The Backpacker’s Guide to Guanajuato, Mexico

It didn’t take long for Guanajuato to become one of my favorite cities in Mexico. It’s just one of those places that ticks all the boxes for me. A beautiful city nestled in the mountains, a lively nightlife scene, amazing Mexican food, and plenty of unique cultural attractions rounds out Guanajuato as a must-visit destination in Mexico. You’ll find music, art, and history in every narrow alleyway and cobbled street of this colorful city. There is no shortage of stunning towns in Mexico, but Guanajuato is truly something special.

guanajuato mexico pipila monument view

How To Get to Guanajuato

Guanajuato City is located in none other than Guanajuato State. This makes it as centrally-located as destinations go in Mexico. You’re only a few hours from the main travel hubs of Mexico City and Guadalajara. With the big city of Leon neighboring Guanajuato just an hour away, it is very easy to get to Guanajuato. If the bus terminal doesn’t go directly to Guanajuato, just catch one to Leon and it’s only another 90 pesos and an hour away from there.

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Getting to Guanajuato From Mexico City – If you plan on going by bus, you should head to the Terminal del Norte of Mexico City. There are several departures a day to Guanajuato from there on the Primera Plus line. Buses usually cost around $30, making it a good low budget option. Flights from Mexico City to Guanajuato are also pretty frequent, although more expensive. You’re likely looking at around $100 for a one-way flight.

Getting to Guanajuato From Guadalajara – Go to Nuevo Central Bus Terminal, and catch a bus either from Primera Plus or ELN line. Primera Plus costs 540 pesos ($27 USD) and ELN cost 610 pesos ($30ish USD). The bus ride only takes four hours, although it could be longer depending on if you get stuck in traffic in Leon or Guadalajara.

From the bus terminal in Guanajuato, you can either take a taxi or call an Uber to get to historic center of Guanajuato. Unfortunately, it is definitely too far to walk there from the bus station with all your luggage. My Uber only cost 48 pesos getting there, which was crazy cheap considering the labyrinth of a city Guanajuato is. A taxi is around 70 pesos, which is a pretty good price already. There aren’t too many Ubers in the area, so if you don’t feel like waiting up to 20 minutes, a taxi does the trick just fine.

Where To Stay in Guanajuato

Guanajuato is a very backpacker-friendly town. It is easy on the budget and has a number of hostels to choose from, starting as low as $6 a night for a dorm bed. After the big hit that living the high life in Guadalajara dealt to my wallet, I was relieved to be back to budget traveling in Guanajuato.

Casa Lupita

This is where I spent the majority of my time in Guanajuato. Although pricier than the others, it isn’t by much. At 200 pesos ($10) for a dorm bed, you get an incredible amount of value. This hostel is far cleaner and nicer than the other ones I stayed at. They have a common kitchen where you can cook your own meals, if you want to save even more money. The Wi-Fi was fantastic, and I had no issues working remotely from this hostel.

The owners, Lupita and Dante are also the sweetest human beings. They unexpectedly gave me a discounted rate for staying longer. I also came home at 2 AM one night and broke the key to enter the gate and they were very forgiving. Instead of losing the 300 peso deposit for the keys, they just asked me to pay 30 pesos for the one that I broke. It’s a great hostel if you want something a little quieter, but still have the opportunity to socialize with fellow guests.

Corrida d Comedias

Another centrally-located hostel, Corrida d Comedias is located right next to Casa Lupita. It’s basic, but also cheaper than Casa Lupita. So if all you care about is location and a place to sleep, it’s a great option. There was a more social vibe here than the other hostels that I stayed at, as well as a cute cat and dog to keep you company. A dorm here is 170 pesos a night, and a private room is about 300 pesos. It’s a great location and great budget-friendly option.

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Casa de Dante

A little further out of the city center, you’ll find Casa de Dante and a great view overlooking the city. If you plan on staying in Guanajuato longer-term, it isn’t entirely essential to stay in the city center. Casa de Dante is a great option if you don’t mind having a little longer to walk to town each day.

