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Terlingua, Texas: Visiting An Incredible Ghost Town

Terlingua, Texas: Visiting An Incredible Ghost Town

During my travels to Big Bend, I had the opportunity to visit Terlingua, Texas—an authentic ghost town. With its slightly weathered appearance and a color palette dominated by various shades of brown, some areas of Terlingua can be eerily chilling. However, my friends and I found exploring this storied location in Terlingua in West Texas thrilling.

Terlingua attracts a fascinating mix of individuals, with many seeking to detach from the conventional and embrace a simpler lifestyle. While modern technology holds little appeal for them, it is worth noting that many are transient visitors en route to the splendid Big Bend.


In my exploration, I had the wonderful opportunity to join a group of esteemed travel writers on a memorable road trip through the captivating landscapes of West Texas. Our primary aim was to immerse ourselves in the wonders of the Big Bend state and national parks.


Terlingua’s History

Terlingua, home to a population of only 150, has witnessed its fair share of vibrant times. In the 19th century, individuals flocked to this area in pursuit of work, descending deep into mineshafts to extract cinnabar, the raw ore responsible for mercury production.

During World War I, the Chisos Mining Company in Terlingua employed several thousand individuals owing to the abundant use of mercury. However, mercury mining faced a downfall following the recession, leading the company to file for bankruptcy. It is worth noting that ceasing cinnabar mining proved beneficial, as the process posed significant hazards.

Where to Stay in Terlingua, Texas

Terlingua, Texas, attracts visitors with its distinctive Chihuahuan Desert terrain and charming town attractions. Among them is The Holiday Hotel Terlingua, offering a range of motel-style rooms and a selection of houses for your accommodation.

The Holiday Hotel

During our stay at the Big Bend Holiday Hotel, my friend Vanessa and I had the pleasure of residing in Casa Buena Vista, one of their charming adobe houses. This dwelling boasted spacious roam areas, a fully equipped kitchen, and two cozy bedrooms. The screened-in porch afforded us breathtaking vistas of the stunning sunset, enjoyed from the comfort of our plush day bed. 


A true highlight of the Casa was the elegantly designed bathroom featuring a claw foot tub. Furthermore, the sizable living room provided a tranquil space to unwind and attend to our work responsibilities.

Immersed in the Casa were remarkable artifacts that piqued our fascination. An extensive collection of books, delicate statues, captivating wall hangings, and exquisite artwork showed the owner’s penchant for worldly exploration.


If you end up in Lajitas, the Lajitas Golf Resort & Spa is your best choice for superb accommodations!

Big Bend Casitas

On our second night in Terlingua, we enjoyed staying at the delightful casitas owned by Far Flung Outdoor Adventure, Big Bend Casitas. The 400-square-foot room I occupied boasted a generously sized bedroom, a kitchenette/dining room combination, a spacious bathroom, and a splendid back porch with two chairs.

The room was impeccably maintained, providing a perfect sanctuary in the desert.


I want to give a special mention to the outstanding air conditioning system! Upon checking in, the room was refreshingly cool. After enduring the day’s scorching heat and humidity, stepping indoors for instant comfort was an incredibly welcoming experience.

Situated amidst the casitas, which numbered around 14 in total, was an ice machine, a refreshments area, and multiple BBQ grills. The property of Big Bend Casitas was meticulously cared for and featured a lovely garden area. Additionally, its location was ideal for embarking on exciting Big Bend adventures.

Adjacent to the casitas, you’ll find a Mexican restaurant and a coffee bar conveniently within walking distance.


Big Bend National and State Parks

While the landscape may appear barren, Terlingua offers a multitude of captivating sights and engaging activities to keep you thoroughly occupied.

Big Bend Ranch State Park

When planning your outdoor escapades in Terlingua, trust Big Bend River Tours to curate your experience. We utilized their services for an expertly guided excursion through Big Bend Ranch State Park, a remote sanctuary nestled amidst awe-inspiring, vibrant mountains. Remarkably, this constitutes Texas’ most expansive state park.


