While we were staying in San Miguel de Allende, we decided to take a day trip to the capital city in the region, Guanajuato City. Guanajuato City sits in a narrow valley at an altitude of 6,600 feet. It is about an 1 1/2 hour drive from SMA. There are no straight roads in the city, and the views all around the city are spectacular. We hired Dali from Discovery Tours as our guide, which means he did the driving too! With a group of 4 adults and 2 kids, we filled a mini-van perfectly, for a comfortable drive to Guanajuato City from San Miguel de Allende. The countryside in the area is absolutely beautiful; lots of rolling hills and rocky outcroppings dot the landscape. It reminds me in some ways of the landscape of central California. The name Guanajuato comes from the language of early native peoples, "Quanax huato", meaning "hilly place of frogs." Our guide told us that some of the rocky outcroppings actually look like frogs, we did our best to spot them on our drive into the city.
I could have spent much more time than just one day in Guanajuato City, as it is vast with much to explore. We opted for our one day tour to include the Mummy Museum, a drive through the towns incredible underground tunnels, The Juarez Theater, and lunch in the town square. The first stop driving into town was the Monumento al Pipila, which is named for a local hero. This statue occupies a lookout point, with a great vantage point of the city, and a perfect way to start the tour.
After taking in this spectacular view, we visited the Mummy Museum, which was an experience all to itself. You can read about it here.
The other highlight of the tour was the Teatro Juarez, or Juarez Theater, which was built by the French at the turn of the 20th Century. Most of the materials used to build the theater were imported from France, including the iron work. It was a site to behold.
I had never hired a guide while traveling before this trip. We had a limited amount of time in the places we were, and I think it was the most informative and cost effective way to learn about our surroundings, since the rate was hourly for our trip to Guanajuato City, no matter if we had 2 or 6 people on the tour. One of interesting bits of information I was interested to learn about was the preservation of colonial cities like San MIguel de Allende and Guanajuato. As we were driving around Guanajuato City, Dali was pointing out bits and pieces of interesting sites. At one point he pointed to what looked like an indoor shopping center. I didn't think much of it. But what I did find interesting is that he told us there was a McDonald's inside. I was surprised, as there was no sign of the golden arches anywhere. That was Dali's point. Apparently the people of the city of Guanajuato fight to preserve its architectural and historical qualities and charm, by not allowing large outdoor signage that does not fit into the character of the city. The other example of this was at the Starbucks Coffee in the town square. Yes, there was a Starbucks Coffee, but no letter signage at all. The only thing I saw, besides a small window display was this:
I hope to return to Guanajuato City one day to explore further. We took 20 minutes for a short stroll before getting back in the car to head to SMA, and I saw many beautiful and intriguing views.