Casa de Frida

This is as centrally-located as it gets. Hostal Casa de Frida is right in Plaza de la Paz, with a balcony and a rooftop overlooking the heart of the city. It is very budget-friendly, too, with dorm rooms starting at 120 pesos ($6 USD) per night. Private rooms were also only 350 pesos ($17 USD). Although it is very basic, this is the best option if you are just looking for somewhere to sleep without worrying much about anything else. You can’t deny that the view below is pretty damn good for $6 a night, though.

You can also check out Hostelworld for more hostels in Guanajuato.

The Best Things to do in Guanajuato

Guanajuato is a city teeming with culture and history. I wasn’t particularly well-versed in the history of Mexico, but I couldn’t get enough of it in Guanajuato. I’m not much of a museum-hopper, but I visited every museum I could while I was here. From Diego Rivera’s childhood home to a morbid mummy museum, Guanajuato knows how to keep things interesting.

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Funicular and Monumento de Pipila

This is one of those views that you simply will never tire of. Although the hike up here isn’t too bad, neither is the 30 pesos it costs to take the Funicular. It’s a short and scenic ride, and drops you off right next to the Monumento de Pipila. That’s the big statue that you see standing tall above the town. The most refreshing thing about it is that it isn’t yet another Latin American Jesus statue.

guanajuato mexico pipila monument view

Plaza de la Paz (Plaza of Peace)

There isn’t much to do here but take in the gorgeous views of the Cathedral, lush garden, and the quaint streets of Guanajuato. There are a number of restaurants and cafes here with outdoor seating. It is one of the best areas to start your day with a late breakfast or have a few outdoor drinks later in the evening. Don’t forget to check out the church or snag a queso ice cream from La Garrafa Nieves.

Callejon de Besos (Alleyway of Kisses)

This is one of Guanajuato’s most famous attractions, and a popular spot for lovers to share a kiss. Legend has it that two star-crossed lovers were forbidden from seeing each other, so rented apartments right across from each other on a narrow alleyway so they could kiss every night without having to leave their houses. Honestly, it’s one of those things that becomes famous and just takes off. I didn’t find it too special, but maybe that’s because I didn’t have anyone to kiss :(.

Mercado Hidalgo (Hidalgo Market)

Like all Latin American cities, no visit to Guanajuato is complete without checking out the sights and sounds of the local market. This was one of my favorites in Mexico. The large stone archway entrance alone makes a bold statement. It felt like the Grand Central Station of Mexican markets. I’m not much of a shopper, but I did occasionally come here for fruits, vegetables, and a meal from one of the many food stalls. I recommend a carnitas torta or an enchilada minera from the separate comedor building outside the main market. It’s hard to miss, as everyone will be yelling or pssting at you to eat at their restaurant.

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Casa de Diego Rivera (Diego Rivera’s House Museum)

I didn’t know too much about Diego Rivera, so this was an interesting museum to visit. Right off the bat, I found out that his full name is Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez. Now we see why he went by Diego Rivera. This museum is a combination between an art gallery and a restoration of Diego’s childhood home. The first floor contains original furniture and you basically just look at a recreation of what Diego Rivera’s childhood home might have looked like. Once you get to the higher levels, you can actually see some of Rivera’s original work. There are quite a lot of pieces on display, from original sketches of his most famous pieces, to some of his early work.

This museum has several levels to it. It’s kind of like a maze to walk around, and really easy to get lost in. Make sure to check out the terrace at the top for a great view of Guanajuato to cap off your visit.

Museum Alhondiga de Granaditas (Grain Storage Museum)

When my friend told me I had to visit this place, I was kind of confused. Why would I visit an old granary? Well, it turned out to be one of the most interesting museums I visited in Guanajuato. It cost 65 pesos ($3) to enter when I was there, and was worth it to learn about the history of Guanajuato and its importance in the war for independence.

Estudiantinas and Callejoneadas

No trip to Guanajuato is complete without participating in the nightly walk through town led by the Estudiantinas. This isn’t your average walk through town. For 100-150 pesos, you can join a group of musicians as they guide you through town in a show filled with music, dancing, comedy, and an absurd amount of fun. If you’re staying in the city center, you’ll undoubtedly hear the music and laughter. They’d pass by my hostel at around 10:30 every evening, and even if I was trying to sleep, I couldn’t help but go outside and watch from the garden. It’s always a fun time.

