Welcome back, y’all! Or welcome for the first time if you got lost on the way to somewhere productive and somehow ended up here. This is the second and last of my posts about my trip to Guanajuato City — so check that first post out if you haven’t. I also just want to point out that some man on Reddit got upset because I mentioned unicorns in the previous post. And you know what? Sorry to this man, but unicorns are here to stay.
Guanajuato is a small city in central México that is nestled in a valley, is surrounded by hills, and is made up of tons of tiny, winding callejones or alleyways. Some of those are so narrow that a small car barely fits. Keep this in mind because it’ll come back to the story.
LA VALENCIANA CHURCH
Here, you’ll see colonial architecture among many other colorful architectural styles, including Arabian, Baroque, Neoclassical and even some odes to European medieval architecture. It’s this mixture of styles that gives this place it’s magical, colorful flair. This city also has underground tunnels and the streets above don’t have stoplights or street signs so as to preserve its traditional style and feel.
AN ALLEYWAY IN GUANAJUATO
Out of the many cities in Mexico I’ve gotten to visit throughout my life, this is definitely one of the most beautiful. The vibes, the people, la fiesta, the food, the callejones and the infallible late-night elote availability are everything that I need to survive. I would loooooove living here at some point in my life.
We saw people walking around at all times of the day and night. I loved that everything felt lively! It was especially crowded because we visited during the Día de Muertos holiday, but I only minded the crowds that we ran into during the peak hours of the Day of the Dead festival in the underground tunnels. Some of my favorite moments consisted of simple people-watching while having drinks and food at one of the many bars near the main plaza.
GUANAJUATO’S ROLLING HILLS IN THE BACKGROUND
ALL TEA, ALL SHADE ON OUR TAXI DRIVER
Now let me tell y’all about this ridiculous
GreekMexa tragedy! We arrived to the city on a Thursday night — on Halloween — and we were exhausted. The closest airport to Guanajuato City is in the city of León about 35–45 minutes away. It’s really more convenient to take an Uber or pay for a taxi from the airport instead of renting a car because finding parking in Guanajuato is a nightmare. HOWEVER, let this story be a lesson for you!
Anyway, after grabbing our luggage, we ordered an Uber but the wait time was 15–20 minutes. Being the impatient buttholes that we are, we knew we were going to need a change of course stat. We decided to take a taxi instead and my friend Tania went back inside the airport to pre-pay for the ride at the official taxi stand.
Once in the taxi, our driver said that he hadn’t heard of the hotel we were going to stay at, but my friend Alfredo pulled up Google Maps to guide him. About half an hour later, we got to the city and had arrived at an intersection that lead to either a sizable CLIMB up a mountain or another route to who knows where.
The driver grudgingly went up the scenic drive with the climb as Alfredo and the GPS indicated. Like I mentioned, the city is in a literal valley … so it’s mountainy and hilly and the city center is at the bottom of said hills.
Imagine this man and his tiny standard-transmission car on a struggle drive up a big ass mountain with luggage in the trunk and four tired passengers. We were on the struggle bus up that mountain! Not to mention the slightly menacing dark drop off on the side of the road that was staring at us…you know, just the most chill arrival to the city.
We finally got to the top where the alleyways were beginning to slope downward toward the center of the city, and this man had the audacity to say, “You know, is it fine if I drop you off here? From here, the streets get extremely narrow down that way and my car’s not going to fit. The streets are so, so narrow that the side mirrors are going to get scratched. Look, that’s why the walls are scratched like that. Plus, it’s just about a 5-minute walk from here.”
This was also after him low-key complaining about how the streets are probably closed because of the festivities for Día de Muertos. Even though we didn’t see any of the alleged scratched walls, we agreed to get out of the car. Tania handed me the tip that we had agreed on giving the driver. And then, I handed the tip to Alfredo and Tania said to him, “Give him 100 pesos.”
