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Swimming in a volcano and other fun things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico!

Updated on March 2, 2017
Austinstar profile image

L. Cargill, Medical Laboratory Scientist, ASCP. Retired Blood Banker and Laboratorian. Loves to write about a wide range of subjects. Enjoy!

Guanajuato, Mexico

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Can you see the narrowness of the streets?One of the cathedrals built by the SpanishArchitecture of the ChurchThe university and CathedralView of the city in the mountain gorge
Can you see the narrowness of the streets?
Can you see the narrowness of the streets? | Source
One of the cathedrals built by the Spanish
One of the cathedrals built by the Spanish | Source
Architecture of the Church
Architecture of the Church | Source
The university and Cathedral
The university and Cathedral | Source
View of the city in the mountain gorge
View of the city in the mountain gorge | Source

Love is Lost...

Once upon a time in Guanajuato, Mexico there were two lovers. Doña Carmen and Don Luis. Carmen and Luis fell in love and wanted to marry but Carmen's father denied the union and forbade Carmen to ever see her boyfriend and would not even allow her to leave her house.

Now Guanajuato is a very narrow city built into a mountain gorge and the streets follow the old rivers and streams that twisted and turned through the valley. Dams were built to hold the water and the old riverbeds became the streets and sidewalks of the city. Some of the streets were so narrow that buildings on either side had balconies that actually touched each other.

Luis befriended the people of the house across from Carmen's balcony and Carmen and he would hold hands above the street and even kiss. The street is called kissing alley to this day. Of course, Carmen's papa found out about the illicit affair and stormed up to the balcony one evening to put a stop to it. He found them holding hands and kissing across the balconies.

He became so enraged that he stabbed Carmen! Luis felt her hand grow cold in his. He could not bear to lose her. But finally, he kissed her cold hand goodbye and never returned to "kissing alley". What became of the father is unknown.

This story and others of the beautiful city of Guanajuato are presented in a wonderful little museum called the Casa de los layendos (House of the stories/legends). If you should ever visit Guanajuato, you must see this museum although it is considered pricey. It is a work of art. I was there in 1981 and still see it in my dreams. The old man that ran the museum may no longer be there.

Central Mexico

guanajuato mexico:
Guanajuato, Mexico

get directions

The capitol of the Mexican state of Guanajuato is also called Guanajuato

Love is Found...

The love of money is the root of all evil and this love was found in abundance in Guanajuato. The area is rich in silver, once rich in gold too. The gold is gone now and the silver is almost mined out, but you can tour the mines. A statue was constructed to honor all of the silver miners. From the statue, you can visit the silver market and gaze out over the narrow streets and the magnificent edificios of this European style city.

One of the big churches there was trimmed in gold leaf. It has since been looted I hear, but it was spectacular! All of the cathedrals in Guanajuato were architectural marvels. There is even an entire Castillan Castle imported and rebuilt and turned into a hotel.

The Mummies!

Guanajuato is extremely famous for its mummies. The world's smallest mummy is there, it's a fetus. The woman who supposedly miscarried the infant is mummified with the placenta still attached. The museum is quite modern now and the mummies are behind glass enclosures. At one time it was possible to touch the mummies and some tourists broke off pieces of them for souvenirs. Now that is weird.

Outside of the museum, there are candy shops that sell candies in the shapes of the mummies. They are made of ribbon candy with bright colors. The candies are almost as famous as the mummies! They are called Las Charamuscas de Guanajuato. Buy a dozen!

Tilting at Windmills

Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, is the inspiration for the Cervantes festival held every year, usually in October. The theaters put on the plays of Cervantes and there is a Shakespearean feel to the city. The festival hosts events such as opera, theater productions, film showings, art exhibitions, academic conferences and talks, concerts and dance recitals. The performances occur in 70 different venues and performers from all over the world are invited to participate.

The Tours

Guanajuato, Guanajuato is the capitol of the state and a tourist center for all of Mexico. Tour guides are available to take you to many parts of the city and quite often you can find tours in English. The main language is Spanish, however.

Your hotel can help you with the tours that are available and I would recommend all of them! The city is an artist's delight! Silver in many forms is cheap and plentiful. The markets are amazing. You will not run out of things to do in Guanajuato.

There is no more swimming in the volcano!

The town of Valle de Santiago, Guanajuato

Not far from the central capitol city of Guanajuato, Gto. there is a small town called Valle de Santiago. This town is definitely worth a visit! There are seven (sisters) volcano craters and one of them used to be the town swimming hole!

In the center of the map, you can see the crater with a small amount of water left inside it. In 1981 when I was there, it was possible to go swimming in the water. Since then, tunnels were drilled into the sides of the volcano and the water has been siphoned off for irrigation.

