In the 19th century it was home to Mexico’s richest silver mine, boasting its own mint and a population of 15,000. When the price of silver fell steeply at the turn of the century, the town was all but abandoned.
But not all was lost.
Today Real de Catorce is a mecca for international travelers seeking the desert’s fabled spiritual energy.
Local Huichols, as well as travelers keen to experience Don Juan’s teachings firsthand, also trek to the nearby Wirikuta mountaintop for the sort of spiritual experience you get from, ahem, the magic cactus.
It’s also been the setting for films starring Hollywood’s most luminous talent.
To get there from the North you have to pass through the Ogarrio Tunnel, a dimly lit former mining passage cut into the side of the mountain. Single-lane and a mile long. Traffic flows one way, and then, when needed, the other.
In the same way a Don Julio Real on the rocks tastes best at the end of a long, sun-soaked day, perhaps a desert paradise is best enjoyed alongside a touch of daring?