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When we visited Guanajuato, Mexico, a colonial city 540 kilometers (335 miles) northwest of Mexico City, residents were celebrating the annual spring Flower Festival. So instead of joining one of the Guanajuato tours offered by our hotel, we strolled to Jardin de la Union (Union Jardin), a tree-filled park, to enjoy the Baile de las Flores.

Flower Festival in Union Jardin
Flower Festival in Union Jardin
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Held on the Thursday before Holy Week, Guanajuato's Flower Festival attracts all ages. Young men offer bouquets of red roses to senoritas. Parents buy toys from street vendors for their children.

Families use flowers, candles and fruit to decorate altars to La Virgen de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows), the patron of miners. The altar competition is a highlight of Dolores Friday, the following day.

Guanajuato exudes romance year-round, for it was the home of Anna and Carlos. Their story is as tragic as that of the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. According to the legend, Anna, the daughter of a rich family, lived on one side of the street, while Carlos, a poor miner's son, lived on the other. The balconies of their two houses were so close, that they could lean out and embrace.

Couple embrace on steps in Alley of the Kiss.
Couple embrace on steps in Alley of the Kiss.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Anna's father didn't want her to marry a poor man. One day, after he spotted her kissing Carlos across the balconies, he threatened to kill her if he caught them again. She didn't believe him. A few days later, he saw them together. Drawing his knife, he stabbed his daughter. She extended her arm so Carlos could give her one last kiss before he killed himself.

One evening, we climbed up and down steep staircases squeezed between stone walls illuminated with wrought-iron lamps. (Guanajuato's picturesque buildings climb the sides of a river chasm like colorful children's blocks.)

Near the Plaza de los Angeles, we found the Callejon del Beso (Alley of the Kiss) with its almost-touching balconies. Tradition claims that lovers who don't kiss on the third step of the narrow staircase below will have seven years of bad luck. Those who do kiss will have 15 years of very good luck. Needless to say, we ensured that our future would be very fortunate.

Guanajuato University

Melodic guitar music and love ballads resounded from the walls of the historic center of Guanajuato, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Everyone within hearing distance followed the music to its source, a callejoneada or street parade of estudiantinas, clad in red, gold and black velvet Spanish troubadour costumes. University of Guanajuato students serenade listeners to earn pesos to pay for their education.

Guanajuato University student musicians, dressed as Spanish troubadours, perform in streets.
Guanajuato University student musicians, dressed as Spanish troubadours, perform in streets.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Guanajuato tour

The following morning, we booked a tour from our hotel in Guanajuato. It included the Mummy Museum, which displays dozens of mummies, the elegant four-story Teatro Juarez and the birthplace of Diego Rivera, which contains his paintings and sketches.

The highlight was a tram ride to Pipila Monument, which pays tribute to El Pipila, a miner who contributed to Mexico's struggle for independence. The lookout offers a spectacular panoramic view of Guanajuato.

The city was originally built over the Guanajuato River, which flowed though underground tunnels. A dam has since redirected the river, so the stone-walled tunnels are used by traffic to enter and exit the city.

Guanajuato Mexico viewed from El Pipila monument
Guanajuato Mexico viewed from El Pipila monument
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Underground tunnels also allow pedestrians to cross from one side of the city to the other. As a result, the best way to get around Guanajuato is on foot or by walking, taxi, bus and tourist trolley.

Guanajuato, Mexico, produced nearly one-third of the world's silver in the 18th century. Nearby, La Valenciana mine offers tours in Spanish.

Ex-Hacienda de San Gabriel de Barrera, where silver was once processed, is now surrounded by 17 tranquil gardens. We strolled up the pink bougainvillea-lined steps of the garden of San Francisco, over the bridge in the Japanese garden and past the cacti and giant ceramics in the Mexican garden.

Guanajuato weather

Located at an altitude of 2010 meters (6,588 feet), Guanajuato temperatures are warm during the day and colder at night, year-round.

The best way to get to Guanajuato is by bus or driving from Mexico City. Driving time is about five hours. Del Bajio International Airport (airport code: BJX) in Leon is the closest airport to Guanajuato.


Mexico Tourism Board: www.visitmexico.com

More things to see & do in Mexico's colonial cities:

Queretaro Mexico Travel Guide

Patzcuaro Mexico Vacation

Morelia Mexico Holiday

San Miguel de Allende Mexico Trip

Mexican Candy Shops, Markets and Dulcerias