I remember floating on my back looking up and with the crater rim above me, if felt as though I was in the very center of the world. The water was a jade green and the people were all having a great time. I'm sure I picked up some dreaded parasite while swimming there, but it was worth it. It was the memory of a lifetime.

La Alberca de Valle de Santiago, Guanajuato, Mexico

Photo by Unavuh
Photo by Unavuh | Source

What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?

While visiting this remarkable town, I was also invited to play chess with the National Chess Champion of Mexico! It went like this - for an entrance fee of $100 pesos (I think that's what it cost then), about 25 of the chess playing men of the town were entered in a contest to play the one chess champion.

Each of us had our own chess board and we all simultaneously played the young man as he moved from board to board. This guy was so focused on Chess that I do believe he never noticed that I was the only girl in the room or that I was a red-headed gringa! I also lost the game after only 4 moves.

The Chess champion beat everyone in the room, but I think the total pot was split somehow with the last one to lose. It was the most fun I ever had for $100 pesos (about 20 bux at the exchange rate of the time).

More photos of Guanajuato

Click thumbnail to view full-size
El Pipila - Tribute to the silver miners of GuanajuatoThe author in 1981 in the lovely town of Guanajuato, Mexico!
El Pipila - Tribute to the silver miners of Guanajuato
El Pipila - Tribute to the silver miners of Guanajuato | Source
The author in 1981 in the lovely town of Guanajuato, Mexico!
The author in 1981 in the lovely town of Guanajuato, Mexico! | Source

© 2011 Lela

Comments - Have you ever traveled to central Mexico?

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  • Risha Linda profile image

    Risha Linda Mateos 

    5 years ago from Florida

    Well, I'm just glad you decided to share your adventure on HubPages. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it. Take care.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    It's been a while now. But I'll never forget my experiences there. I would love to go back some day, but I'm a bit old now. I don't travel alone anymore. My husband doesn't like Mexico, so my south of the border trips are no more. I'm sad about it, but I do have lots of memories and photos.

  • Risha Linda profile image

    Risha Linda Mateos 

    5 years ago from Florida

    My husband and I traveled to Guanajuato in 2012 and really loved the area. The old mine shafts being used for underground traffic were incredible. I enjoyed reading your experience and especially the volcano swim you were able to have. Too bad that is no longer an option but if you ever travel to the Yucatan region they have cenotes where you can swim beneath the earth and that is truly bizarre! We also saw the mummy museum but found it a bit macabre to be witnessing people who were not as ancient as one would associate with the word mummy. (I believe the guide said that some may have been buried as recently as the 1960's) My favorite part of Guanajuato were the outdoor cafe's and the theater in the center of town where mariachis gathered and sang for a few pesos. I also loved the two story market where every kind of food and craft could be found in abundance. The alley of the kiss was fun to see and my husband and I joined in the tradition for good luck. Have you returned since your last trip? Thanks for your hub. I really had fun reading about your trip and it took me down memory lane too!

  • andrger profile image


    8 years ago from Minnesota

    Nice work Austinstar. I currently live in Minnesota, but you made me want to come back to Valle de Santiago - the place where I was born at. My parents live in the SouthEastern side of the Valle de Santiago municipality, right next to La Laguna de Yuriria (Yuriria Lake) and I'm visiting them this Christmas. If you ever visit Valle de Santiago again, make sure to stop by La Angostura (North side of the lake). This place gets tons of local visitors (within the state) on the weekends for lake attractions and very unexpensive and colorful food establishments.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Interesting comparison, Paul. I like it.

  • PaulStaley1 profile image


    8 years ago from With the wind---(or against it)

    Tortilla hills splashed with colorful houses----like un takito con salsita! Nice hub!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Truthfully, there are a few spots to stay away from. But I wouldn't go to the high crime areas of any city or country. Know before you go. But don't let fear keep you from living.

    The only time I lost my purse in Mexico was when I got strep throat and left it at on the table when I left. No, it wasn't there when I went back, but I had smartly left all necessary things in my room along with my extra cash.

    So, just be smart. Be aware of everything. Of course, coming from a family of cops, I was taught to observe from an early age.

    Thanks for stopping by, and I heartily recommend Guanajuato as a pretty safe state to visit in Mexico. It's not far from Guadalajara, so fly into that city instead of Mexico city. Then take a first class bus or train to Gto.