Presa de la Olla (Guanajuato Dam)

Guanajuato may not have the ocean like Mexico’s other popular beach destinations, but it does have a dam!! Okay, so maybe it doesn’t quite make up for the ocean, but you can’t have it all. Guanajuato’s dam is a nice way to get outside and on the water, with a nice view. It’s about a 40 minute walk from Guanajuato center, but you can also catch a bus there from the mercado.

Hike to Cerro de La Bufa

One of my favorite things I did in Guanajuato was hike up to Cerro de La Bufa. The hike shouldn’t take more than two hours roundtrip, but with plenty of hiking trails in this area, it’s easy to make a full day out of it. Here’s the guide we used to hiking Cerro de La Bufa, which was very useful in finding the trailhead in the first place. We reached the summit quicker than expected, so decided to go adventuring on some other trails. We got a little lost, but followed the riverbed back to a trail, and made our way back down to Guanajuato with some stunning views along the way. We ended up at the dam, which apparently also has quite a few trailheads where you can leave from. I’m a big hiker, so having a few trails to explore while traveling always makes me love a city a little more.

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Museo de las Momias (Guanajuato Mummy Museum)

I’m honestly not even sure that I want to put this on here. However, it is one of Guanajuato’s most famous attractions, and undeniably one of the weirdest, most morbid museums I’ve ever been to. I actually felt sick walking through the exhibits, but because of COVID, there was only one way to enter and exit the museum. I had to go through the entire thing, surrounded by corpses. When you think of mummies, you probably think of wrapped up dead bodies. Here, you are basically just surrounded by well-preserved dug up corpses. They are gruesome, and you can see the faces and bodies of dead people. These included people that were stabbed to death, drowned, or buried alive. Oh yeah, and children too. There was a display of about five young children who died, and that was the stuff of nightmares. As was the six-month old fetus put on display.

Like I said, this was the grimmest museum I have ever been to. I had nightmares that night of being paralyzed on top of a gravestone as mummies swung around me. It is not for the faint of heart. I consider myself well-traveled and therefore, have seen some shit. This museum scarred me in a way that I didn’t expect, and I was shocked that families were roaming around the museum with their children. I would have never considered this a fun day out with the kids.

Best Day Trips from Guanajuato

One of the best things about Guanajuato is that it is very centrally-located. You’re never too far from a quick day trip elsewhere, or even a weekend trip to a bigger city like Guadalajara or Mexico City.

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Dolores Hidalgo

If you loved the history and culture of Guanajuato, you can take things a step further by paying a visit to Dolores Hidalgo. This is widely considered to be the birthplace of the revolution, where Miguel Hidalgo rang the church bells as a rallying call to action. Dolores Hidalgo also claims the title of pueblo magico, a designation given to smaller cities in Mexico that are deemed culturally, historically, and touristically significant.

San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel has become one of Mexico’s most popular destinations for expats and international tourists. While I personally preferred the youthful energy of Guanajuato, it’s hard to deny just how stunning San Miguel de Allende is. San Miguel was named one of the best cities in the world, and the entire city was given the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Leon

The big, bustling city of Leon is often overlooked by travelers. I mean, with Guanajuato just an hour away, it often seems worth skipping the big city to go to the prized jewel. It only costs about $5 to catch a bus to Leon, so it’s a great option if you want to see something new while using Guanajuato as your home base.

Mineral de Pozos

This is another Pueblo Magico that isn’t too far from Guanajuato City. Mineral de Pozos is a ghost town, and a very unique place to visit. Definitely toss this one onto your Mexico itinerary.

Yuriria

Thisi s another Pueblo Magico that’s close enough to Guanajuato for a day trip. I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to go, but this charming city along a lake seems like a beautiful place to visit. You can catch a bus from Guanajuato, which takes about two hours.

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Nightlife in Guanajuato

Here we go. One of my favorite things about Guanajuato is just how lively the city is. There is a palpable energy to the city at all hours of the day, but the city truly comes alive at the nighttime. This is evident by the callejoneadas and estudiantinas that take people for a waltz through the city, playing music, singing at the top of their lungs, and encouraging people to dance. It’s hard to explain, and words don’t capture just how electric the streets get. If you’re staying in Guanajuato center, you’ll undoubtedly hear the music and the people coming alive every night. Join in on the fun. It’s a great time, and the best way to kick off any night in Guanajuato.

