The extraordinary Unesco World Heritage city of Guanajuato was founded in 1559 due to the region’s rich silver and gold deposits. Opulent colonial buildings, stunning tree filled plazas and brightly colored houses are crammed onto the steep slopes of a ravine. Excellent museums, handsome theaters and a fine marketplace punctuate the cobble- stone streets. The city’s ‘main’ roads twist around the hillsides and plunge into tunnels, formerly rivers.
Guanajuato is just as beautiful and interesting as San Miguel but with more people and more traffic, none the less it is a great place to spend two or three days.
The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato, contains a jewel-covered image of the Virgin, patron of Guanajuato. The wooden statue was supposedly hidden from the Moors in a cave in Spain for 800 years. Felipe II of Spain gave it to Guanajuato in thanks for the wealth it provided to the crown.
Museo Regional de Guanajuato: This art and history museum was the site of the first major rebel victory in Mexico’s War of Independence. Built between 1798 and 1808 as a grain store, the Alhóndiga became a fortress in 1810 when 300 Spanish troops and loyalist leaders barricaded themselves inside after 20,000 rebels led by Miguel Hidalgo attempted to take Guanajuato. On September 28, 1810, a miner nicknamed El Pípila tied a stone slab to his back and, protected from Spanish bullets, set the entrance ablaze. The rebels moved in and killed everyone inside!
Museo de las Momias (Museum of the mummies): This famous museum is one of the most bizarre (personally I would say distasteful) sights at the panteón (cemetery). The popular attraction is a quintessential example of Mexico’s acceptance of, celebration of and obsession with death; visitors come from all over to see more than 100 disinterred corpses. While technically these are mummified remains – due to the dry atmosphere in their former crypts – the bodies are not thousands of years old. The first remains were unearthed in 1865 to make room for more bodies in the cemeteries. What the authorities uncovered were not skeletons but flesh mummified (many feature grotesque forms and facial expressions)
Funicular: This incline railway inches up (and down) the slope behind the Teatro Juárez to a terminal near the El Pípila monument. Heading up is fun, but to descend, you can save your pennies by walking down. The views from the top are stunning.
Bocamina de San Ramón silver mine: This mine is part of the famous Valenciana mining district. Silver was discovered here in 1548. At San Ramón you can descend via steps into a mine shaft to a depth of 60m.
Primera Plus bus: 2 hours north west of San Miguel – £5.72 (First Class).