A beautiful ride across cities and places named World Heritage by the Unesco, through an splendid protected natural area and ending in a surrealistic garden by artist Sir Edward James. Just keep reading…
The ride starts in Queretaro City at 5,970 ft above sea level.
Queretaro is a colonial city founded more than 500 years ago and named World Heritage by the Unesco in 1996 . It’s located in the center of the country two hours North Mexico City. Nowadays it has become one of the most dynamic cities in Mexico due to the surrounding industrial parks where many international companies are located.
The first stop is just 45 minutes away: “La Peña de Bernal” (The “Rock of Bernal”). We are talking about the third biggest rock in the world and the highest in Mexico. At its feet a quaint little town were you can stop for a soda, lunch or spend the night. You can also find nice little souvenirs. Whatever you decide to do, this place is a must.
If you like rock climbing, you are in the right place too!
The road to Bernal doesn’t present any major challenge, most of the road is straight with just a few extended curves… but just after passing Bernal it starts to get fun!
Surrounded by an arid landscape due the high content of lime in the soil, you start with a very interesting section of twisties, one after another, up and down, a technical road between the mountains for about 30 miles. The landscape changes a bit as you advance and a few miles later you are in the middle of a semidesert.
After this twisty section you then continue on a straight part of the road. A few more miles down the route and you find a military checkpoint… Don’t worry about it, they are normally courteous people just looking for arm and drug smugglers.
After the control point the curves and the fun start again. As you get to “Peña Blanca” (“White Rock” in English) – by the way if you need gas, this is the place to stop and fill it up – you start climbing the mountains twist after twist.
I love this part: most of the ride you can clearly see three or four turns in front of you, and as it is a low traffic road, you can enjoy yourself taking the best lines (always keeping it in the safe side if you know what I mean!).
After climbing for a while you notice how things start to change and suddenly what were rocks, sand and cactus are now pine trees. It’s beautiful.. You feel the change of temperature and then you reach “La Puerta del Cielo” (The Door of Heavens”) the highest point in this ride.
We are now at about 9200 feet above sea level… The turns continue but now you are going downhill. Remember to adjust your riding to that fact. Unfortunately I have seen more than one forgetting about it that and paying the consequences.
As you start descending you ride through a small town called Pinal the Amoles… descend, turn turn, descend turn turn, descend turn turn… I love it! About 10 miles after Pinal de Amoles, the weather starts to change again and gets warmer. The vegetation also suffers a sudden transformation.
You keep devouring the road and you cannot help but getting marveled of the landscape around you… Just remember to keep your eyes on the road! Turn, turn… You are in the middle of the Sierra Gorda protected area and home of multiple plants and animals.
You continue descending till you reach Jalpan de Serra the most important town in the Sierra Gorda and place where Father Junipero Serra built one of his most important missions in the area before heading north to build the Missions in California. These missions were also named World Heritage by the Unesco in 2003.
In Jalpan you can find a couple of simple but nice hotels and some restaurants. Another possibility to spend the night is to ride a few more miles west to a place called Conca where you ‘ll find a hotel with Spa to relax from the day’s ride and get ready for the rest of the trip.
After Jalpan our next stop and final destination is Xilitla,
so you head north-east till you reach the state of San Luis Potosi.
A few miles after crossing the state limits in the middle of the mountains, at about 3,300 ft asl, in a rain forest of incredible vegetation you get to Xilitla.
This town was chosen by Sir Edward James, a surrealistic British artist – also noble and rich -, to spend the rest of his life. It is in this place he built a huge garden, a private zoo and a meditation place in the middle of the jungle. Its very difficult to describe it with words…
In Xilitla you can stay in the Castillo “The Castle” the house of former Sir Edward James’ right hand and friend: Plutarco Gastelum. This exclusive Bed and Breakfast is unique in its kind and you can see, feel and breath the influence of the artist everywhere.
Another possibility to spend the night is to ride a bit more to the north and stay in Ciudad Valles an important city of San Luis Potosi state where you will find all kind of hotels and restaurants, night life etc.
My recommendation… stay at the Castillo, forget about your ride and enjoy for a whole day this Mexican Shangri La.
After spending the whole day in Xilitla prepare for a long ride back to Queretaro. For this one I like to leave early in the morning and keep, if possible, a fast pace. Turn, turn…
We are talking about many miles and literally hundreds of twisties… Once my wife counted them… She stopped when she was at the 500th and we hadn’t arrived back to Queretaro City yet!
It’s so fun that the time flies and suddenly you realize it’s all over and you would like to turn around and do it again…
You know the feeling right?
Another possibility from Xilitla is to head to the famous Huasteca Potosina a zone of exuberant rivers, waterfalls and springs… But that area deserves a whole article by itself. I will be writing it in the future.