Notably, the park has merited the prestigious distinction of being designated as an International Dark Sky Park, rendering it an idyllic locale for stargazing. Prepare to be astounded by the awe-inspiring Texas night sky, as it reveals a myriad of stars, allowing for easy identification of countless constellations.


Besides photography and short hikes, Big Bend Ranch State Park is known for mountain biking, horseback riding, paddling, and backpacking. Some roads require four-wheel drive as the inclines are incredibly steep.

We enjoyed exploring Closed Canyon and a few short two to three-mile hikes. That was long enough, with temperatures ranging between 105° and 110° that day.


Big Bend River Tours

During our exceptional tour of the renowned Big Bend Ranch State Park with Big Bend River Tours, we were treated to captivating views and indulged in a delightful park picnic experience. 


At our designated spot, The HooDoos, we enjoyed a delectable assortment of juice, cheese, crackers, cookies, and fresh fruit while marveling at the park’s breathtaking scenery.

As we paused to appreciate our surroundings, we observed fellow nature enthusiasts, including bikers and bird watchers, eagerly exploring the park’s abundant wildlife, which boasts 300 species.

Our journey through the area revealed a captivating tapestry of mixed desert scrub adorned with stunning ocotillo, cacti, and ample creosote. It was truly a memorable and enriching excursion.


When you find yourself alone in the park and craving some snacks, there’s a convenient general store located at a pull-over along the drive into the park. Not only does it offer pre-made sandwiches and snacks, but it also provides souvenirs and other essential items.

You’ll also be pleased to know that clean and well-maintained restrooms are available.


Other Terlingua Points of Interest

When gazing upon the town of Terlingua, one cannot help but notice the scattered abandoned cars, decorations, and various rusted artifacts adorn the landscape. Although this may seem melancholy, it only adds to the picturesque charm of the place. We were captivated by the remarkable uniqueness that Terlingua embodies.


Located in the heart of downtown Terlingua, the lovely Terlingua Cemetery stands out as one of the most renowned and frequently photographed sites in Texas. Visiting this sacred ground and paying homage to the departed souls is an experience not to be missed.

The tombstone gifts and treasures are remarkable and worthy of admiration.

Additionally, local outfitters offer captivating horseback rides during sunset. However, it is vital to be prepared for the considerable dust that may result from traversing the rugged landscape.

Given Terlingua’s specific terrain and climate, vigilance is necessary to watch out for potential adversaries such as scorpions, javelinas, tarantulas, and snakes. It is genuinely an unforgiving desert in this regard.

Where to Eat and Drink in Terlingua

Though Terlingua has limited choices for food and beverages, the ones they do offer are tasty and affordable.


Starlight Theatre Restaurant

Terlingua has limited dining options, but the available choices are both delightful and reasonably priced. The renowned Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon offers live music and an outstanding ambiance and boasts a fascinating history as the former movie house for mercury miners. 


From the playful stools on The Porch to the taxidermied depiction of the first mayor of Lajitas (a goat, no less!), this establishment demands attention. In addition to its musical offerings, the Starlight Theatre serves exceptional cuisine.

Standout dishes include the delectable Street Tacos, mouthwatering Rib-Eye, enticing Mixed Grill (featuring steak, quail, and wild boar/venison sausage), and the flavorful Chicken Sauté with mushrooms and spinach in a creamy sauce.

To complement the West Texas heat and sun, the Starlight Theatre concocts refreshing margaritas that are masterfully mixed and truly flavorsome—the Chili con Queso Dip pairs exquisitely with their fine Texas wines and margaritas selection.

Starlight Theatre is also renowned for its award-winning Terlingua Chili.


High Sierra

High Sierra is a delectable dinner option that showcases American and Tex-Mex cuisine. This two-story restaurant boasts a remarkable rooftop bar, often accompanied by live music. It is an ideal spot to relish a breathtaking sunset. 

