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The origin and growth of Guanajuato resulted from the discovery of minerals in the mountains surrounding it. The mines were so rich that the city was one of the most influential during the colonial period. One of the mines, La Valenciana, accounted for two-thirds of the world’s silver production at the height of its production.
Guanajuato was the site of the first battle of the Mexican War of Independence.
The city was named a World Heritage Site in 1988.
For GRANDPAckers, Guanajuato is expensive. Read on …
A BIT ABOUT THE CITY:
It is set in a narrow valley, only one main road enters and another ones leaves.
Many of the city’s thoroughfares are partially or fully underground.
Unlike the regular layouts of many other Mexican cities, the streets of Guanajuato follow the extreme irregularity of the terrain, with small alleyways, plazas and (in some cases) steep staircases up hillsides.
Most alleys are too narrow for cars to pass through. Most are paved with square cut stone.
The streets and alleys of the city are filled with mostly colonial era buildings.
Buildings have been constructed of sandstone in pink and green, adobe and other stone, filling the streets with shades of pink, green, ochre and red.
Most of the plazas are in front of or to the side of the many churches, such as the Plaza San Fernando, Plaza San Roque, Plaza de la Valenciana, Plaza de los Angeles, and Plaza de Mexiamora.
Exceptions to these are the Jardin Reforma and the Jardín Unión.
WHEN TO GO:
Temperatures can reach as high as 36 °C (97 °F) in the summer and as low as 3 °C (37 °F) in the winter.
Most rain falls during the rainy season between July and August.
I was there in August at the back end of the rainy season.
I made my own way from Ajijic to Guanajuato via Guadalajara by bus.
The long distance buses stop at the Central Autobuses De Guanajuato which is about 7kms out from the city centre.
As I say in a previous post, I still had the back end of a “bugger’s muddle” with TELCEL until the end of August … but I had data and my internet connection was working.
In Guanajuato, free internet is widely available in the restaurants and bars. Your accommodation usually includes free internet too.
This means that you won’t need the usual GRANDPAcker 2GB Mobile Phone Data Package; you should be able to get away with less data.
TELCEL only cell ‘call + text + data’ packages – most of which provide unlimited calls and texts within Mexico, USA, and Canada. I suggest that you look at either their MXP100 or MXP150 Package.
You can easily walk around central Guanajuato on foot. Just wear decent shoes to help ‘buffer’ the harshness of the uneven cobblestones.
The other through streets of town are either partially or fully underground, following the old drainage ditches and tunnels dug during colonial times. Originally they were used for flood control, but modern dams have controlled flooding and left them almost dry, so they have been turned into thoroughfares.
The most important of these roads is Miguel Hidalgo or Belaunzarán, which carried the runoff from the river that used to divide the city in two.
Trike / Tuk Tuk:
You don’t find things like Trikes or TukTuks in Mexico, so those ‘supercheap’ options are not available to you.
Buses, called urbanos, run from 07:00-22:00 daily for a flat rate of MXP5 (single ride, no transfer).
There is no schedule or route map; destinations are painted on the windshield or side window … which makes it hard for tourists.
In general buses heading from east to west travel above ground along Avenida Benito Juarez, while buses heading in the opposite direction travel underground in Túnel Miguel Hidalgo. A number of stairways descending from the street lead to underground bus stops and are safe to use.
Personally, I had no luck with the urbanos … I never managed to find one going in my direction and it was almost impossible to find out where the bus stops were (unless you spoke fluent Spanish).
I saw no Scooter Rental options in Ajijic, so I cannot provide indicative costs. However, I am not sure that I would recommend that GRANDPAckers rent a scooter anyway.
Taxis are reasonable cheap in Mexico if you know what the Rule Of Thumb should be. Alas, tourists get over-charged frequently.
A standard taxi to any destination within central Guanajuato should cost about MXP35-40. Taxis do not use meters and the price should be confirmed first.
So far, I have found the UBER Taxis to be a safer and cheaper option than using the Taxis on the street.
If you need to ‘stagger home’ after a good night out and want to catch a Taxi instead 🙂 … budget about MXP5 plus MXP6 / km using UBER.
WHERE TO STAY:
Ideally you would want to stay in or very close to the historical centre of the city.
But, on a GRANDPAcking Budget, this will prove hard to do.
