One of Mexico’s colonial cities has just been named ‘the most beautiful’ in the country, beating household names like Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and even the wider Mayan Riviera to the number one spot. The honor was bestowed by Mexico’s own Travel Awards, and it’s fair to say many were surprised with how voting went.
Mexico’s fame as the King of Tourism may be almost exclusively attributed to its Caribbean hubs and a plethora of well-preserved pre-Columbian settlements. While Mexico’s Mayan World is still largely responsible for the country’s record-breaking numbers, yet another facet of its multicultural appeal is emerging as an equally-powerful attraction.
Namely, Mexico’s colonial era cities, that are among some of the first European settlements in the Americas, with one in particular eclipsing all others in beauty and charm:
Mexico’s Beauty Lies In Its Multicultural Past
Mexico Travel Awards is a yearly event where the nation’s top tourism authorities gather to celebrate achievements across different sectors of the industry, such as the most outstanding and best performing municipalities. In any case, there is one trophy not based purely on broken records and booking trends.
This year, 20 municipalities were nominated for the title of Mexico’s Most Beautiful, including San Miguel de Allende, a Neo-Gothic/Baroque fusion that has been rediscovered by the American audience in recent months, Merida, the Yucatan state’s number one city, and of course, Mexico City, the vibrant, sprawling mess of a capital.
Despite being strong contenders, none of them took the award home in the end. Mexico’s crown jewel turns out to be the unsung Guanajuato City, the capital of its namesake state and one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the Americas – even before Spain’s path got intertwined with pre-Columbian Mexico’s.
Much like the aforementioned San Miguel, Guanajuato is famous around the world for nearly-intact colonial monuments, though on a much larger scale. Its Old Town, or Ciudad vieja district has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site all the way back in 1988, not only due to its architectural wonders, but the History it carries.
The Rising Trend Of ‘Colonial’ Tourism
Guanajuato was founded by Spaniards on the site of other native American settlements in the mid-16th century, and served at one point as the world’s top silver exporter before turning its back to the Empire and joining the fight for an independent Mexico. Naturally, this turbulent, yet fascinating past has been engraved in the city’s urban landscape.
It is composed of a maze of narrow winding streets lined with colorful traditional houses resembling those found in Iberian Europe – Spain and Portugal – and it is dotted with Baroque gems, including the Valenciana Temple and the most easily recognized landmark, the Saint Francis church, featuring its iconic bright yellow hue.
Although it is not as huge as Cancun or its main rival Mexico City yet, Guanajuato is surely becoming more popular every year. The state itself, which carries the same name, has witnessed a steady increase in arrival figures from 2007 to 2018 culminating in 956,000+ yearly visitors. However, that was years before Mexico’s Renaissance had officially begun.
This year, eight to nine million visitors are expected, a sharp increase from 2018’s figures, just shy of the millionth landmark. This proves Guanajuato has a key role to play in promoting Mexico as a diverse destination, and a world capital for culture acknowledged for more than just its pristine beaches and luxury all-inclusives.
What Other Cities Made The List?
The top 4 most voted cities, excluding Guanajuato, were:
- Mexico City
The Mexico Travel Awards is, in fact, a tourist-voted award, proving Guanajuato is indeed the most appealing city out of all the twenty surveyed. Other than being lauded for its architectural grandeur and contribution to History, it has been described as a ‘culturally rich city with numerous museums, theaters, music venues and festivals‘.
All of the top five cities have one thing in common: they have managed to retain their Spanish-era allure, in spite of the turning of the centuries and the overwhelming wave of industrialization that spread across North America throughout the 20th, and early 21st centuries, tearing down everything ancient standing on its path.
Direct Flights To Guanajuato From the U.S.
As for accessibility, the Bajio International Airport is the closest airport to Guanajuato, serving both the state capital and its neighbor Leon. Direct flights from the U.S. are available from the airports below:
- Chicago (O’Hare and Midway)
- Houston (George Bush Intercontinental)
- Dallas/Fort Worth
- Los Angeles International
- Oakland International
- Sacramento International
- Fresno Yosemite International
- San Jose International
- San Antonio International
- Kansas City International
- Las Vegas (Harry Reid)*
*This route has since been suspended
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com