Welcome to my first travel post in two years! While I have done some traveling in the last two years, I haven’t written a true travel post since I went to New Orleans in 2020 right before lockdown. I also haven’t visited anywhere that warranted a full “write-up” except maybe my trip to Mexico City, but I had to forego writing about that to enjoy my first international trip out of lockdown last year. Today, however, I am so excited to write about my trip to Guanajuato, Mexico!
This was my first time visiting Guanajuato which is about a 4.5-hour drive or one-hour plane ride from Mexico City. It’s also about a 45-minute drive from the main airport in León, so be sure to consider that when it comes to budgeting. Guanajuato has a lot of nicknames, but it is primarily known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and recognized for its neighboring town, San Miguel de Allende, and its Día de los Muertos festivities as depicted in Disney’s Coco. It is easily one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen thus far. My trip was four days, but excluding the travel, it was a full 2.5 days of exploring. Let’s get started!
Day 1: Dinner and Drinks
◊ El Funicular
After checking into our accommodation, my boyfriend and I were ready to eat. Something absolutely important to note if it isn’t obvious from the photo above is that Guanajuato is a city that was built up and out from the city center. Amongst other things, our B&B was situated high up, so our host gave us tickets to utilize the funicular which is a cable car-style transit system to get up and down the hill. It’s about $35MXN ($2) one way or you can buy a pass that they punch holes into each way you ride. Besides being conveniently located near our B&B, it is a quick ride and offers stunning views of the city, especially at night. El Funicular closes at 9:30 p.m. every night, so your only options to get up or down were either walking the steep, long hill (which we opted for) or paying for a taxi.
◊ Los Marcos Restaurant
We ate here at the recommendation of our B&B host. Despite our correspondence with him being in Spanish and us specifically asking for non-touristy restaurants, he still recommended Los Marcos which was full of older, American tourists as we walked in. While I was recording for my vlog, the waiter actually came over to tell me I could scan the QR code for the English menu. Of course we could have walked around for another restaurant, but we were starving after five hours of air travel and the atmosphere was pretty quiet. Our food looked good, but it was bland and forgettable. I’m not sure if our host, as an American, genuinely enjoys the food or just assumed I wanted to eat somewhere with options that sound like American food, but we did our own research from there. The only reason I’m writing about it here is because it is technically the only thing we did on our first night and to tell you all to avoid going here as Guanajuato is a city small enough that this is a restaurant you could easily run into while walking around.
◊ Zona Centro
After dinner, we walked around this busy city to find the local university, Universidad de Guanajuato, because we heard they did altars for Día de los Muertos (which we didn’t find on our first night) and then just decided to keep walking. We made our way back to Jardin de la Union which is in front of Teatro Juárez and has a row of restaurants. This is also the meeting place for the Callejoneadas tours, or singing tours, which we participated in on our second night. We stopped at one of the restaurants on the row next to the garden which all essentially had the same menus and prices and just grabbed a drink before calling it a night. We were so shocked at the liveliness on a Thursday night. Besides the crowds with the Callejoneadas, there were so many mariachi bands and people of all ages out and about. I am not sure if it was due to the Dia de los Muertos festivities or if this is normal, but it was so fun to watch everyone.
Day 2: Exploring Guanajuato
We started our day with breakfast at the B&B and met the other guests. After about two hours of conversation, we found that we all were essentially connected in some way by our travel experiences. I was so sad that this would be the only day we’d all cross paths, but it was a great start to the day!
◊ Monumento Al Pipila
Our B&B is literally next to Monumento Al Pipila so we walked there first. This giant monument commemorates a war hero, Juan José de los Reyes Martínez Amaro, who was instrumental in the Mexican War of Independence by breaking through a barricade the Spanish set up at a granary (Alhóndiga de Granaditas) during an insurgence. The Mexican War of Independence had battles in several places across the country, but this was a huge victory for a town of miners and indigenous people. This monument is also a great lookout point to see the entire city from above. We actually attempted to visit Alhóndiga which has a history of being a granary, a jail, and now a museum, but it was closed for a private event the one day we had to explore it. 😦
◊ Mercado Hidalgo
On our way to Callejón del Beso, we stumbled upon a large market that had food and item stalls. I got a shot glass to continue my collection that has been on pause, but we didn’t buy anything else. It was chock-full of things to buy and it consumed a full warehouse. I was glad we stopped in even if it was brief!
