A beautiful mountain town. Many Mexicans consider this place to be the most beautiful city in Mexico. It used to be a major silver mining town, but the mines have since dried up. The city is built on very hilly ground, so virtually every point in the city is on a slant. There are cobblestone streets and tunnels everywhere.
The city of Guanajuato is the capital of the state of the same name. It is located at 21°02’N 101°28’W, 370 km (230 miles) northwest of Mexico City, at an elevation of 1,996 m (6,550 ft) above sea level. The estimated population in 2003 was about 78,000 people.
Guanajuato was founded as a town in 1554 and received the designation as a city in 1741 . It is located in one of the richest silver mining areas of Mexico, and is well-known for its wealth of fine colonial era Spanish architecture. The historic town and adjacent mines are a World Heritage Site. The name “Guanajuato” comes from the Tarascan word, “Quanax-juato”, which means “place of frogs”.
The city was originally built over a river, which flowed through tunnels underneath the city. However, after years of raising buildings to accommodate repeated flooding, in the mid-twentieth century, engineers built a dam and redirected the river into underground caverns. The tunnels were lit and paved with cobblestones for automobile traffic, and this underground road carries the majority of cars driving through the city today. It is one of the most noticeable features of the city.
Guanajuato is not very big, and you can walk to most places.
There are lots of taxis and you should be able to get where you’re going for around 2 to 4 dollars.
Also, there are buses that you can ride for very cheap.
You can take a taxi to the bus station to catch a bus to San Miguel de Allende (45 minutes), Guadalajara (3 hours), Mexico City (6 hours), Acapulco, and other locations. Buses are cheap, have air conditioning (except some “economy” ones), and often show movies and have refreshments.
At the University, there is a 3-4 story series of steps that lead up to a church. Climb up the steps and look out over the colonial city. It is, by far and away, the most beautiful view of Mexico I have seen.
Climb to the top of La Buffa , the mountain that overlooks Guanajuato with a cross on top. There’s a trail that goes to the top. It takes at most 1 1/2 – 2 hours to get to the top and there is an amazing view of the city.
Celebrate Life in Guanajuato
The nightlife is very active in Guanajuato, especially on weekends. Look for people passing out flyers during the day for drink specials and sometimes free drink coupons.
To start the night off, stop by one of the little cafes in the Jardin, for dinner and drinks and mariachi band ambience. It is a great place to people watch.
Capitolio is a favorite both among tourists and local. This club has 2 levels, with a large main room, and a smaller “hip-hop room” in the back. There is a large bar in the middle of the club specifically for dancing. You can order a full set up for mixed drinks where they will bring out glasses, ice, a bottle and a mixer of your choice. There are often specials on drinks. There are 2 bars. The music is well-mixed with a mixture of top 40, reggaeton, rock and pop en español, salsa, meringue, techno, and electronic. When there is a special event they will open up the roof and shoot off fire works. The clubs is always packed on weekends, mostly with university students, and the party doesn’t stop until about 4:30.
Guanajuato Grill is another favorite of locals and tourists. It is even bigger than Capitolio and boasts 2 levels. It is always packed on weekends, with the same type of crowd as Capitolio. Although it plays similar music to what you hear in Capitolio, it tends to play more electronic and techno music. It also offers great drink specials, especially on bottles.
El Bar is a salsa bar across the street from Teatro Juarez. It offers salsa lessons every night from 9 to 10. It plays mostly salsa and meringue all night and often has salsa shows.
La Havana is a salsa bar that attracts a more local, late-night crowd.
Apple is a very chill bar that attracts a young crowd and plays mostly electronic music.
Why not is another chill bar that plays unique latino indie-rock and reggae. It’s a good place to hang out and play pool. The bartenders are very sociable and entertaining.
Test your Spanish skills at Don Ole Karaoke , across the street from Teatro Juarez. Don’t worry, they have songs in English, too.
If you are looking for some after-clubbing late-night/early morning food try La Cupula for some delicious quesadillas.
And definitely try Sol a popular Mexican beer similar to Corona.
If you are looking for touristy stuff, try El Mercado , a 2 story indoor market.
If you are looking more for handmade crafts and more touristy stuff, take a bus to San Miguel de Allende about 45 away from Guanajuato. There is a large open-air artisan market there.
If you are looking for ripped-off CDs, go to Embajadoras on a Saturday, and there are some tents set up there.
More about Guanajuato.
Guanajuato is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The city of Guanajuato was the birthplace of artist Diego Rivera, whose house is now a museum.
The city also harbours one of the largest places in Mexico for mathematical research, a public institution dubbed CIMAT.
Each October the city holds the Festival International Cervantino, an international festival of the arts named after Miguel de Cervantes. The festival is a popular draw for young students from across central Mexico, but attracts participants and spectators from around the world.
Tunnels in Guanajuato
The famous Underground Street, formally known as Miguel Hidalgo Street, was inaugurated on the late 1950s. It follows the bed of the old Guanajuato river, that used to run in the middle of the city. The Underground Street was built with three objectives in mind: Create a new causeway to disentangle the traffic on downtown Guanajuato, sanitize the city covering the old sewer river that used to run on the surface, and give Guanajuato a very unusual street that could be considered one of its most interesting attractions. In 1976 the last drainage tunnel was finished, and ever since Guanajuato has been free of the constant floods that used to cover it.
The Mummies of Guanajuato
The Mummies of Guanajuato are a number of naturally mummified bodies buried during a cholera outbreak around Guanajuato, Mexico in 1833. Due to the ferocity of the epidemic, more cemeteries had to be opened in San Cayetano as well as Cañada de Marfil. Many of the bodies were buried immediately to control the spread of the disease; in some cases, the dying were buried alive by accident. As a result, some of the mummies have horrific expressions attesting to their death in the tombs.
The first mummy was dug up in 1965. It was the body of Dr. Remigio Leroy, and is on display at the Guanajuato Mummy Museum. This museum, is located above the spot where the mummies were first discovered. Numerous mummies can be seen throughout the exhibition, and they vary in sizes. This museum is known to have the smallest mummy in the world. Some of the mummies can be seen wearing parts of their clothing from when they were buried. The mummies were dug up when the family members stopped paying cemetery dues.
In the late 1800s the town instituted a “burial tax” for the families of the deceased. When some of the poorest families were unable to pay the tax, their relatives were dug up and placed on public view in a purpose-built museum. The ‘Guanajuato Mummy Museum’ still adds corpses to this day; two children were added who died in 1984 most recently due to their relatives’ failure to pay the $ 20 per 5 year rental fee. The museum holds 111 corpses resting on velvet pillows. Today, it is reported that the proceeds from the museum help fund the city’s coffers to a considerable degree.
All pictures by the author
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