One must not miss High Sierra’s Chips and Queso Blanco, a heavenly combination of melted Monterey Jack cheese and freshly diced jalapeños. Our group indulged in several delectable Mexican dishes, including Beef Tip Tacos, Enchiladas, and the Mexican Plate.


Among them, the definite favorite was the Mexican Plate, which features a roasted chile relleno, a taco, two enchiladas (of your choice), and a side of rice and beans. It’s an absolute delight!


La Kiva

La Kiva offers a delightful experience with its cave setting, serving appetizers and adult beverages. Opening at 4 PM every night but Tuesday, it’s an ideal spot to unwind and savor their delectable margaritas. The prices at La Kiva are affordable, and the cozy bar creates a welcoming atmosphere.

While renowned for their exceptional burgers, food service may vary on certain days. Additionally, their menu boasts a variety of options, including chicken sandwiches, salads, onion rings, and loaded fries. Take a moment to explore the captivating interior decor as you enjoy your time at this memorable establishment.


Chili Pepper and Espresso…Y Poco Mas

For a satisfying breakfast, there are two excellent options: Espresso Y Poco Mas and Chili Pepper. At Espresso Y Poco Mas, indulge in delicious breakfast burritos while enjoying complimentary Wi-Fi and a cup of flavorful espresso or coffee.

On the other hand, Chili Pepper offers a wide range of Tex-Mex and Northern Chihuahuan delicacies, including mouth-watering omelets, biscuits & gravy, and remarkable tamales.

Among these enticing choices, my favorite was Migas – a delightful blend of eggs, onion, jalapeno, tomato, and cheese, providing a kick of spiciness. Furthermore, I was impressed by the impeccable service provided at both establishments.


Experience a Unique Texas Town

Terlingua is an exceptional destination off-the-beaten path that I highly recommend visiting. While the Texas heat should be considered, Terlingua offers fascinating experiences. We had a great time, as evident from the photos.


Thanks to Visit Big Bend and Texas Tourism for hosting my visit. As with all of my articles, reviews and opinions are 100% mine and unbiased.

Check out our other Texas destinations:

Grapevine: The Christmas Capital of TX

5 Reasons to Visit Irving

Fun Things to Do in Galveston

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Tuesday 7th of August 2018

Texas does not disappoint! I love the blue rocking chairs on the porch! I've always wanted to go to Big Bend and your pictures have me moving it to the top of my travel list.


Friday 17th of August 2018

Awesome! You know...Texas...everything is fantastic there. ;) You should definitely visit.


Friday 27th of July 2018

This spot goes on my list. As I plan to relocate to the Southwest soon, this will be a great addition.


Saturday 4th of August 2018

Cool! Any idea where you will be? We love Texas period. ;)

Ronda Hooper

Thursday 26th of July 2018

Excellent article! One of my most favorite places in Texas. Attended many CASI chili cookoffs during the 80's and 90's. I moved there about 10 years ago for about 14 months and was lucky to have worked at Big Bend/Lajitas Stables, my DREAM job! It's a hard, unforgiving land, but one of the most beautiful places in Texas that I've ever been to. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!!!


Saturday 4th of August 2018

How cool! What a fun life you've had. ;) Yes, I totally agree about beign one of the most beautiful places...and most interesting. Thanks for reading.

Rashmi and Chalukya

Thursday 26th of July 2018

We didn't know that there is a ghost town in Texas. The landscape around the Big Bend Ranch State Park looks spectacular and the cemetery eriee. But the place looks intriguing enough to plan a visit.


Saturday 4th of August 2018

Cool! Be sure to check in again soon, lots more content about Big Bend coming. ;) Thanks for reading.


Thursday 26th of July 2018

Oooh Terlingua looks so interesting! There are a few towns like that here in Australia, they're early interesting to explore!!

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