles. This charming boutique hotel is located on a safe, quiet residential street just a couple blocks from the main road. The hotel’s intimate restaurant is just across the street. At $40 a night, Hotel Casa Ortiz is a fantastic value for the price, and one of the best hotels in Ciudad Valles. To read my full review of Hotel Casa Ortiz, click here. Ready to book? Click below to explore availability and rates for your dates.
MORE TO DO IN LA HUASTECA POTOSINA, SAN LUÍS POTOSI, MEXICO
Looking to combine Edward James’ Surrealist Garden with another La Huasteca Potosina attraction in San Luis Potosí? We did Las Pozas in the morning, then hiked to Cascada de Tamul in the afternoon. Read my guide to viewing one of La Huasteca Potosina’s most impressive waterfalls by clicking here.
WHAT TO WEAR IN LA HUASTECA POTOSINA
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