The state of Guanajuato is located in north-central Mexico between the bone-dry north of the country and the lusher south, and it’s geographically part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, the Mexican Plateau, and the Sierra Madre Oriental. While it doesn’t have the fantastic seaside attractions that its bordering state of Jalisco – think Puerto Vallarta – does, it offers visitors a host of attractions tailored to the state’s history and culture.
In the state of over 4.8 million people, three cities make up Guanajuato’s primary tourism business and they are, San Miguel de Allende, the capital city Guanajuato, and Dolores Hidalgo. The state of Guanajuato is often referred to as “the land of Silver Cities,” owing to it's mining dominated past.
Visitors to both San Miguel and Guanajuato are taken back in time to the rich culture and architectural structures of the colonial era. Visit their Malecóns, walk their cobblestone streets, and sit in their ancient churches. Because of their cultural significance and preserved historical beauty, both cities are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These two cities are truly the state’s pride and joy!
And in Guanajuato city, we can’t forget the internationally acclaimed Festival Internacional Cervantino, which is the state’s real claim to fame. The art lover’s paradise that brings in local and international artists to partake in numerous artistic events takes place annually throughout the month of October.
Dolores Hidalgo, while not a World Heritage Site, is a city that perhaps should be included with its sister cities. Of particular importance to this city is that it is the place where Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla gave the Grito de Dolores (aka “El Grito”) declaration that initiated the War of Independence.
Another important city to Guanajuato is its largest city, Leon. It is an industrial city immersed largely in the leather industry; from shoes to saddles, they produce it here. If you love to shop, you’ll find some outstanding deals here. Leon is also known for its exotic flavors of hand-made ice cream like beer, shrimp, pulque, chile relleno, even shrimp and mole, and for its colorful Talavera ceramics.
While about 95% of Guanajuato’s visitors are from Mexico itself, there are some great things to see and do if you are traveling through the state – particularly if you are travelling through the state, in fact. To draw in tourists, Guanajuato has set up several tourist routes that show off its rich culture and heritage.
These routes include:
The Bicentennial Route (aka Ruta de la Independencia), which follows the path taken by Father Hidalgo’s revolutionary army at the beginning of Mexico’s War of Independence;
The Ruta de Aventura (aka Aventure Route), which joins ghost towns and deserted mines with ecological areas for hiking, mountain biking, and extreme sport activities such as paragliding;
The Ruta Arqueológica (aka Archeological Route), which links the two pre-Hispanic sites of Plazuelas and Peralta currently open to visitors, with plans to include other sites on the route in the future, like La Virgen de la Cañada and El Cóporo;
The Ruta Artesanal (aka Handcrafts Route), which travels over several municipalities specializing handcrafted items, including food. These include Acámbaro, Coroneo, and Tarancuaro noted for their bread, woolen items, and ceramics, respectively;
The Ruta de los Conventos (aka Monastery Route), which runs through the south of the state, is where several large religious campuses were erected for evangelizing purposes in the early colonial period.
And evangelize they did! As a side note, today, the state is a religious state with 96% of its population being Catholic. It’s strict, religious protocol has led to far-reaching censorship in the state’s public educational curriculum as well as in its legal system.
If you love exploring, you’ll have to check out the state’s numerous archeological sites which include the platforms at Chupicuaro, the elite Christian city at Plazuelas, the settlements of Peralta, the ceremonial center at Cañada de la Virgen, and the colony at Carabino.
When you visit this state, you will most likely experience what is called the “Guanajuato Fusion”. Chefs here are updating their traditional recipes with eclectic food combinations, like tuna with red chili peppers and duck with mesquite honey, for example. If you have adventurous tastes in food, this fusion gives you much to look forward to in Guanajuato!
These are just a few of the great things to experience in Guanajuato, and there is so much more for you here! Check out its water parks, its thermal springs, its ancient haciendas, all the attractions listed here, and more. Guanajuato is a great place for a family to explore together!