◊ Callejón del Beso (Alley of the Kiss)
We stopped by the landmark alley known as Callejón del Beso (translated to Alley of the Kiss) to kiss for good luck and get a picture. It’s truly so beautiful, but the story behind this tale is haunting. Knowing the story, I don’t really know how it’s considered good luck, but hey, there are a lot of fairytales and fables that have really dark meanings!
◊ Casa Museo Diego Rivera
Since the city is so small and it was still early in the day, we decided to check out the childhood home of artist Diego Rivera that was converted into a museum. If you are not familiar with Diego Rivera, you may know his extremely popular ex-wife, Frida Kahlo. He of course was a huge artist (no pun intended) on his own before Frida came into his life, but I would argue her legacy is much larger and widely known than his in present day. Neither of us are particularly fans of Diego Rivera, but it was something to do. Photography is not permitted at the museum, so I don’t have anything to look back on to decide if this is worth seeing or not, but it was much bigger than it looked! It had about four or five floors worth of art and it felt like a labyrinth as there were so many different rooms from this otherwise unassuming home from the front. Sadly, none of his large works that he’s actually known for can be found there as they were mostly large fresco murals.
◊ Tuneles Guanajuato/Día de los Muertos Festival
We finally stumbled upon an entrance to the Día de los Muertos altars that we attempted to see the night before. They are beneath the city in Guanajuato’s infamous tunnels. While we originally wanted to see it at night, we figured we’d go down and check it out and boy, it did not disappoint. I like to think the cultural significance of Día de los Muertos is widely known, especially with the help of Coco, but it’s truly an experience to witness it in person in Mexico.
The amount of detail and intricacy that goes into creating these altars is heartwarming. It greatly depicts the love people have for those who have passed and you see so many common themes at each altar. It feels so sacred when you’re walking amongst it. These decorations and commemorations expanded through most of the tunnels, complete with food stands and bars for people to enjoy. We’d find out the following night how ‘alive’ it really became when the sun went down.
◊ Callejoneadas Tour
We took a long rest before heading back out for dinner and a tour with the Callejoneadas which is a tourist attraction where people, predominantly college students, lead singing tours through the alleys of Guanajuato. The tour actually goes pretty high up–close to the Monumento Al Pipila–but it doesn’t feel like the excruciating trek of going uphill when you’re accompanied by song, live string instruments, and (conveniently) alcohol. We expected that these would be historical tours, but our tour leaders really just leaned on folkloric and childhood songs that the locals knew with jokes strewn in to keep everyone entertained. Every few stops, there would also be stalls to purchase alcohol to keep the festivities going. Unfortunately, I had a stomachache pretty early on into the tour so I wasn’t as excited as I’d likely normally be, but I still had a great time and was even called up to dance the macarena. I definitely recommend doing this!
I would note though that all the tours are fully in Spanish. The last tour of the night was around 9:00 p.m., so we ate first and afterwards, you can check out the tunnels. It is a real party down there! If you don’t find a place to pull over and people watch, it may not feel as fun because essentially you’re in a never-ending lazy river of people. But if you’re already buzzed, I imagine it can be really fun. Otherwise, you can just check out other bars and restaurants that are open late!
Day 3: San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a UNESCO World Heritage Site about an hour and a half drive from Guanajuato. We rented a car specifically to make this drive because it’s always so beautiful in photos and it lived up to my expectations! Every place you turn is a photo moment. Parking is sparse here, but clearly marked, so we found a lot that’s managed by an individual and charged by the hour.
The whole city is walkable because it’s tiny. There’s actually not much to do here at all, so we just grabbed lunch at a hotel and walked around and took pictures. The steep walks do exist here as well, but since everything is pretty, it doesn’t feel as bad. I think we were also so used to walking at this point that it felt like a relief compared to our uphill trek to our B&B every night. We really just had a leisurely day out there to justify the drive and rental.