Alfredo and our other friend Carlos started counting money in the middle of the street while Tania and I were on the sidewalk with all of the luggage. We were fairly irritated by and more focused on the fact that we were going to have to carry/roll our shit down the street. The guys started taking a little too long counting the money, which was weird, but Tania and I kind of ignored it at first.
They gave the man the money, and then he drove away. And that’s when we realized that the guys had paid the driver AGAIN, instead of just giving him the tip. (That’s what she said. HA.) The gag is that we ended up accidentally giving this man an extra $500 pesos — making this a $1,000 pesos itty-bitty fuck up. The driver, of course, didn’t say anything about it. And we weren’t even dropped off at our actual hotel! We were pretty annoyed by the whole thing, but then it kind of turned into the joke of the trip. It got even more hilarious when, a day later, our tour guide drove the tour van up one of the alleyways IN FREAKING REVERSE!
I have to admit dragging my luggage down the alleyways did end up being pretty comical. But on that very loud walk, I was .05 seconds away from picking my luggage up and chucking it as far down the street as I could. I promise that the sound of wheels on cobblestone for 10 minutes can make any ear bleed. Just saying! We ended up making it perfectly fine to our hotel and all was fine.
FEELIN’ SWANKY AT OUR HOTEL
We stayed at this very cute, aesthetically pleasing boutique hotel called Antigua Trece Hotel Fusion. It was moderately priced for four people, but it was the astonishing 360-degree view on the rooftop bar that absolutely made up for the price. I mean, just look at this view, y’all!
DERPING AROUND AT THE ROOFTOP BAR OF OUR HOTEL
We loved the modern style of the hotel and really enjoyed the rooftop bar. A top highlight of the trip was playing Charades while listening to some groovy tunes and drinking a bottle of tequila on the rooftop bar. We had many a laugh and I’ll never forget those moments!
CALLEJÓN DEL BESO | ALLEY OF THE KISS
This hotel is walking distance to Plaza de la Paz, which is the main plaza and is surrounded by little shops and restaurants. Best of all, elotes or esquites are very easily accessible and, of course, absolutely delicious.
Other notable places to visit near our hotel were El Callejón del Beso or the alley of the kiss (Look up this famous sight’s dramatic ass story … trust me, just do it); the Universidad de Guanajuato (You need to see the university’s steps, they’re pretty mesmerizing); the Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato which is one of the many religious buildings in the area; the Alhóndiga de Granaditas (a very important Mexican War of Independence site where the severed heads of prominent historical figures like Miguel Hidalgo were hung from the walls).
THE STEPS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GUANAJUATO
People will offer you tours of the city at Plaza de la Paz. It’s up to you to decide how you want to see the city, but the walking to the sites and sights in the vicinity of the plaza is totally doable. However, we did book a tour to see some of the not-so-walkable sights.
You’ll notice that traffic’s a little crazy, especially on busy holidays like Día de Muertos. The streets were definitely very busy throughout the time we were there, and we hardly saw any parking. I’d suggest sticking to the idea that driving in this city should be out of the question.
SÍ TO SEEING ALL THE THANGS
The tour that we booked cost about $150 pesos, about $8 USD, and it took us to quite a few sights. The tour itself is cheap, but that price didn’t include the driver’s or the guides at the other sights’ tips. Keep in mind that some of these people live from these tips and truly depend on tourism as their sole source of income.
In the van, our charismatic driver gave us some historical facts about the city and the sights we were going to visit. The first stop was a huge monument dedicated to a local War of Independence hero named Juan José de los Reyes Martínez Amaro — more easily recognized by his nickname El Pípila. You can ride a funicular up to the stone monument if you’re not on a tour or in a car. And let me just say that the view is insanely beautiful and colorful. It’s a must-see!