  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 

    8 years ago from North Carolina

    How wonderful a trip Austinstar. Like the way this started out with the lovers story. Lot of history n things to do in Guanajuato: mine tours, cathedrals, museums with the worlds smallest mummy; and I guess one can still walk around the crater with the water you swam in. The chess tournament sounded unusual to say the least. Great write, pics & travel Hub Austinstar! PS- just read the comments. Unfortunately the situation down there will keep a lot of folk from traveling in Mexico but your safety tips are spot on.

  • powerofknowledge1 profile image


    8 years ago

    Interesting hub!

  • angelahart profile image


    9 years ago

    Very well written this hub of yours made me want to visit Guanajuato, Mexico this coming summer

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Take me with you Stan, I speak the language!

  • Stan Fletcher profile image

    Stan Fletcher 

    9 years ago from Nashville, TN

    I have a good friend that has visited this part of Mexico. I want to go!!!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    The Chess tournament was one of the more bizarre things I've ever done. The chess champion was cute and young and I was trying to flirt a bit, but he never took his eyes off those chess boards! The guy could focus!

    You would love the weather there too. It's like springtime year round.

  • sueroy333 profile image

    Susan Mills 

    9 years ago from Indiana

    I had never heard of Guanajuato before. I agree with Drbj, you could SO write travel brochures.

    One day, when it's safer to travel, this is one of the places I would love to go with my kid. I love the stories... especially the thought of a red-headed woman playing chess with a horde of men..too awesome!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Tequila has been known to disappear spontaneously. So has El Presidente Bourbon which is made in Guanajuato! I took a tour of the whiskey factory there!

  • mysterylady 89 profile image

    mysterylady 89 

    9 years ago from Florida

    You have great pictures, and you make this sound like a very interesting area of Mexico.

    My favorite Mexico story is about the airport people stealing my sealed bottle of Tequila!

  • crystolite profile image


    9 years ago from Houston TX

    Wonderful write up,thanks for sharing.

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 

    9 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Mine should be too! Or better yet - I wish I hot a hot tub:-)!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Hiya Lightning J - I'm the one getting older and I'm taking everyone with me! Bwaaahaaaahhaaaa

    RH - My feet are soaking!

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 

    9 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Yup. No going back Austinstar - we only move forward. Hopefully getting our feet wet along the way:-)

  • lightning john profile image

    lightning john 

    9 years ago from Florida

    Very interesting! I've been to Mexico a long time ago, with my Dad, way back when you could smoke on a plane. Boy I am getting old! Lj

  • Angie Jardine profile image

    Angie Jardine 

    9 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

    Great read, Austinstar! I could actually see myself there ... and, sadly, I think you are right ... things are never quite as good the second time around. I wonder why that is?

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    And thank you, ladies, for your kind comments. I really didn't do this hub justice and I will probably add to it. I think my whole life changed for the better during those 2 weeks in Guanajuato. I really would love to go back, but we know, don't we, that you can never really go back.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    9 years ago from south Florida

    If you tire of writing hubs, Lela, you can always get a job writing enticing travel brochures. This description of Guanajuato is the enticingest! Thanks for the 'simpatico' tour.

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 

    9 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Austinstar - excellent! I love this! You are brave - I don't think I would have gotten into the volcano or the chess game:)! Glad you did.

    Yes - different parts of Mexico are dangerous but so are parts of most citys in the US. Tourist areas are really safe and they need money from tourists. They welcome you and treat you like family in Cancun:-)

    I love the story and the photos!!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Well, Chris, that's what Bob says too. All he ever hears are the bad parts and the stuff about the drug wars.

    Personally, I don't think it's any more dangerous that NYC or Chicago or even L.A.

    Common sense plays a big part in personal safety. You don't want to go where there is a large criminal element. Certain states in Mexico are notorious. While traveling, you don't want to keep all your money in one place and you do want to stay in a respectable hotel.

    You must try to be an ambassador for your own country and not do stupid things that annoy the host country's citizens. Stuff like that.

    Mexico is a very troubled country. But so are most countries these days.

  • christopheranton profile image

    Christopher Antony Meade 

    9 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

    That looks like a brilliant place to visit, But how safe is Mexico nowadays? Some rather awful stories are coming out of it recently.

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 

    9 years ago

    Awesomely fantastic! Thank you ma'am! I love history, Don Quixote, the pics, ALL. Great write.

  • Jane Bovary profile image

    Jane Bovary 

    9 years ago from The Fatal Shore


  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Swing by Texas and pick me up, we'll go together!

  • Jane Bovary profile image

    Jane Bovary 

    9 years ago from The Fatal Shore could get a job with the tourist bureau there 'cause you certainly make Guanajuanto sound enticing many incredible things to see and experience.

    As soon as I have the funds..I'm over there!


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