Sunday, February 16, 2014

Guanajuato, City of Frogs?

Guanajuato derives its name from the indigenous language to "Quanax huato", which means "hilly place of frogs".

guanajuato city of frogs panorama


I've had an exciting few days wandering around this charming city, taking tours and sampling the local cuisine. You can truly get lost in this compact city with its hundreds of cobblestone passages and underground tunnels. In fact, one of the most striking features of this city is the network of underground tunnels that connect Guanajuato to the outside world. Since Guanajuato is built into a valley, the only feasible mode of transport is using the tunnels built under the mountains. Everywhere you walk in the city, you will see tunnels just like this one. In fact, this one was right next door to my hotel.

guanajuato tunnels that are under the city


Guanajuato's Baroque influence can be observed around the many churches and main squares of the city. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato is located in the main plaza of the city. Surrounding this square are charming little restaurants and souvenir shops, and if you're lucky you'll see a group of Mariachi wandering around looking for customers. At night the atmosphere changes and vendors come out and start selling their handicrafts and cups of buttered corn.

guanajuato church baroque architecture
guanajuato church baroque architecture with garden
guanajuato main square in front of the church


The other main square of the city, Jardin de la Union is the centre of social activities of the city. This square is littered with bustling restaurants, bars and outdoor TVs. The Teatro Juarez, is also easily accessible which is beautifully constructed and meticulously preserved. The theatre is still in use today and you can purchase a ticket to watch a concert or opera. We missed the times for casual viewing but as its only $2 for a general tour its something you can't miss.

jardin de la union and teatro juarez guanajuato
jardin de la union and teatro juarez guanajuato


One of our favourite things to do here was get lost in the twisting and turning cobblestone streets and alleyways of Guanajuato. These are just a few of the typical streets I saw wandering around. All the buildings seemingly conform to a set of standard colours which makes for a really nice effect. I think because it is a UNESCO site the landowners are only allowed to paint their properties a certain colour.

colourful guanajuato street


In Guanajuato, visiting the Pipila monument at the main lookout is a must. To get to the top you can take either the funicular or drive. El Pipila is the legend of one of Mexico's first heroes that bravely fought for independence. His monument overlooks the city at its most beautiful lookout. The panoramic view was bustling with tourists and vendors, and everyone trying to get to the front for a clear photo.

guanajuato panorama pipila monument view
guanajuato panorama pipila monument me


This is, without a doubt, the best museum in Guanajuato. All the mummies were bodies found buried around the city. Due to the lack of humidity in the air, many bodies which are buried here mummified instead of decomposing normally. We saw mummies of normal people, babies and people who had died of unnatural causes. The most significant mummy of the museum was a 6 month old foetus and is the smallest mummy in the world. A little creepy, but very interesting.

guanajuato museum of the mummies smallest mummy


Since Guanajuato is a mining town there are many mines you can visit. We visited the Mine of Valencia, which is still used today. Our guide took us right down into the mine, 60 meters underground. He turned off the lights to show us what it was like when there was no light and it was pitch black. Soo scary.

valencian mines guanajuato scary underground


Foodie lovers unite. Originally intended to be a train station, this grand building is now the main market of Guanajuato. So many treats can be found in this 2 storey indoor market. Fresh produce, breads, cheeses, seafood and souvenir shops. It's a great way to enjoy local foods with reasonable prices and buy some authentic souvenirs. If you're feeling brave and want to practise your Spanish you can try haggling down the prices too.

hidalgo markets from above


If you are an art enthusiast, the house and museum of Diego Riviera is located here in a three story collection. Deceptively modest from the outside, it is a well documented museum with some of the most important pieces of art in Mexico, including works by other contemporary artists. We spent well over an hour here (and if you're a fan I'm sure you could spend a lot longer). Not like your usual museum, part of the museum is his childhood home restored.

guanajuato museum museo casa diego rivera


The Museum of the Inquisition showcased the many torture devices used in Guanajuato during the Holy Inquisition. It's a small museum, but our guide was lively and entertaining demonstrating to us a vast array of torture devices. We were told that the Inquisition did indeed happen in Guanajuato with the goal of purifying souls and converting them to Christianity.

guanajuato museum of the inqusition

Image attribution:
"Guanajuato from the El Pipila monument" by Jiuguang Wang // CC BY-SA 2.0 * ; "Arquitectura Mercado Hidalgo en Guanajuato" by JoAnto. // CC BY 2.0 *
* changes were made to the original materials

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