THE VIEW FROM EL PÍPILA
We also visited a popular mine called La Bocamina San Ramón where we were able to descend about 200 feet into a more-than-400-years-old mine to learn a little bit about the mining history of Guanajuato. And by descend, I mean we walked down a shitload of stairs in an enclosed cave. Claustrophobics, beware! I had been there once before about 15 years ago, but reliving my last visit to Guanajuato was a really cool moment for me. I did feel a little claustrophobic and the history of the people who worked in those mines is quite sad. They basically all died at a really young age and child labor is EVIL. The end.
TANIA AND I WAITING OUR TURN TO ENTER THE MINE
The tour also took us to a couple of other museums we didn’t actually enter. And before getting to the mine, we stopped at some shops where we sampled candies, liquors and an assortment of sauces from the area. I tried a super spicy sauce that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. I miss her. In general, the tour was entertaining and a good, quick way to see a lot of the city in just a few hours.
THAT’S THE PÍPILA MONUMENT CHILLING IN THE BACKGROUND
I also recommend that you visit the Diego Rivera Museum and the Don Quixote Iconographic Museum. Although we didn’t get to actually enter these two because they were closed for the holiday, we did enter one of the rooms at the Don Quixote museum — the Capilla Cervantina — where I saw one of the most-intriguing paintings I’ve ever seen.
CAPILLA CERVANTINA | CERVANTINE CHAPEL
You’ll more than likely be approached by dudes dressed in Romeo-Montague-looking outfits asking you if you have tickets for the callejoneada. A callejoneada is a gathering of people who are guided through the cobblestone alleyways by a group of local folk. On the late-night walk, the guides serenade the group with legends and songs. And did I mention there’s alcohol involved? We didn’t partake this time around … but maybe next time!
COLORFUL GUANAJUATO STREET
We also booked a private tour to San Miguel de Allende, a city about an hour away from Guanajuato. That town is another type of magical and I definitely recommend you stop by if possible!
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
And now, before our fun times come to an end, I want to share a few things that I learned during this trip that could be helpful for whoever wants to visit this city!
- Book your hotel or other accommodations early. More and more people from around the globe flock to cities like Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City yearlong, but specially during holidays. On important holidays like Día de Muertos, hotels WILL sell out. Book early!
- Try to find accommodations in the city center. Mostly everything you want to see is walkable if your accommodations are central.
- Take the tour of the city, BUT be prepared. If you’re approached by people selling a tour, make sure it’s the legit companies (they have offices by the Basílica). Also, be aware that while the price of the tour may only be $150 pesos (about $8 USD), you still have to pay your entry to the museums/sights AND most tour guides work solely on tips.
- Do the “Callejoneada.” There’s alcohol involved. Need I say more?
- Don’t rent a car. Tiny, winding streets, crazy traffic and zero parking are a bad combo. Use Uber or ask the lobby to call you a taxi if you need to go farther than the walkable central area.
- Book a private tour to San Miguel de Allende from Guanajuato. Surrounding towns and cities full of rich Mexican history are very close to Guanajuato, but regular tours won’t give you enough time to explore at a leisurely pace. Ask around to see different prices for a private tour (a guy that drives you and your party to the destination, gives you a previously agreed upon number of hours to explore, then drives you back to your hotel). The hotel may have different prices than the tour companies. A private tour is sometimes better because you can negotiate the price and the amount of hours you want to spend exploring.
- If you see a street vendor with three different types of chips — specifically plain, adobadas and chipotle — get the chipotle ones. THEY’RE AMAZING. My mouth is literally salivating at the thought alone omg.
- Say hi to my homie Carmen at the mummy museum. Tell her I said #FREECARMEN
- Don’t over pay your taxi driver, y’all! Just don’t do it.
- Have esquites. Obviously, I’m an elote queen. If you want to know which piece of advice you should take from me, THIS IS IT.
ALFREDO, TANIA, ME & CARLOS AT EL PÍPILA
Even though our taxi driver lied to us, the whole trip was super memorable and I can’t wait to visit Guanajuato again! This concludes my Guanajuato series, y’all! If you SOMEHOW made it here, THANK YOU from the bottom of my dried up heart. Enjoy this video of this amazing trip!