One of Texas’s most famous ghost towns, Terlingua is home to amazing history, quirky roadside attractions, and really good chili. This tiny town, or what’s left of it, is worth a visit if you’re in West Texas! From outdoor activities to cowboy chow, explore the so-called “Las Vegas of Texas”, and Viva Terlingua!

Updated March 2024

Header photo courtesy of Library of Congress



Terlingua Sign

In the late 1800s, Terlingua was home to native Apache tribes and a small Mexican village. When large amounts of mercury were discovered, the area quickly boomed into a full-on mining town. By the early 1990s, Terlingua was home to over one thousand people. Churches, schools, cemeteries, and more popped up, all because of the Chisos Mining Company. Eventually, the mine began to run dry, until it eventually closed in the 1940s. With no mine, the town quickly became abandoned and stayed that way for years.

The ghost town made a comeback when its famous Chili Cookoff began, and with the rise in popularity of Big Bend National Park. Today, it’s one of the best ghost towns in the United States to visit, and definitely a Texas bucket list item!



Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

A favorite among Texans, Big Bend sits on the border of Mexico in the Chihuahuan Desert! It has more than 150 miles of trails, four campgrounds, and some of the best stargazing in the United States. Hike the Santa Elena Canyon, take a dip in the hot springs, learn about the local ecology, or book an exhilarating excursion! Our favorites are canoeing, rafting, and horseback riding. (Pictured)



Earth and Fire Gallery

Terlingua may be two hours from West Texas’ art hub Marfa, but it has its fair share of local art too! The Earth and Fire Gallery is located in a humble building made of stacked rocks, and full of local artwork. You’ll find everything from paintings and photography to pottery and metalwork!



St. Agnes Church

During the height of the mining town in 1913, Terlingua’s church (also known as Chisos Mission) was one of the most visited spots. It held baptisms, weddings, weekly services, and funerals, but as the town faded out, so did the church. Today, the ruins have blended in more with its desert surroundings, making it quite a unique and historic sight to see!



Terlingua Cemetery

You may be surprised we’re recommending visiting an old cemetery as an activity, but what’s a visit to a ghost town without seeing a cemetery?! Terlingua’s cemetery has been used since the early 1900s, and has graves from many of the miners who worked there. It’s been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and locals still use it today. It’s both eerie and quirky, a mix of old-timey graves and newer ones with lots of decor and personality.



Terlingua Trading Company

Stop at the town gift shop for souvenirs to take home with you! The quaint little store is full of local gifts, art, jewelry, books, and more. You’ll find lots of Mexican cultural pieces too!




Starlight Theatre Terlingua

DB's Rustic Iron BBQ

Housed in a trailer and open-air shed, DB’s is a low-key BBQ joint serving up high-key flavor. The menu is simple: smoked brisket, ribs, turkey, pulled pork, and sausage, served with beans, potato salad, and cole slaw. The brisket plate is their most popular dish, and for good reason!



Espresso Y Poco Mas

Dine with a view of the Chisos Mountain Range! Espresso Y Poco Mas has a stunning hacienda-style patio, full of lush greenery and colorful tiling. Stop by for some morning fuel – their Breakfast Burrito Mexicano is a must – or grab a Reuben, meatloaf, or chicken salad sandwich for lunch. Pair your meal with a coffee or fresh juice too!



High Sierra Bar & Grill

This historic dive serves cold drinks and delicious eats ‘til 2am daily! Their chef is always switching up the specials, so you can tons of different eats ranging from burgers and wings to Mandarin chicken and shepherd’s pie. You can find live music almost every night, along with rotating drink deals. Try the prickly pear marg, you won’t regret it!



La Kiva Restaurant & Bar

Dine and drink underground in this dinosaur-themed restaurant! This unique subterranean spot features a dining room made out of carved stone, dinosaur bones throughout the space, and a patio with stunning desert views. Enjoy burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, and fried seafood platters, and more. Wash it all down with their signature sip, Cave-Aid!



Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon

Back in the day, this spot was the town movie theatre! A lot has changed since its opening in 1931, and today it operates as Terlingua’s liveliest restaurant and bar. The food menu features quintessentially Texan dishes, like Tequila Marinated Quail, Chicken-Fired Antelope Strips, Mesquite Smoked Brisket with Green Chili Mac and Cheese, and of course, Terlingua’s award-winning chili. At the bar, you’ll find lots of tequila, perfect to sip while you watch the frequent live music performances! (Pictured)



Taqueria el Milagro

Mexican food and patios are a match made in heaven, and you can find both at Taqueria el Milagro! Order from the counter and grab a seat outside to enjoy delish eats like Elote, Tacos Al Pastor, Chile Relleno, and more. If you’re not feeling Mexican food, you can even get a hot dog!




Find coffee, food, hiking gear, and souvenirs all in one place! Venga’s eclectic dining room and patio are the perfect place to fuel up before hiking Big Bend, and if you need gear for your adventure, they’ve got you covered with hiking snacks, flashlights, backpacks, fire starters, and more. Their menu offers breakfast classics like omelets and smoothies and a variety of sandwiches and salads for lunch – it’s a great healthier option!




Terlingua Cemetery

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian

Terlingua International Chili Cookoff

Terlingua is most famous for its annual chili cookoff, or cookoffs. You might be surprised that a tiny ghost town has two competing chili cookoffs, but Terlingua does: one is the Tolbert's International Chili Cook-Off, and the other is the CASI (Chili Appreciation Society International) Terlingua Chili Championship. Both started in 1967 and claim to be the original, and both take place the first weekend of November.

At both chili competitions, you can find an entire weekend of fun, music, drinks, and of course, chili! Dozens of cooks enter, and hundreds of people show up to the tiny town of Terlingua!


Terlingua Dia De Los Muertos

Also known as Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos is a day dedicated to celebrating lost loved ones, happening on November 2nd each year. In Terlingua, it’s a huge deal. Locals and visitors head to the cemetery, which has over 400 graves, to lay hundreds of offerings and altars. The celebration continues into the night with a dinner and live music!