Off-the-Beaten-Track Guanajuato is a Mexican Dream

Gentle waves rolling onto sun-soaked and secluded, sugar-sand beaches…that’s the image many North Americans have when they dream about Mexico—especially in these colder months. And yes, Mexico has these visions of paradise in abundance.

People in the know, however, are also familiar with its superb inland colonial cities, many set high in the mountains with crisp, clear air, and abundant sunshine. One of these is Guanajuato, located about 150 miles northwest of Mexico City.

You arrive into the heart of the city via a network of tunnels, emerging into the Centro Historico (Historical Center). These tunnels were dug to reroute the river around and under the city itself, and today have been converted into road tunnels used to keep much of the principal area car-free and pedestrian-friendly.

Guanajuato, like many places that are away from touristy areas, is mostly filled with locals. This means that—for those who know to shop where the locals shop—prices are very reasonable. The restaurants and cafés, the museums and stores, the teatro and especially the mercado, are made for and by the locals—with local prices…which an expat can enjoy as well.

A typical day for me involves waking up with the sunrise, strolling down the callejon (side street) from our short-term rental apartment to the Café Tal for a bagel and a strong café latte. Then off to the Universidad (University) for today’s Spanish lesson, followed by lunch at an outdoor café on the Plaza de San Fernando. Then it’s off to the mercado for fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and meats. At home, I’ll sit on the balcony with my wife as we enjoy dinner and wine overlooking the city.

Our rent is based on a staggering scale. If you can stay for just a month, like us, it’s about $750. If you are fortunate enough to enjoy the city for several months, the monthly rate drops to about $600. And if you can stay a year or more, it drops to about $500 a month.

The apartment comes fully furnished, in traditional Mexican style, with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, bathroom, living room, and its own balcony.

There are many apartments like this around Guanajuato. Such as a furnished one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with a full kitchen, located about a 10-minute walk north of the central plaza for about $450. But the best apartments are usually found by word-of-mouth.

I recommend visiting before renting, and renting before buying. In my experience, it’s worth taking the time to know what you are getting into before making any major commitments. But when you do make up your mind, like we have, Guanajuato is a perfect choice, for a month, a year, or a lifetime.

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