Guanajuato, Mexico, a colonial city nestled amidst the valleys of the central Mexican highlands, is an incredible destination with a rich cultural history. Known as the “cultural center” of Mexico and Mexican history to both locals and foreigners alike, it’s no surprise that there are some truly amazing spectacles and activities available in Guanajuato. From the famous Mummy Museum to the legendary callejoneadas, Guanajuato has no shortage of awesome things to do that will appeal to all types of travelers.
Below are our top ten things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico (in no particular order)!
1. The Pipila Monument
Perched on top of a hill overlooking Guanajuato’s Centro (downtown), the Pipila Monument is well-worth a visit for any visitor interested in Mexican history, stunning views, or a pleasant, low-key tourist activity with splendid rewards. The Pipila statue commemorates a Mexican engineer, miner, and rebel officer named Juan José de los Reyes who actively supported the Mexican fight for independence; Guanajuato was where the fight for Mexican independence began, so the Pipila is an important landmark. At the foot of the Pipila statue is a lookout point where visitors can admire the sprawling panoramic view of Guanajuato City.
The funicular to get to the Pipila Monument is located at the end of a small callejón just to the left of Teatro Juárez in the Jardín Unión.
2. The Mummy Museum (El Museo de las Momias)
The Mummy Museum is one of Guanajuato’s most well-known attractions, and for good reason. In the mid-1800s, a cholera outbreak swept across Guanajuato; somewhat unusual burial procedures (developed to accommodate the large number of bodies) resulted in the natural mummification of hundreds of bodies, which are became known as the Mummies of Guanajuato. The museum is said to hold the “smallest mummy in the world”, which is that of a fetus from a pregnant woman who died from the cholera epidemic. An eerie and thought-provoking journey into the past is held inside the walls of this museum.
The Mummy Museum is located close to the Pantheon Municipal Cemetery. A taxi can easily take you to the museum from anywhere in the city for a small charge of approximately $2-$3USD.
3. La Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato
La Basilica de Nuestra Señora is a grand yellow church in Guanajuato’s Centro. As one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city, La Basilica de Nuestra Señora deserves a visit. Stunning colonial architecture and beautiful artwork on the inside of the church give visitors a chance to reflect on Guanajuato’s colonial past. Situated in the Plaza de la Paz and right in front of the Jardín de la Unión, the Basilica is an excellent starting point for travelers wanting to explore the busiest and most active area of the city! Depending on the day that you visit, the Basilica may have various events taking place; lucky visitors might get the chance to see a quinceañera or wedding!
4. Hike La Bufa
For a dose of nature, a hike to La Bufa is a wonderful chance to get away and experience some of Guanajuato’s best hiking and scenery. Plus, locals in Guanajuato adore hiking, so this is a perfect way to get a taste of local life! Despite its fame, La Bufa is often surprisingly quiet, especially the further you hike along the rugged trails. An interesting history along with awe-inspiring views make this an ideal adventure for nature-lovers. Getting a group of locals and foreigners together to go for a hike is the most fun way to hike La Bufa!
5. Go on a Callejoneada
Going on a callejoneada with one of the many estudiantinas roaming Guanajuato’s Centro is by far one of the best ways to see the city at night. The tradition of the estudiantina was brought over from Spain, where in the 1500s university students would play music to earn extra cash and win the hearts of beautiful women. In the modern day in Guanajuato, the estudiantinas are made up of a diverse crowd of musicians including both young and old alike (and even a few females!). The callejoneadas are an interactive musical theater tour around Guanajuato led by the estudiantina and accompanied by traditional Mexican and Spanish music, dancing, and other exciting surprises! Because the callejoneadas are such a unique tradition, Mexicans from all around the country visit Guanajuato to experience the Mexican heart of estudiantina culture.
6. Try Enchilada Mineras
The classic dish in Guanajuato, Enchiladas Mineras are delicious and nutritious (kind of). Every restaurant in Guanajuato has their own rendition of Enchiladas Mineras, but they all include tasty, homemade enchiladas topped with potatoes and carrots. Sides may be refried beans, chicken, or even a pickled jalapeño pepper (don’t be afraid, they’re sometimes spicy but well worth the burn!). La Bohemia in the Centro of Guanajuato offers a pleasant atmosphere and superb staff; individuals with allergies to gluten or lactose won’t have any problem ordering a special version of the famous Enchiladas Mineras at this restaurant.
7. Spend a Day Wandering Around the City
Guanajuato is a city with winding streets, layers of underground tunnel systems, and narrow alleyways at every turn. One of the best ways to authentically experience the city is to spend a few hours (or even a whole day) wandering without a destination. Taxis are readily available from any main street and will take you back to your Home Base at the end of the day for a very affordable charge of $2-$3USD. Because Guanajuato is very much a walking place, walking around and taking in the sights on foot is an enchanting and enjoyable way to see the city.
8. Explore the Tunnels
Guanajuato’s tunnel system is a source of intrigue and amazement to all visitors to Guanajuato, and for good reason! With multiple layers of tunnels spanning the entire city, it’s possible to dip down into a tunnel in the centro and end up in an entirely different area in just a few footsteps. At first the tunnel system can seem daunting and hard to manage (and in all reality, it is), but it’s also extremely fun to explore. A day wandering around Guanajuato wouldn’t be complete without a couple of jaunts down into the tunnels!
9. Experience a Traditional Temazcal Ceremony
There are multiple locations in Guanajuato that offer traditional temazcals. A temazcal is a traditional healing ceremony that resembles a sweat lodge, but with higher temperatures and more ceremonial/ritualistic components. Because the temazcal isn’t firmly based in religion, but rather in purification of the body, mind, and spirit, travelers from all walks of life can feel comfortable attending one of these incredible ceremonies. Finding a temazcal may be a bit of a challenge, but there are more than 3 around Guanajuato, all of which are open to foreigners. As a fair warning, many permit nudity, so if you’re not comfortable with others around you being nude (most temazcals don’t require nudity), this experience might not be your cup of tea. This is by far the most intense one of these things to do in Guanajuato, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.
10. Visit the Alhondiga de Granaditas.
The Alhondiga is a must-visit spot in Guanajuato. As one of the sites where the Mexican Revolution took hold, the Alhondiga holds special significance to Guanajuato locals and the Mexicans across the country. A museum inside the building, which used to be a granary, holds artwork and exhibits commemorating the participants and heroes of the Mexican fight for independence; an exhibit of Pre-Colombian art is also present within the building. During the International Cervantino Festival in October, the expansive courtyard in front of the Alhondiga converts into an open-air auditorium for performances.
With Guanajuato’s seemingly never-ending abundance of things to see and do, this list is only the beginning of a much longer one! Any traveler to central Mexico will thoroughly enjoy a visit to Guanajuato City, the vibrant heart of the country’s heritage and history that boasts friendly locals, unmissable sights, and a complex, multi-faceted history. Guanajuato is Mexico’s hidden gem.