Though there are of course bus tours and such for day trips to San Miguel, we both agreed that renting a car was worth it because we could move on our own time; a lot of times, bus tours (in any city) start as early as 7:00 a.m. and they’re anywhere from 8-12 hour days mandated by whoever is hosting the tour. It would have been nice to have a tour guide to teach us some history as I personally enjoy that, but I loved being able to decide what we were doing for the day, including getting back in time to rest before dinner as it was our last full day in Guanajuato.
Our final night wasn’t the most eventful due to some minor stress we encountered with our B&B host regarding our payment method (which I will explain in the next section), so that kind of distracted us. We went to the tunnels, as mentioned before, and I think due to us being exhausted and a little stressed, we mostly just felt crowded and anxious with all the people and called it an early night. I’m actually glad we got the rest though because the travel back home always feels like the longest day ever. But that’s everything we did!
We stayed at a B&B we found on TripAdvisor called Casa Zuñiga. Unfortunately, there was not a whole lot to choose from as far as accommodations in the city center–there are no major hotel chains, so if you are not comfortable staying in people’s houses or houses converted to accommodations, budget not only for a hotel in León (the city you fly into to get to Guanajuato), but also for either a rental car or daily taxis. Casa Zuñiga lived up to the reviews though! It is a beautiful, large home situated on a hill. It felt very secure and each guest had a key into the main door, so it wasn’t open for just anyone to enter. Our suite had a king bed, a desk, a sitting room, and a bathroom. There was an excessive amount of outlets (yay!), a fan in case the room was hot (it wasn’t), with several layers of bedding in case you were cold instead.
They provided filtered water in the rooms daily as well as daily cleanings that we were not expecting considering many hotels have done away with that in the last year. A personal touch I enjoyed was they folded the toilet paper to look like a flower. The final bonus was the view from the sitting room which was breathtaking.
Casa Zuñiga had a great viewing point from the outdoor area which had a pool too. The breakfast part of B&B was included and they even asked for dietary restrictions ahead of the stay to accommodate everyone. The breakfast was predominantly American breakfast, but had Mexican staples as well. The staff at Casa Zuñiga was incredibly kind, especially the host, Rick, who received us personally at check-in, gave us a tour of the full accommodation, was present every morning at breakfast, and super quick to respond via email. He even gave us passes for El Funicular so we didn’t have to purchase right away. We really appreciated their hospitality and I was also enamored by all the colors and decorations of this home for future home inspo. It really felt like a home away from home. Bonus: the parking is included as well! There is a parking lot in walking distance and the staff there was also so kind and even arrived early for us when we needed to checkout ahead of their business hours.
The only issue we had was that the payment was unclear–a credit card is used to reserve the place, but Rick was expecting a cash payment which still doesn’t make sense to me. In the fine print of our confirmation email, there was a lot of verbiage that could be interpreted in multiple ways. When this was brought up, it was Saturday night, so obviously we couldn’t access a bank. We worked with him to do a wire transfer, but had we not sent him an email confirming what to do with our keys, we would have never known. Either way, we worked it out and had no other issues with our wonderful stay!
Cost (excluding food and drink)
El Funicular: $35MXN one-way
Casa Museo Diego Rivera: $30MXN/person
Callejoneadas tour: $120MXN/person
Total: $4835MXN or ~$250USD
When you’re paid in dollars, Mexico is almost always inexpensive. We both brought about $3500MXN in cash and spent most of it once we included food, drink, and tips. Guanajuato is considered an expensive city and of course there are a lot of tourist traps, so we likely spent more than we expected to for that reason. But I think we did pretty well for two people over three days!
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Guanajuato! The length of time we were there was perfect and our days weren’t too jam-packed to where I didn’t leave feeling exhausted. Most importantly, I left feeling reconnected to myself and inspired to create more content. I look forward to following this energy and hopefully bringing this blog and YouTube back to life. I hope y’all enjoyed reading about my trip! Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.