December 21, 2022 – January 4, 2023
Mexico just like the US is made up of a collection of states. And just like the states in the US, each state in Mexico has different things that make it unique and special. If one were to ask me of the 32 Mexican states what my favorite is, I think I’d have to say that I have a hard time picking a favorite but that Guanajuato is up there at the top. I find Guanajuato enchanting, somewhat magical, and full of history, art, and astounding beauty. And as a bonus, it’s located in the Central Highlands of Mexico where the weather is near perfect in the winter.
We became acquainted with Guanajuato four years ago and this year the state was at the top of my list to revisit. I wanted to return to some of the places I loved and explore new towns and cities we missed the last time through.
It was the week before Christmas when we crossed the border from the State of San Luis Potosí into Guanajuato. Our first stop was to be a city we had only driven through on our visit four years ago called Dolores Hidalgo. As we navigated through El Centro looking for a place to park, we found the streets packed with tourists and no place to stop. We headed to a pay parking garage where I thought we could not only park for the day but spend the night. It was completely full. By this time my “Montezuma’s revenge” was acting up so we decided to head on and go to an actual campground in another town where we had been before.
Casa Estrella RV Park
In about an hour, we were at Casa Estrella RV Park in Valencia. We had stayed at this RV Park on our previous visit to Guanajuato. The park is part of a hotel with a lovely staff, beautiful grounds, and a beautiful shower with hot water. Valencia is just a short bus ride from the city of Guanajuato, the capital city of the state. Guanajuato city was high on my list for a revisit but unfortunately, our illness prevented us from getting very far from a bathroom. If you are curious about our previous trip to Guanajuato, an amazing and lovely city and UNESCO World Heritage Site, click here.
We stayed at Casa Estrella over the Christmas holiday and only wandered out the gates of the RV Park once to a little nearby town called Santa Ana. Luckily we found a pay bathroom as we arrived.
Santa Ana sits on a resevoir. It is not a tourist destination. But one of the things I love about Mexico is that even little nowhere towns that don’t rely on tourism are colorful and beautiful.
Cristo de la Montaña
We left Casa Estrella on the day after Christmas and headed to Cerro del Cubilete, about 45 minutes away. On the top of this hill (cerro) sits the 75-tall Cristo de la Montaña, a statue of Jesus. Sitting in the geographical center of Mexico it overlooks the amazing landscape of valleys and mountains of Guanajuato. It is a big tourist destination for Mexicans and it has all the trappings that go with any such popular places.
As we turned to go up the windy path to the monument the road was immediately lined with little outdoor eateries, one after the other. Farther up the road, closer to the monument, the snack and gift shops started. There was plenty of parking alongside the road but because we didn’t know how far of a walk we would have we continued up to the top. The road narrowed and with cars parked on either side, this two-way road became a one-way with cars going in both directions. A giant tour bus lumbered up the road making headway for us. People backed up and pulled over so vehicles could pass. There were a few waits but somehow we were never the ones who had to back up. At the top, we found a full parking lot so we turned around and made our way back to a less congested area to park.
At the top, besides the statue, we found a nice museum. And the views were pretty spectacular.
From Cerro del Cubilete we decided to try to visit Dolores Hidalgo again. We passed through the city of Guanajuato on our way but didn’t stop. We will have to revisit Guanajuato another day. On arrival we found Dolores Hidalgo to be much calmer and the parking garage we had hoped to stay at had plenty of spaces. We called it a day and got up early the next morning to explore the city.
Dolores Hidalgo is a Pueblo Magico and is known as the cradle of Mexican independence. It was here in 1810 that the priest Miguel Hidalgo issued the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores) to his parishioners to rise up and fight for independence from New Spain.
The town was originally called Dolores, was renamed Dolores Hidalgo after Mexican independence, and is now officially called Dolores Hidalgo, Cuna de la Independencia Nacional (Cradle of National Independence).
