The easiest and fastest way to explore the surrounding cities is by hiring a Day Tour. There’s kiosks and people selling these right in front of Teatro Juarez. You can compare several companies but they all have the same itinerary and price. For $250mxn per person, I got the “Independence Route” which took about 8 hours in a van with about 12 people. The route consisted of the following:
- La Sierra de Santa Rosa
- Dolores Hidalgo “Pueblo Mágico”
- Church of Atotonilco
- San Miguel de Allende “Cultural Heritage” (Patrimonio cultural de la Humanidad)
First, let me explain what a “Pueblo Mágico” is why Mexico is filled with them. It translates into Magical Town and Mexico created a program that names several small towns in the country as such since these towns have a history, symbols and other attributes related to Mexican history. Symbols can be statues, cave pantings, churches, missions, virgin beaches, etc. After being named a Pueblo Mágico, resources are focused so the town may increase and maintain tourism. There’s a lot more to say about this program and why it has been criticized but I won’t get into the politics of it. Here’s a list of all Mexico’s Magical Towns. For tips on what to do, see and eat Guanajuato City, see this post.
La Sierra de Santa Rosa
Our tour started in some shops that sold affordable silver. We were there for about 30 minutes then started up the mountain towards La Sierra de Santa Rosa. Our tour guide shared stories of José Alfredo Jimenez, a famous singer from Dolores, Guanajuato who wrote all his songs based on his experiences, some in La Sierra (the mountains). He is buried in a humble cemetery but the locals built him a memorial with a huge “charro” hat that he was famous for wearing. In front the cemetery we tried home made Mezcal, mixed fruit with hot sauce & lime, craft beers, etc. We also went to a small shop near the highway were a group of local women sold craft snacks and drinks, such as chamoy (sweet and sour fruit sauce), honey covered peanuts, jams, etc.
Later, we went to Dolores Hidalgo, where the Mexican Independence began with a scream. I won’t go into detail about the story, but it was great getting a refresher from our guide, as well as hearing myths from my textbooks as a child, debunked.
My favorite thing to do here is try the many exotic ice cream flavors
Dolores is a cute and small town that can be explored in a few hours. The most popular things to do here are to visit the Independence Museum and José Alfredo Jimenez’ home. My favorite thing to do here is try the many exotic ice cream flavors. I tried avocado, cheese and mole (cacao and chili based sauce). There’s also shrimp, nopal (cactus), beer, chicharrón (pork rinds), and an endless list of odd flavors. Each stand competes for the most original and authentic tasting flavor each year. So feel free to indulge on flavors you will try nowhere else.
Church of Atotonilco
In my opinion, this place was not worth the time. I wish that instead we had more time in San Miguel de Allende. This catholic church looks like all most. Covered in golden statues and catholic murals, with the exception of a Dolores statue standing outside. I don’t mean to sound like a hater, but I was initially told we would have 3-4 hours in San Miguel de Allende and that turned into 1 hour and 15 minutes, so keep that in mind when a tour vendor tries to sell his tour over another. They are really all the same.
San Miguel de Allende
This small town has become very famous. Celebrities have come to buy properties here. That has brought a lot of money into the town, but unfortunately it has also raised prices exponentially compared to the rest of Guanajuato. So, if you’re on a budget, I recommend staying in Guanajuato City instead and doing a Day Trip to San Miguel. There are buses that connect both towns. They are 1 hour 30 minutes away from each other. Since my visit was short, I cannot share much on this town but below are a few recommendations friends shared with me prior to my visit.
- El Mirador views that require a hike are always worth. Especially in town called Cultural Heritage.
- Parroquía de San Miguel Arcángel iconic 17th century church. The biggest landmark in San Miguel de Allende
- Allende Garden beautiful garden overlooking the famous church.
- QUINCE rooftop bar with gorgeous views and crafty cocktails.
- La Azotea bite size food famous for its Jicama tacos.
Keep in mind that most day tours stop at a restaurant near the highway in which they have a previous agreement with. In most cases, these restaurants mainly serve meat.
Friendly reminder that I have another post with tips on what to do, see and eat Guanajuato City. Enjoy your time in this beautiful state. There is so much to see, do and, especially, eat. Always, BE PRESENT!