If you are coming to Guanajuato, I advise you to start your search for accommodation several weeks earlier. Wait for ‘specials’. Don’t be shy to contact the owner and ask for a discount.
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
A simple future search on BOOKING.COM demonstrates this nicely:
DON’T FORGET: Sites like AGODA and BOOKING display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You, usually, have to add 18% to the displayed price to get the final price.
The CHEAPEST Double Room listed at MXP433 at Hostal Del Campanaro, above, will actually cost MXP522 / night. It comes with a SHARED BATHROOM.
The CHEAPEST Double Room listed with an Ensuite is the Flamingos Auto Hotel which is 10kms out of the city. It’s actual price per night is MXP590.
Effectively, GRANDPAckers will start looking for accommodation at over 50% of their daily budget.
There are cheap hotels / hostels in and around the city centre that are NOT listed on the usual hotel search engines. Alas, there is usually a good reason why … most are backpacker focused and below GRANDPAcking Standard.
HOLIDAY RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use TRIPADVISOR to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Holiday Rentals are usually rented by the week. A simple future search on TRIPADVISOR.COM demonstrates this nicely:
Holiday Rental prices are normally displayed INCLUSIVE of taxes.
One small problem with Vacation Rentals, is that they advertise on a number of different sites and they do not, always, keep their availability up-to-date on all of those sites. When you make a booking, you have to wait 24-36 hours to find out if the booking is successful or not. If not, this can prove frustrating. I have been let down on several occasions.
In Guanajuato, I was let down by the MXP3,983 one, above … who didn’t even bother to respond to my booking … they just let it ‘expire’.
Another problem with Vacation Rentals is that they are, normally, at least 1 km out from the centre. This means that you can miss out on the ‘ambience’ that you are looking for from living in the heart of such a beautiful place.
The positive is that Holiday Rentals, usually, offer better quality accommodation than Hotels for a lower price. The lower price can justify you catching an UBER Taxi or public transport to / from the centre … and, still, end up with a cheaper overall cost per day.
I couldn’t find any Hotels within our GRANDPAcking price range online.
So, I used TRIPADVISOR.COM to pre-book 1 week at a Vacation Rental.
The one that I chose is the ‘Apartmento Abuelado Garuda‘, above.
It was listed at MXP4,114 / week (US$220).
I sent the owner a message asking for his ‘best price’.
He responded with a discount.
I can recommend the Garuda.
It had a separate lounge, separate conservatory, separate kitchen / diner, large bedroom, and roomy ensuite.
At MXP442 / night, I had saved at least MXP250 / night on what I would have paid for lesser Hotel accommodation in the city centre.
With those savings, I could easily afford to catch a Taxi home at night.
An UBER Taxi from city centre back to the Garuda was MXP20.
Have a look yourself:
This is Guanajuato … it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and top Tourist destination in Mexico.
Meals are available to suit all budgets.
You do find street food but it is not as common as it is in other Mexican towns. The problem is the availability of street space.
You can find tacos for MXP12. You can, also, get a bread roll filled with pork scratchings and topped with salsa for MXP25.
BUDGET CAFES / RESTAURANTS:
In the small squares and in small nooks along the streets, you will find numerous budget options. Some can be found amongst more upmarket options in the plazas.
You can get your typical burger-type fare for as little as MXP30-40.
This is a mildly spicy traditional Mexican dish consisting of corn with the odd bit of beef.
On the side you get corn chips, chili sauce, chopped onion, coriander, lemons, and dried mint.
We were even treated to a few songs whilst we ate.
MID RANGE RESTAURANTS:
Expect to pay MXP80-120 for something from the lower quartile of the menu.
Expect to pay MXP30 for a bottle of Corona beer.
Some of the side alleys away from the centre have small bars offering shorts for MXP10 on specific days / nights of the week.
YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe in Guanajuato. But, as always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target. Take particular care at night.
Bring a torch. The back streets can get pretty dark at night. You may, also, prefer to use a torch if you decide to walk in any of the tunnels.
There are none.
You don’t come to Guanajuato for a beach lifestyle.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
MUSEO DE LAS MOMIAS:
This famous museum is one of the most bizarre (some might say distasteful) sights at the Panteón (cemetery). The popular attraction is a quintessential example of Mexico’s acceptance of, celebration of and obsession with death; visitors come from all over to see more than 100 disinterred corpses.
