Discovering the Good Life in This Hidden Colonial Highlands Gem

The sun is shining bright. But it’s just warm…not hot. From my perch, the town stretches out below, filling a wedge-shaped valley. Across the way, homes blanket the opposite steep hillside, alternating raw brick and brightly-painted yellows, reds, blues, and greens.

Little figures are just visible as they make their way through the steep, narrow pedestrian-only alleyways that snake through the neighborhoods—they’re called callejones. Cars suddenly disappear into dark semi-circles on the hillsides—tunnels that are the legacy of this town’s long history as a silver mining boom town.

Rising above are craggy cliffs and rounded green mountains, then blue sky.

As I enjoy the view, I sip a short glass of mescal. Its flavor is smooth and smoky…almost like a tequila mixed with a single-malt Scotch whiskey. Life is good in Guanajuato, a historic town in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands.

Despite being a UNESCO World Heritage site, Guanajuato is sparsely-visited by tourists and off the mainstream as far as expats are concerned. But the town has a lot to recommend it.

That great climate year-round (although January and February can be chilly). The colonial architecture in the city center. And the low costs that are even lower, so to speak, thanks to the beneficial exchange rate. A rental apartment will run you a few hundred bucks a month and a trip to the market for two will be under $20 for a week’s worth of produce.

The cultural life is a major draw—Guanajuato is known worldwide for the Cervantino festival that features performers in music, literature, theater, dance, and more every October. And judging by the posters plastered everywhere in town, there is some sort of cultural event every week.

My hosts are long-time expats of Guanajuato, and tonight is their turn to host the performance. They love to put on parties. Their home is set high on the hill overlooking much of the town. And a large terrace makes the perfect venue for get-togethers—and a morning cup of coffee too, I’d imagine.

Their place is a modern, new construction. But the heart of town in the valley below is colonial, full of ornate churches and cathedrals, renovated homes, and plazas and parks shaded by trees. The perfect place for a sidewalk restaurant. In fact, I enjoyed a breakfast in one of them: $5 for an omelet, fruit plate, and a cafe con leche.

And then the band—a mix of young Mexican musicians and older expats—starts to play some classic blues. I sit with a crowd of local expats, Americans mostly, with some Brits too. They all tell a similar story of wanting to get off the beaten path and immerse themselves in Mexican culture, wanting to learn Spanish, and they loved the historic feel of this colonial town.

They came to Guanajuato for a visit…fell in love…and decided to stay.

As the sun sinks below the horizon, the music plays, and the city lights spread out to the horizon, I’m falling in love myself.

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