Guanajuato is a special place for us, and we can’t wait to go back. In this post I’ll do my best to try to explain why so many tourists and locals alike consider this colonial city as one of the most beautiful in all of Mexico.
I had visited Guanajuato with my family, when I was around 11 years old. I had vague memories of its narrow alleys, architecture, museums, mummies, mines, and everything else that makes Guanajuato the artistic and history-rich city it is. All those vague memories I had from my childhood can’t even compare to what visiting this place again felt like. There’s so much history, so much culture, and so much beauty in every street. I knew Jim was going to like it there and he not only “liked” it, he loved it. He wants to live there. We want to live there someday.
How to get there:
We decided to take a bus instead of renting a car because driving in Guanajuato is horrible. The streets are very narrow (beautiful, but narrow) and traffic downtown is slow, especially during holidays. We planned our trip before realizing it was during a long weekend, which means tourist than usual. We took an ETN bus from Guadalajara to Guanajuato which was about $28 USD per ticket for four hour bus ride.
You might want to consider renting a car in Guanajuato if you are planning on visiting nearby towns and attractions, but public transportation within the city is excellent, so having a car is not necessary to explore this city.
There is an international airport in the area (located in the municipality of Silao, about 30 minutes away from the city of Guanajuato). This airport is one of the most visited ones in the country. So, if your are coming from far away, this will be your closest option to get there.
Once we got to the bus station in Guanajuato, we had an Uber pick us up and take us to the place where we were staying.
Where to stay:
Guanajuato can accommodate anyone, from those who seek only luxury travel, to those who are on a budget. There are many options for places to stay depending on what you are looking for. Do you want to stay in a castle? A hotel? Hostal? Guanajuato has all of these options and more.
We knew we weren’t going to spend much time inside. We wanted something near the downtown area where we could walk to restaurants, explore and get out as much as possible. After weighing our options, we opted for reserving a room in someone’s house through AirBnB.
One of the greatest things about staying at an AirBnB is that you get to connect with the locals and they are always willing to give you their best tips for you to make the most of your experience in the place you are visiting. We stayed with a lovely girl named Paloma. She was very friendly and gave us amazing suggestions on places where to eat and things to do while we were in the city.
Attractions in Guanajuato:
There’s so much to do in Guanajuato! We were there for almost a week, and from day one we knew that we were not going to have enough time to do everything we wanted to. Here is a list of the things you simply can’t miss when you visit:
Mummies of Guanajuato
This is one on the main reasons why we decided to visit Guanajuato. We wanted to make an episode on this peculiar tourist attraction. Imagine walking into a room full of mummified bodies of people who once lived in this city? Spooky, right?
To get there from downtown is very easy. Take the local bus that says “Momias” at the “Plaza de La Paz” and ask the driver to let you know when you get to the Mummy Museum.
Once you get off the bus, you’ll have to cross the street. Keep walking up hill until you see a big rock wall. This is the cemetery from where the bodies were exhumed. Turn left if you want to check the cemetery first, or right if you want to go to the museum first. Once you get to the end of the rock wall turn left and soon you’ll find the entrance to the museum.
But before visiting the museum, we wanted to see where the mummies came from. Just behind and up from the museum is the cemetery. The first thing that’s going to catch your eyes is the gorgeous Azalea tree right in the center of the cemetery. Azaleas are beautiful purple flowers which grow on prominent trees during late winter and spring. The purple tone of azaleas goes really well with the mystic vibe of the cemetery.
There used to be a tax in place that had to be paid to keep bodies there, and if the tax wasn't paid the corpses were removed. It was during this process of disinterring bodies who had uncollected debts that cemetery workers discovered something interesting. The bodies had naturally mummified due to lack of oxygen and the dry climate of the region.
After getting a little background to prepare ourselves, we finally went to the museum. Seeing all the bodies in the there was shocking. We were excited to be there but after being in the museum for awhile we started to feel a little creeped-out. Here you'll find mummies ranging in age from infant to senior. The museum is also home to the smallest mummy in the world.
Mines, any and all of them
If you want to learn more about how Guanajuato became one of the most beautiful cities in all of Mexico, you have to visit at least one of the many mines in the region. You will learn about how rich the city was once silver deposits were discovered there. You will also learn about the Spanish who owned the land and how they treated the natives who worked the mines, which later detonated into Mexico’s war of Independence.
Callejoneadas are night walking tours of the city and they are so much fun! Groups of students from different colleges in the city take you through the main callejones = alleys, and streets of downtown Guanajuato while they tell you stories, sing songs, and give you information of the different sites they take you to.
Callejoneadas are a truly unique cultural experience, but they're only available in Spanish. So if you want to really immerse yourself in real-world Spanish, this is a fantastic opportunity to do so.
The view of the city from this place is amazing. To get to the monument you have two options. Option #1: You can walk for about 15-20 minutes from downtown up a little hill, through narrow alleys. You are going to sweat, so bring comfortable shoes for this. Option #2: Take the funicular. If you want to see the place when there’s no one around, go early in the morning. If you want to take beautiful pictures of the city, go before sunset and stay to see the lights of the city adorn the landscape. Bring your tripod, snacks, drinks and enjoy the view.
Souvenirs, food, shoes, clothing, fruits, candles, piñatas, and any other things you may need, you can probably find them here.
The entire city is filled with them. A short walk downtown will lead you to some of the most popular ones. For example, Museum of Diego Rivera’s House, Museum of the Town of Guanajuato, and the Museum of Natural History, among others. Any museum you visit will provide you with a better understanding of the culture and history of the city. I encourage you to visit as many as you can.
Our host told us about a restaurant she likes and we ended up going there two or three times. While I recommend you try to visit different restaurants when you are somewhere new, sometimes when you find a good one it's nice to know you can expect a great meal. This restaurant in particular is right downtown and it’s called Casa Ofelia. They mostly serve Mexican food and they have quite a few vegetarian options available.
La Taula was another favorite. This is a very small restaurant right downtown with a signature cuisine menu. Their menu changes frequently and is rather limited, but everything we had there was delicious.
We also went to Habibti Falafel which was really good, but their service was very slow (We ordered a soup and the rest of our order came almost an hour after we had finished the soup). They have lots of vegetarian and vegan options and it gets crowded with all the hipster, vegan, alternative people in Guanajuato. They allow dogs in this restaurant, so if you are not a fan of dogs barking while you are eating we don’t recommend you go there.
We tried other restaurants but these three are the ones we would go back to.
There were times when instead of going to a restaurant, we would look for a fruit stand and get big cups of ready to eat fruit (like mango, papaya, or watermelon) and have that.
We were sad that we had to leave so soon but we enjoyed visiting Guanajuato so much. Jim learned a lot about Mexican history and we are absolutely coming back in the future.
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