Guanajuato Grill – If you want a night of dancing, Guanajuato Grill is where you’ll want to go. It is objectively the best night out in Guanajuato, but that often comes with a price. I was in Guanajuato during Puente weekend, a holiday weekend that could be compared to spring break. Entrance to Grill was 350 pesos, and that was at like 10 PM. I can imagine it only got higher as the night went on. It’s not usually that high on normal weekends, I’d imagine. However, it’s where the hottest nightlife-goers of Guanajuato always end the night.

Nigromante – For a rooftop bar with sunset views to kick off your night, look no further than Nigromante. They’ve got great cocktails and great vibes. It’s a good spot to start out, have a few drinks with friends or strangers, and have a more quiet kick back before getting your groove on.

La Compania – This bar is a minute away from the main plaza and usually pretty pumpin’. The drinks are cheap, with beers as low as 30 pesos and cocktails usually around 95 pesos. I came here one night to pregame and ended up staying the whole night. The music could have been better, but if you’re with fun people, you can dance to anything.

Cerveceria Chapultepec – I’m not usually a fan of chain places, but you simply cannot go wrong with a place where the entire menu is $1. For drinking and eating on a budget, Cerveceria Chapultepec is your spot. They’re always playing bumping music too to get you in the mood to party.

La Antigua – This is another popular spot that one of my local friends took me to. During normal times, it’s full nearly every night, she told me. However, since this university town currently doesn’t have university happening in person, it’s a little quieter during the week. However, the drinks are cheap, and it has a good vibe for a pregame before heading elsewhere.

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Los Lobos – We came because we saw a pool table, and ended up never even touching it. Los Lobos is a cool bar, and one that I didn’t think I’d like as much as I did. It’s got an aesthetic that feels like you should all be smoking Cuban cigars and sipping on whiskeys. The 20 peso pulque drew me in, and they had great Jamaica and Mango flavored ones. It’s easy to drink for cheap in Guanajuato, and Los Lobos is a great, spacious bar to pregame at.

Bar Fly – We came to Bar Fly after La Antigua, but it was a Tuesday night so it was quieter. However, you can tell that with a good crowd, this is a fun place to be. They have a few different dance floors and rooms, including a terrace where you can catch some fresh air and still dance. You can’t come here without drinking one of their burros, which was a beer with tequila, lime, and grenadine in it. It was interesting mixing beer and tequila together, but it sure went down better than drinking beer or tequila by itself.

Dama de las Camellias – This is a salsa bar that we went to, but only for a few minutes. I think we went there early, because there weren’t too many people there. However, plenty of locals have recommended it to me as the late night spot to be. It’s very centrally-located, and pretty much next door to Los Lobos and a few other bars in the city center.

Oajilla – We went to a cumbia party at this rooftop terrace, and it was amazing. The drinks were very reasonably priced, considering it was at what seemed to be a nicer hotel. You could get a tequila shot and a beer for 70 pesos, or $3.50 USD. We had a great time here during their Dia de Las Flores party.

It’s not difficult finding a good party in Guanajuato. When the nightlife is in full swing, few places in Mexico compare to this university town’s lively bars and discotecas.

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Buy Me A Beer! – If this post helped you out, show some love and support for the blog and help keep my adventures going by buying me a beer! My adventures are entirely self-funded, so any show of support is greatly appreciated, and allows me to keep writing helpful travel guides and creating travel content to help you all travel the world on a budget.

My Mexico Backpacking Itinerary – Also, be sure to check out my complete backpacking itinerary for magical Mexico, a jam-packed 60-page guide covering 25 of my favorite destinations in Mexico.

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11 thoughts on “The Backpacker’s Guide to Guanajuato, Mexico

  1. I am now watching a telenovelas set here “Que le pasa a mi familia” and I am falling in love with its streets, its colors and its architecture. With your post you made me want to go there!

  2. That sounds like a great place to visit. I have yet to go there but I know a lot of people like to visit regularly.

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