Thanks to a growing population of expats and wealthy Mexican retirees, the historic silver mining region is "the cleanest, safest, most well organized in the country, with the prettiest downtowns too," says Diane Ruiz, a Milwaukee professor who has made Quer?taro her winter base camp for the past six years.
Drive four hours north from Mexico City or fly into San Luis Potos?, rent a 4x4 at the airport and cruise the modern (i.e., pothole-free) toll roads. You'll soon know why close to 30,000 gringos have visited the heartland and now call it home.
Your Four Day PlanDAY 1
Outside Real de Catorce (think Sedona, only colonial) the road passes through an old mining tunnel. Rent horses in the Plaza Hidalgo and ascend the sunbaked hills to Monta?a Sagrada in time for sunset. Then head for Palenque de Gallos, a former cockfighting ring that now features live music and traditional dance.
Dense jungles, deep canyons and runnable rivers abound in Huasteca Potosina. No outfitter is more familiar with the region than Aventura Huasteca, headquartered on the banks of the Micos River, in Ciudad Valles. The company's expert (and multilingual) guides will soon have you barreling down Class III rapids or rappelling beside 344-foot Tamul Falls.
Two wheels grant you access to the rolling singletrack and winding roads that ring San Miguel de Allende, a revolutionary hotbed during the 1810s. Local guide and history buff Alberto Mart?nez, owner of Bici-Burro bike shop (the first in San Miguel), knows the land like the back of his mano. After a day's ride, bunk in Pensi?n Casa Carmen, a colonial-era B&B.
Take a rest day to stroll through the narrow cobblestone lanes of Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage city. Its elaborate churches and local open-air markets are overseen by the 65-foot Cristo Rey del Cubilete statue in the hills above town. Fuel up on sopa tarasca, a spicy tortilla soup, then head north to Centro Vacacional Gogorr?n, a hot-springs resort with Roman baths in every bungalow.
The Pit StopsDO: Vaqueros offer horses for rental in Real de Catorce's Plaza Hidalgo ($5.50 an hour); Aventura Huasteca ($64 per activity, plus $50 for a tent or lodging at the camping area; aventurahuasteca.net); Bici-Burro bike shop ($125 for an all-inclusive eight-hour cycling tour from Santa Rosa to Hacienda de Trancasa; bici-burro.com)
SLEEP: El Corral del Conde, in Real de Catorce ($60; realdecatorce.net); Pensi?n Casa Carmen ($83; 415-152-0844); Centro Vacacional Gogorr?n ($84; gogorron.com)