While technically these are mummified remains – due to the dry atmosphere in their former crypts – the bodies are not thousands of years old. The first remains were unearthed in 1865 to make room for more bodies in the cemeteries. What the authorities uncovered were not skeletons but flesh mummified (many feature grotesque forms and facial expressions).
The complex is on the western edge of town, a 10-minute ride from Avenida Juárez on any ‘Momias’ bus (MXP5).
WALK THE TUNNELS:
I found them a bit ‘unlit’ and ‘eerie’ at first … but, I wasn’t wearing my glasses (which didn’t help).
BUT, what a UNIQUE way to get around an historic town!
Inside the tunnels, routes interconnect with sign posting telling you the way.
The easiest way to get from the Garuda into the city centre was to walk 200m to the Los Angeles Tunnel or, to the east end of the historical centre, walk another 50m to La Galerena Tunnel. I was in the centro within 15-20 minutes.
A trolley-like bus makes sightseeing tours of the city departing from Plaza de la Paz in the Centro, next to the Basilica of our Lady of Guanajuato.
The rides lasts 1.5 hours and costs $50 pesos.
There is a tour guide in Spanish only. Is a great way to know the city.
- At the University, there is a 3-4 story series of steps that lead up to an auditorium. Climb up the steps and look out over the colonial city.
- Climb to the top of the mountain that overlooks Guanajuato. There’s a trail that goes to the top – look for the signs to Pipila. It takes at most 30 minutes to get to the top and there is an amazing view of the city.
- Ride the Funicular to the top of the mountain where the statue of the “Pipila” is located. The Funicular station is just behind the Teatro Juarez. One way $20. Round trip $40. It’s easy to walk though. You need to be reasonably fit to take on so many steps … I would suggest that you catch the Funicular up and walk back down.
- The central plaza (Jardín de la Unión) always has a lot of things going on, day and night.
- Visit one of the silver mines in Valenciana (Bocamina Valenciana near the Templo Valenciana charges an entrance fee of MXP25 plus the guide expects a tip), as well as the beautiful Templo de Valenciana.
- There is an excellent park at the end of Calle de la Presa, with boat rentals and plenty of food stalls, keeps the kids entertained for a while. From here hiking trails start towards Cerro de la Bufa, a landmark overlooking the city.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There are several banks and ATMs around the city centre; they all seem to have permanent and long queues of people.
Alas, there is no HSBC bank (in the city centre) offering an MXP7,000 ATM withdrawal.
The ‘de facto’ ATM withdrawal limit in other banks is MXP5,000.
Guanajuato city centre is riddled with small shops with slightly higher ‘convenience’ prices.
There is a supermarket at the west end of town near the Mercado Hidalgo (Hidalgo Market).
100 metres from my Garuda Vacation Rental is the Pozuelos Plaza shopping complex. There is a big ‘El Comer’ Supermarket inside.
- 1kg Natural Unsweatened Yogurt: MXP25
- 1Kg Grapes: MXP35
- 6L Water: MXP18
- 1Kg Toasted Muesli: MXP65
- 1L Tequila: MXP100
- Bread rolls MXP1.50
I didn’t discover any ‘one day’ markets.
In front of the Mercado Hildalgo you will find a few stalls. There are more inside.
On the eastern side of the market you will find several cheap eateries offering good meals for about MXP60.
From Guanajuato I will be heading to San Miguel De Allende.
I will tell you more about that in a future post.
I made a big mistake with Guanjuato …
I chose to stay in the Garuda Holiday Rental so that I could get GRANDPAcking Standard accommodation within our GRANDPAcking Budget.
Don’t get me wrong the accommodation, itself, was very good … but it was too far away from everything.
It was a 15-20 minute walk through the tunnels to get to the centre. You only walk the tunnels in daylight – never at night.
There were no restaurants or cafes near the Garuda … spending all my time in the Pozuelos Plaza is not my idea of seeing Mexico … you had to go to town. Finding a bus is nigh impossible.
Invariably, I found myself only heading into town once each day … and heading back home before it got dark.
IF I COULD DO IT ALL AGAIN?
It must be central – not up 100s of steps. Choose wisely!
In that way, I could have wandered in and out of my accommodation during the day and really gotten into the ambience that this place has to offer.
I could have found my favourite little cafes …
I could have spent a lot more time investigating the history …
It would have been a lot more fun …