Feel the ordinary world fade away with a trip to the decidedly off-the-beaten-path Las Pozas, the extraordinary sculpture garden of the late, eccentric English millionaire Edward James (1907–84). A friend to artists Dalí and Picasso and rumored to be King Edward VII's illegitimate son, James spent 20 years building 36 Surrealist concrete structures deep in the waterfall-filled Xilitla jungle. These astonishing structures are half-finished fantasy castles, gradually falling to ruin as the rain forest slithers in to claim them. The castles don't have walls, just vine-wrapped pillars, secret passageways, and operatic staircases leading nowhere.
It's a six- to seven-hour thrilling but exhausting mountainous drive to Xilitla, with hairpin turns and spectacular desert, forest, and jungle vistas. On the way to Xilitla it's well worth taking the time to stop at the five Sierra Gorda missions established by Padre Junípero Serra in the 18th century. They're a mixture of baroque styles
and the local imagination of the Indians who worked on them, with angels, saints, and flora and fauna in great profusion. Plan on staying at least two nights, as you'll want time to soak up the jungle magic. If you choose not to drive, you can take a bus to Ciudad Valles (a 1½-hour drive from Xilitla) or fly to Tampico (a 3½-hour drive from Xilitla), and arrange ahead for the staff of Posada El Castillo to pick you up.