Last week, my wife and I traveled to Guanajuato with lot of expectations to have a memorable time. And trust me, Guanajuato has lot more than I had expected and read about. Guanajuato is an addictive city, as told to me by a local, Pablo. A Spanish colonial era town, founded in 1570, was declared as the world heritage by UNESCO in December 1988, along with the neighboring mines. It is one of the most beautiful towns of Mexico and should be in the itinerary of every lover of art and culture. In the local language, the name Guanajuato means city of frogs. And without reason, you will find several houses and rooftops with toy frogs.
Here are my top 10 things to do in this mesmerizing city (not in any order).
1. Get Lost in the City– And I literally mean it. This is one place about which you will feel proud to boast to your friends that you were lost in this city. To me, this city is sheer experience. Whoever said this is so true, that a small place has its own charm. Narrow, labyrinthine cobblestoned alleys of Guanajuato are charming and magical, in the superlative degrees. Sometimes so narrow, that just a car can pass. And did you know that beneath those streets, run a network of tunnel roads? Several times, we were lost in the maze of streets and tunnels. And every time I was lot, we experienced something new and saw something more enticing. Forget taking the help of guide or a local to find your way out. I had a similar experience when I visited Toledo, a walled-city of Spain, 75 km south of capital city of Madrid. I was reliving again in Guanajuato.
2. Walking, a form of Meditation – Yes, to me, it is a form of meditation when in Guanajuato. Trust me, this city is a romantic haven where you can immerse into your soul. Talk to yourself. Meditate for hours with open eyes, staring at a beautiful piece of architecture. Fill your both hands with water in an elegant fountain. Or if you want to experience more, simply walk. Wander aimlessly. Walk tirelessly. And you will experience the celebration called LIFE in the colonial town of Guanajuato. Look around and you find colors of life. You may find children playing in the narrow streets. Between two houses, one painted in maroon and windows casing with yellow, whereas another one, in cameron green color and in white windows. Every house has a unique architecture. Often wider streets lead to narrow alleys with steps. After walking few steps, it appears from a distance that it is the end of steps and then, suddenly, you find the steps curling to a new direction, leading you towards a new light. And then flowers in the pots hanging from the balcony on a house greet you.
Men and women in traditional Guanajuato attire walk along with you at one moment. Next, you are far behind. Everyone is walking. But there is no race against each other. It is the harmony between people which makes this city a touristy paradise. And the streets showcase the vibrancy of Guanajuato. When you are tired, walking up and down the slopes of city streets, sit on the numerous benches dotting this city at one of the magnificent plazas in downtown.
3. Ride in the Tunnels – In colonial times, these tunnels were used for flood control. Now they are used as main roads. Go down the staircase at any plaza to the tunnel. Near the entrance and exits, at few points, you will get a perception that houses are hanging in air. On closer look, you find that a portion of the house or balcony is protruding out from the first storey and resting on beam support. Since many of the many streets in the downtown are one-way for vehicles, in order to catch the bus for the other direction, you will have to walk a flight of stairs down the tunnel. And in the tunnel, you will find bus stops. Public buses are very cheap and you can take a ride for just few pesos from a stop inside the tunnel.
4. Cervantino Festival – Best time to visit Guanajuato is October (though there are lot of other events in Guanajuato round the year). Simply because, the world famous and Mexico’s biggest art festival – Cervantino Festival -happens then. It is in honor of Cervantes from Spain – author of Don Quixote – who interestingly never visited Mexico. Free open-air concerts, performances in auditoriums and theatres, lot of art, music and dance enthrall the visitor for 2-3 weeks of its schedule. Lot of partying whole night in the downtown. Note that 42nd edition of this festival will be held this year from 8-26 Oct, 2014. This year’s theme is Shakespeare, invited country is Japan and featuring state is Nueva Leon. You may want to plan your trip early as thousands throng to this city in Oct. Check this year’s festival here. Book your tickets for shows here.
5. Lunch at Puente Campanero – Puente Campanero is a cute little, colonial Bridge in downtown. On the bridge, is Santo Cafe. Order Sol – popular Mexican beer – or Corona. Food is cheap here. Have the local dish Miner’s Enchiladas, while watching people walk below the bridge and the far away narrow streets or the painted houses. When we were at Santo Café, we were treated with desi punjabi songs. On asking, we were told that beats of Punjabi songs are quite popular in Mexico.
Do you think walking can be a form of meditation? Do you like to be lost in a city (of course not for kids)? What do you think?