Mexico › Saltillo
Updated: October 29, 2020
Provincial and well off the beaten path, Saltillo is a colonial gem that’s one of our favorite Mexican cities to explore. It’s loaded with elegant colonial architecture, museums, markets and is a great place to buy sarapes, traditional Mexican shawls – and it’s never busy.
Frequently Asked Questions about Saltillo
Where is Saltillo?
Saltillo is the capital of the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, high in the Chihuahuan Desert. Saltillo lies about 80 km west of Monterrey, and 840 km north of Mexico City.
How big is Saltillo?
Saltillo has a greater metro population of just under 1 million. The city stretches for some 20km north-south along the western slopes of the Sierra Madre Oriental.
What is the history of Saltillo?
Once the home of the Chichimeca people, Saltillo was founded by Spanish conquistador Alberto del Canto in 1577 – it’s the oldest Spanish settlement in northern Mexico. Despite del Canto’s brutal suppression, Chichimeca resistance meant the city remained small and insignificant well into the 18th century. The city finally grew as a trade and supply center for Mexico’s silver mines, its farms producing much of the nation’s wheat. The city changed hands several times during the Mexican Revolution – five Mexican presidents came from Coahuila, including Venustiano Carranza and Francisco Madero. Saltillo rapidly industrialized after World War II, with major US and German car manufacturers opening factories here.
How do I get to Saltillo?
Saltillo’s airport currently offers no passenger flights – the closest airport is at Monterrey, some 110 km to the northeast (Monterrey’s airport is well-connected to cities in the US and throughout Mexico). Buses shuttle between Monterrey’s bus station and Saltillo every hour and take around 1 hour 30 minutes. Taxis direct from Monterrey Airport to Saltillo are very expensive – Uber offers cheaper rates (around 1500 pesos), though drivers may be reluctant to pick up from the airport due to hostility from the airport taxi union. Comfortable first-class buses also connect Saltillo with Mexico City (every 1 to 2 hours; 10–12 hours); San Luis Potosí (hourly; 5 hours); and Zacatecas (hourly; 4 to 6 hours). Saltillo’s Centro de Autobuses (main bus station) lies 3km south of the city center – take a taxi from here. Taxis should use the meter, with most trips into the city center around 50 pesos.
What about Uber in Saltillo?
Uber does operate in Saltillo (assuming phones have roaming, and the app works), and getting an Uber within the city should be no problem – Uber can be cheaper than regular taxis in Saltillo.
Can I drive to Saltillo?
Driving to Saltillo down from the US border is relatively straightforward. However, the border state of Nuevo León has a reputation for violent crime and drug gang activity – definitely avoid driving at night. The drive from the Texas border at Laredo (185 miles or 298 km) takes just under 4 hours (it’s about the same from the border at McAllen/Reynosa). Note that foreign vehicles need a Mexican “Temporary Importation of Vehicle Permit”.
If renting a vehicle, it’s much easier to do this once across the Mexican border, as taking US rental vehicles into Mexico comes with all sorts of restrictions.
Do I need a car in Saltillo?
The city center of Saltillo is relatively small and it’s easy and cheap to get around on foot, by bus, or taxi (Uber is also available).
When is the best time to go to Saltillo?
Spring and the fall is the best time to go to Saltillo. Saltillo tends to have hot, humid summers (with August the wettest month), which can make sightseeing extremely uncomfortable – from mid-February to mid-May, and October to November, it is warm, dry, and sunny. Winters can be a little cooler (day-time temperatures rarely fall below 70°F), but also very dry.
Where should I stay in Saltillo?
Aim to stay in the atmospheric center of old Saltillo, close to all the sights, best restaurants, and attractions. Motel chains have sprung up around the city, near the major highways, and can offer good rates, but these are a long way from the action and it can be hassle shuttling in and out of the center. Our favorite place to stay is the Hotel Colonial San Miguel, an historic building with lots of character, comfy rooms, and a small pool.
What are the best things to do in Saltillo?
The best thing to do in Saltillo is to soak up the history. Saltillo is a relatively small colonial city but it’s loaded with historic architecture and museums – history buffs will especially love it, though Saltillo also boasts some of Mexico’s best nature museums; the Museo de las Aves de México (musave.org) showcases the numerous bird species found in Mexico, while the absorbing Museo del Desierto, 3 km east of the center, highlights the ecology of deserts, particularly of northern Mexico.
The traditional heart of the city is the blocks between Plaza de Armas and Plaza Acuña, the former home to the city’s gorgeous cathedral, and the latter location of Mercado Juárez, the main market and a good place to browse for souvenirs. Saltillo is especially famous for its sarapes (multicolored woolen shawls), sold at the market, or at craft shops such as El Sarape de Saltillo (Hidalgo 305). You can also learn about the history of sarape making at the Museo del Sarape y Trajes Mexicanos (Allende Sur 160).
It’s fun to simply wander Saltillo’s cobbled colonial streets, but the best of its (many) museums are the Museo de la Revolución Mexicana (Hidalgo Sur 167), which focuses on the Mexican Revolution and local boy made president Venustiano Carranza; and the Museo del Palacio on Plaza de Armas, inside the former Coahuila statehouse, with exhibitions on the history of Coahuila.
What are the restaurants like in Saltillo?
Although the restaurants in Saltillo are pretty good, they are not especially varied. We love La Canasta (Carranza 2485), which had been knocking out Mexican classics and decent steak since the 1960s (it is best known for “arroz Huerfano”, a rice dish made with ham, nuts, and bacon, and its homemade lemon meringue pie). Another local specialty, pan de pulque (wheat bread made with cinnamon and cactus juice) can be sampled at Pan de Pulque Los Álamos (Madero 1326), a local bakery. For coffee, pastries, and sandwiches it’s hard to beat atmospheric Cafeteria Kala, inside the Galería del Instituto Coahuilense on Plaza de Armas.
What currency is used in Saltillo?
The Mexican peso (often prefixed with a “$” sign) is the currency of Mexico and Saltillo. Most major shops and restaurants in Saltillo accept credit cards, but it is a good idea to have some peso cash on hand for museum entry and small purchases like bottled water and snacks. ATMs are easy to find in Saltillo around the two main plazas.
Is Saltillo expensive?
Saltillo is an affordable destination. Hotels in Saltillo are reasonably priced given their quality, and eating out is rarely expensive. You won’t spend much on transportation, and fees to enter museums are low, typically one or two US dollars equivalent.
Is Saltillo safe?
Saltillo has generally avoided the drug violence that has affected other parts of Mexico. Take the usual precautions, especially at night, and keep valuables in room safes.
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