My favorite part of the pueblo was visiting two of its museums, Museo del Bicentenario and Museo de la Independencia. They both told stories of the history and culture of Mexico with art as well as traditional displays. And the buildings they were housed in were just as interesting as the displays.
After our visits to the museums, we joined just about every other tourist we saw in the city and got ice cream. Dolores Hidalgo is known for its ice cream, especially its exotic flavors like beer, fried pork rinds, ceviche, and beet. We stopped at one of the crowded ice cream carts in the zocalo manned by four or five ice cream sellers running back and forth with tasting spoons enticing customers into buying a cone or cup. We tried several flavors before we settled on a few unexotic flavors, chocolate and pistachio.
México Lindo and Pueblo Fantasma
Our next destination was to be San Miguel de Allende. But it was late when we left Dolores Hidalgo so we decided to stop at Hotel San Ramon RV Park, a campground outside of the city. On our way, not far from the campground, we passed México Lindo and Pueblo Fantasma. This place looked interesting! We had to go back in the morning.
It didn’t disappoint. Part antique mall, part art mall, there was something interesting at every turn.
Santuario de Jesús de Nazareno de Atotonilco
After México Lindo we made a small detour to Santuario de Jesús de Nazareno de Atotonilco. This 18th-century Baroque temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside this church, the walls and ceilings are almost entirely covered with artwork in the Mexican Folk Baroque style.
San Miguel de Allende
Four years ago we passed up San Miguel de Allende on purpose. I had read that it was full of ex-pats/immigrants/non-Méxicans. I was afraid it would just be too touristy. But the city is a World Heritage Site. There had to be something worthwhile about it. This time I decided to make it a destination.
We drove to our campground, San Miguel RV Park, through a neighborhood full of colorful murals. México, of course, has a long tradition of muralists and I love murals. Once parked at the campground we headed out into the streets. It wasn’t a far walk to El Centro. We passed people speaking English. This was the first time we had heard so much English being spoken on the street since we entered Mexico. We found the zocalo and spotted the centerpiece of the city, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, a gigantic neo-Gothic 17th-century church. I walked up to it and literally gasped. It was amazing. Pink spires of stonework reached up into the sky. There was no way I could photograph this church to capture how truly beautiful it is.
Fabrica la Aurora & El Charco del Ingenio
We spent 8 days in San Miguel de Allende (3 of those days I was sick). Most of this time was just spent walking around. Just about everywhere you looked there was some sort of beauty – murals, buildings, doorways, details. We didn’t visit any museums but we did make a couple of excursions outside of El Centro to the Fabrica la Aurora & El Charco del Ingenio.
Fabrica la Aurora is about a mile and a half from the San Miguel RV Park so we decided to walk it. Once a textile mill, the sprawling fabrica now houses artists’ studios and galleries. Art classes and workshops are offered and the space houses 4 different restaurants. Remnants of the old factory remain, preserving the building’s unique history. It reminded us of our beloved mill in Cabbagetown that was saved from destruction by turning it into lofts. The art ranged from crafts to works by world-renowned artists. We really enjoyed our afternoon here and totally recommend a visit.
On our last full day in San Miguel de Allende, we visited El Charco del Ingenio Jardín Botánico y Área Natural Protegida. Greg had previously walked the two miles up to this botanical garden while I was sick. It was steep. We decided to drive. This nature preserve/botanical garden showcases many indigenous cactus and succulent plants from around México. A small museum greets you as you enter the park. The grounds are expansive and full of trails, sculptures, and birds. Historical ruins are spread out throughout the property, an aqueduct, a hacienda, a dam. I don’t think we saw all of the park, but it was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
On our drive back to the campground we stopped at Mirador and caught a view of the city from above.
Murals & Doors
Just a few more pics from San Miguel de Allende. There are plenty more but since I already have 80 photos in this post, I will stop here.
* Remember, hover over pics to see captions. All pics are click to enlarge. You can view them in a slide show or just enlarge them one by one.