Where is Guanajuato? In the dead center of Mexico the buzzing and beautiful city lies. It is a rich and colorful emblem of Mexican culture and its past. Like its various famed aesthetic counterparts – La Antigua, Guatemala and Granada, Nicaragua, for instance; but much larger – Guanajuato is known for its fabulously preserved colonial architecture, its enduring mixture of Old World and new; its churches, parks and promenades, live music and fountains and shady trees, winding labyrinthine streets and archways, and its setting beneath green foothills in a Mexican Old West. A visit to Guanajuato and an immersion in Guanajuato activities – truly a must – is a chance to experience a microcosm of the Mexican experience, a cultural capital.
Perhaps one is at this point wondering about what to do in Guanajuato. Walking about the city is a great way to experience it on its own terms, allowing it to lead people into its own mystery and heart rather than be approached as a series of means to an end. Many people who experience travelling this way have a more powerful experience, and this is a great city for walking.
There are many strange and famous alleys, such as the Callejón del Beso, where the street ends in a triangular apex at which two balconies nearly touch, where two star-crossed lovers supposedly met during quiet moments. There are various historic churches and theaters interspersed throughout the city – in fact, Guanajuato is famous for its theater scene, its music and performing arts scenes. Throughout the year, there are countless opportunities to go to shows and experience various artistic facets of Mexican culture and everyday life.
Many people like to explore the surrounding countryside and wilderness just beyond Guanajuato, and for good reason. The land is tremendously beautiful and old and arid. An easy day trip takes travelers to learn the way of life of Mexican cowboys, training in ranch activities such as milking, cheese making, cattle herding, and roping. The excursion may involve hiking and horseback riding, play with farm animals, swimming, a notable 120-foot canyon rappel, and a delicious local home-cooked lunch prepared by the cowboys themselves.
Back in the city, there are various museums, the most singular of which house hundreds of mummies, people who were buried in the early nineteenth century following an outbreak of cholera. The natural conditions of the soil turned these people into beautiful and frightening and sculptural forms, and the collection of all these figures behind long panes of glass is one of the most bizarre and unique museums in the world.
The area is not without its sporty outdoors adventures. A nine-day bike trip takes tourists from Guanajuato to the artistic, bohemian mecca of San Miguel de Allende, through the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. The trip passes through lovely small haciendas and hot springs and swimming holes, relaxing flat desert and stunning backdrops, accompanied by bilingual staff trained in safety management, food and lodging and transport provided.
Guanajuato is an inspiring place bathed in history and art and culture and color. Its reputation as a world destination and a friendly, lovely cultural center is well earned. There is so much to do, or not to do, for those who prefer to relax in a place of positive energy. From the outdoors to the intellectual to the musical to the beautiful, Guanajuato is little-rivaled. For people who plan an extended stay in Mexico, Guanajuato is a gem that should be high on anyone’s list.