Lost in Guanajuato

I am a planner. In preparation for my travels, I research my destinations, outline detailed notes, and even make my own maps of the places I want to visit. Upon my arrival in the charming hillside town of Guanajuato; however, I totally disregarded my research and allowed myself to get completely and hopelessly lost.

GTO from Pipila

The Spanish Colonial City of Guanajuato, Mexico

Located near the geographical center of Mexico, the colonial Spanish built the prosperous city of Guanajuato using the great mineral wealth of its prolific silver mines. This capital city of the state of the same name blankets a steep-sided valley, with homes and businesses jam-packed onto its inclined topography.

Callejon del Beso

Legendary Callejon del Beso (Alley of the Kiss)

The arterial transportation network that connects the city includes an intersecting web of underground tunnels and a maze of narrow alleys called callejons. There are supposedly 3,200 callejons of various lengths and widths in Guanajuato. Each has its own particular charm, and many come with legends, tales, and traditions.

Callejon with ladies

Typical Pedestrian Callejon

Since most of the callejons are too steep and narrow for vehicle traffic, they are ideal for wandering on foot and getting lost. Like a rat with a whiff of cheese, I entered the labyrinth of twisting cobblestone callejons to sniff out the city’s enchanted nooks and niches. Delightfully disoriented, savory new experiences presented themselves to me at every turn.


Suspicious Guard Dog (watching this disoriented gringo)

Clambering up, down and across the precipitous topography, I squeezed past the city’s close-packed residences and small storefronts. Above my head, guard dogs growled viciously at me from their terrace lookouts. Wherever callejons crossed, tiny plazas materialized, sometimes only large enough for a pair of chatting neighbors.

Colors 1

The Colors of Guanajuato

The facades of Guanajuato are brightly painted in a full spectrum of pigments, as differentiated as the colors in a large box of Crayolas. All of my favorite crayons were there: electric lime, carnation pink, cornflower blue, hot magenta, and atomic tangerine.

Stairwell dark

Descending the Dark Stairwell

Muddling through the warren of tangled alleyways, I stumbled across a dark stairwell. As I descended, I could hear the reverberation of internal combustion engines, as if they were revving inside an echo chamber. To my surprise, I had vanished into one of Guanajuato’s many crisscrossing traffic tunnels.

Tunnel 1

Guanajuato’s Underground Traffic Tunnels (The Maze Beneath the Maze)

Originally dug using local mining expertise to control frequent flood waters, the tunnels were later converted to divert vehicle traffic away from the narrow and congested surface streets. Like the barrels of interlaced mine shafts, the rough surfaces of the tunnels appeared chiseled out of solid rock.


Music in the Callejons of Guanajuato

When I eventually resurfaced, I headed toward the faint sound of music. As I drew closer, I could clearly hear the voices of a troupe of musicians leading a group sing-along. Upon reaching the chorale, I ascertained that bands of young minstrels in old-style dress gather each night to lead musical walking tours called callejoneadas.

Plaza Los Angeles

Plaza Los Angeles

Like a rat trailing the Pied Piper, I followed the music, jokes and laughter out of the maze of callejons, and reverted back to the familiar streets of the city center. On this afternoon of uncharacteristic improvisation and dead reckoning, I left behind my maps, and was pleasantly immersed in the strangeness of new, lost in Guanajuato.

GTO city

Typical Street Scene in Guanajuato, Mexico

24 thoughts on “Lost in Guanajuato

    • I think you would really like Guanajuato. Like Oaxaca, it is safe, colorful, has a sizable ex-pat population, a full schedule of performing arts, and a maze of alleyways to get lost in.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Coming to a modest-sized town like Guanajuato after a month in mega Mexico City has been a nice change-of-pace. I found the people of Mexico City friendly and helpful, but like in most big cities, they always seemed to be in a hurry and rarely made eye contact on the street. Here, the people seem to move slower, and stop more frequently to say hello. Even the dogs make eye contact in Guanajuato.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Love the pictures Joe. The callejons look like wonderful places to wander and experience the town first hand. We always love the back streets and finding little squares and the pockets of colour and life in them. You captured it well. The traffic tunnels were an unexpected surprise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Tim & Anne. I like the way you say “pockets of colour and life”. The tunnels are used by the motorists to get around the city, and by pedestrians looking for a level way across town. It took me about 20 minutes to walk through an especially long one.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I’m happy you followed along on my little trip. I have to admit that in a place so colorful and interesting as Guanajuato, the pictures really take themselves. I just push the button and then try to decide which photos are most blog-worthy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like to be prepared when I travel, too (and even in my day-to-day life), but every once in a while, it is fun to just roam around and see where you end up! I’m assuming you eventually found your way back to your hotel? That would be my only concern about wandering in a foreign country….figuring out how to get back to where I’m supposed to be!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did eventually find my way home to my notes and maps. Like you say, it is fun to get lost every once in a while, but I really prefer to travel with some knowledge of where I am going. I find that the more I know about a place beforehand, the more meaningful, memorable, and rewarding the visit.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Joe, we spent a month in Mexico’s Central Highlands, and a week of that was in Guanajuato. We rented a small apartment, settled in, and loved it. I love the scale of the place, and the fact that it isn’t overrun with tourists. Your photos are great and certainly captured the colors of the city. We really enjoyed sitting in the Plaza for some serious people-watching. ~James

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi James, I am happy to hear that you guys experienced and loved Guanajuato too. The scale is just how you describe it, and the steep topography deters a lot of tourists and expats. As you have enjoyed, the plazas throughout Mexico (and especially the colonial heartland) are sources of great people-watching and never-ending entertainment.


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