Pulling into the obscure labyrinth of streets in this historic city was an otherworldly experience. The warren of tunnels and overhanging buildings rendered our GPS immediately useless and within minutes we were gleefully lost. We later learned that the tunnels were once occupied by the Rio Guanajuato, which had been dammed and redirected to open the network for motorists. These narrow and winding tunnels were a fitting subterranean introduction to a city that captured our imaginations and cemented our ever growing love for Mexico.
“Should we just live here?” One of our group asked as we awaited our first beer in a quaint yet vibrant square in the city centre. We had pushed our Land Cruiser out from the tunnels and through the cobbled streets, arriving at our campsite in a cloud of white smoke due to the altitude and our faulty diesel engine. We left the cruiser there perched above the city and made our way on foot, back downhill to explore the city by night.
Sitting in the first square in the city that night, it felt distinctly European, an atmosphere that we distinctly missed during our earlier travels. We were immediately infatuated with the city, it felt like one of the first real “travel” experiences on the trip, it was the first place that had felt truly exotic, exciting and somehow mystical.
After a small meal and a couple of local cervezas we took a night time walking tour of the city, an endeavour that grew our love affair with this city even further. In the great and famous cities of the world, one of my favorite things is that you need not have much of a plan. You simply set out on foot to explore, finding incredible architecture, superb bars and restaurants and whatever other life the city can throw at you. This is to be expected of Paris, of Barcelona or Florence, yet here we were in a city that only a few weeks ago I had not even heard of and true to form, it was a stunning and unique around every turn as could be expected of any of its more famed counterparts.
The next morning we awoke eager to see more of the city that had already captured our imaginations so much. Cities are often different places by day and by night and we could not wait to see what wonders the light of day would reveal to us. We took a tunnel this time to cut the journey and shield our backs from the already warm Mexican sun.
The tunnel popped us out in the area we had explored the night before, so we took the opportunity to grab some cheap Huevos Rancheros in a cafe in the shadow of the awesome municipal Theatre. This meal in the main city square of a more visited destination would have easily ran $15 a head, but here, on the undiscovered streets of Guanajuato, a full cooked breakfast, coffees and juice for four did not break $8. As if we needed another reason to love this City.
We spent the rest of the day, hiking the steep and winding streets, eating street food, and shooting video to try and capture the magic of the city in a way that photos struggle to do. It is more than the vibrant colours and the ornate architecture that had captured my imagination. The city had a a backdrop of sounds and smells, of noises and little interactions, friendly people, music and a life that made me feel both like I was exploring a new and exciting destination, yet that I was completely at home. It was a place I felt I could live, that offered everything you could want. As we neared the top of our ascent, sweaty and out of breath, the city below began to reveal itself in a whole new light.
And finally to be revealed in full:
We sat and enjoyed this view for some time. Enjoying seeing all of the city as one, a strange overview from being at ground level on the narrow streets. Unfortunately our time here was soon to come to a close, as we had an imminent flight to catch from Mexico City.
We left Guanajuato with a strong desire to return, with lasting memories of a magical city. I hope we will find it a precursor to many of the Pueblo Magicos here in Mexico and many of the incredible cities we have yet to discover in Central and South America.
Here are a few more photos of this wonderful city.