One Wonderful Month in Mexico City, Guanajuato, Zacatecas (2017)

In February and March of 2017 I visited Mexico City and then spent three weeks in Guanajuato taking Spanish classes, followed by three days in Zacatecas, a beautiful northern mining town.

Itinerary

DayDaytimeNight
1Fly to Mexico City from USMexico City
2Mexico CityMexico City
3Mexico CityMexico City
4Mexico CityMexico City
5Bus to GuanajuatoGuanajuato
6-26Guanajuato - 3 weeks of language studyGuanajuato
27Bus to ZacatecasZacatecas
28ZacatecasZacatecas
29ZacatecasZacatecas
30Day trip to JerezZacatecas
31Fly back to US from Zacatecas

Timing

Kids playing in the Plaza de Mexiamora on my way to school, Guanajuato

Kids playing in the Plaza de Mexiamora on my way to school, Guanajuato

Mexicans have a proverb “Febrero loco y marzo otro poco” describing the unpredictable weather in February and the beginning of March. Fortunately, conditions were unseasonably warm this year, but normally temperatures vary greatly with a mix of sun, rain, and wind.

Safety

Nighttime view of Zacatecas

Nighttime view of Zacatecas

Unfortunately, safety needs to be considered as part of any Mexico trip. The crime warning had been removed from Zacatecas from the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory list, so I added it to my itinerary this year.

I only took long-distance buses during the day to reduce the chance of robbery, and always left my valuables like passport and laptop locked in a portable travel safe in the hotel room. Taxis in Guanajuato and Zacatecas are generally considered safe but I always took Uber or authorized taxis in Mexico City since street taxis there can be dangerous.

Transportation

Vochos mexicanos: Mexican bugs

Vochos mexicanos: Mexican bugs

Getting There and Away: I flew to Mexico City from the US using American Airlines frequent flyer miles. American generally has good award flight availability to Mexico City. On my return, I used American miles again to fly out of Zacatecas airport back to the States. The Zacatecas airport is small and at that time of year only has a couple American flights a week back to the States.

Getting Around: Mexico’s bus system is excellent. I recommend higher-end companies like Primera Plus since they are comfortable and clean and provide Wi-Fi and snacks.

Uber in Mexico: Uber is now available in Mexico City, Guanajuato, and Zacatecas. The cars are much newer and nicer than traditional taxis. More importantly, they actually have seat belts in back and are considered much safer than street taxis.

Accommodation

View of the skyscrapers of Paseo de la Reforma from my Airbnb room in La Roma

View of the skyscrapers of Paseo de la Reforma from my Airbnb room in La Roma

Mexico City has a great Airbnb selection. Many hosts are long-term expats in Mexico.

In Guanajuato I stayed with a host family organized by the Spanish school, a wonderful experience that had the added benefit of fantastic home-cooked meals.

Zacatecas is a less-touristed city and did not have Airbnbs with great reviews, so I opted to stay in a budget hotel instead near the center.

The drop in the peso means Mexico is an incredible bargain right now. For example, my small Airbnb room with private bath and an incredible view in one of the trendiest neighborhoods of Mexico City was $20 a night.

Mobile connectivity and apps

This was my first trial using Google Fi outside of the US, and it worked well. Make sure to follow these instructions before you leave the country so your phone will roam internationally.

Google Fi allows tethering, a lifesaver when Wi-Fi is poor as so often occurs in Mexico. This increases data charges and it probably would have been cheaper to get a local SIM, but the convenience more than made up for the extra $10 or so it cost.

I recommend installing WhatsApp since it’s commonly used for messaging in Mexico.

Mexico City

The squirrels of Chapultepec Park are renowned for their cheekiness. One ran over my toes in his search for peanuts.

The squirrels of Chapultepec Park are renowned for their cheekiness. One ran over my toes in his search for peanuts.

The highlight of my stay in Mexico City was the La Merced market food tour I took with Eat Mexico. Our guide was a professional chef with in-depth knowledge of Mexican cuisine and culture. Our small group spent hours exploring the market and sampling many different foods. The tour was perfect for adventurous palates; we tried tongue and tripe tacos, gusanos (worms), grasshoppers, and ants.

This was my third tour with Eat Mexico. Their offerings are pricey but the quality of the experience makes it worth it for me.

Famous taco stand McTeo’s at the La Merced market. Pretty sure this is not an official McDonald’s franchise.

Famous taco stand McTeo’s at the La Merced market. Pretty sure this is not an official McDonald’s franchise.

McTeo’s taco with french fries

McTeo’s taco with french fries

Tripe and longaniza (sausage) for tacos

Tripe and longaniza (sausage) for tacos

Mole vendor. We sampled pretty much everything at this stand.

Mole vendor. We sampled pretty much everything at this stand.

Chicatanas (edible ants)

Chicatanas (edible ants)

Gusanos de maguey (mezcal worms)

Gusanos de maguey (mezcal worms)

Chopping tongue for tacos. There is a whole cow’s head under that plastic.

Chopping tongue for tacos. There is a whole cow’s head under that plastic.

Tongue taco

Tongue taco

Grasshopper quesadillas

Grasshopper quesadillas

Grasshopper cocktail

Grasshopper cocktail

Guanajuato

Teatro Juárez, Guanajuato

Teatro Juárez, Guanajuato

I spent three weeks in Guanajuato taking language classes at Escuela Falcon, my second time at this school. Guanajuato is a stunning colonial gem, and I enjoyed exploring the area in more depth and reconnecting with Mexican and expat friends.

Plaza del Baratillo, my favorite place to take a break from classes

Plaza del Baratillo, my favorite place to take a break from classes

Flower vendor in Plaza del Baratillo

Flower vendor in Plaza del Baratillo

National Danzón Showcase, Plaza Alhóndiga, Guanajuato

National Danzón Showcase, Plaza Alhóndiga, Guanajuato

Interior, Teatro Juárez

Interior, Teatro Juárez

Enjoying Japanese food in Guanajuato. The city has a significant Japanese expat population.

Enjoying Japanese food in Guanajuato. The city has a significant Japanese expat population.

View from the funicular

View from the funicular

University of Guanajuato illuminated red and green for Flag Day

University of Guanajuato illuminated red and green for Flag Day

Beet and goat cheese quesadillas at Los Campos, one of Guanajuato's most popular restaurants

Beet and goat cheese quesadillas at Los Campos, one of Guanajuato’s most popular restaurants

Callejoneada, a type of walking serenade, during which local musicians dress up in traditional 17th century costumes and weave their way through the cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways of colonial Guanajuato while playing music, singing popular folk songs, telling stories, and reciting local legends

Callejoneada, a type of walking serenade, during which local musicians dress up in traditional 17th century costumes and weave their way through the cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways of colonial Guanajuato while playing music, singing popular folk songs, telling stories, and reciting local legends

Listening to the legend of the Salto del Mono or leaping monkey on the callejoneada

Listening to the legend of the Salto del Mono or leaping monkey on the callejoneada

My souvenir from the callejoneada - a drinking vessel in the shape of a frog (Guanajuato means "place of frogs" in the local indigenous language)

My souvenir from the callejoneada – a drinking vessel in the shape of a frog (Guanajuato means “place of frogs” in the local indigenous language)

Performance of la Danza del Torito, a traditional Guanajuato folk dance

Performance of la Danza del Torito, a traditional Guanajuato folk dance

Lucha libre. This was a crazy experience. The luchadores hit each other with chairs and fluorescent light bulbs. There was broken glass everywhere.

Lucha libre. This was a crazy experience. The luchadores hit each other with chairs and fluorescent light bulbs. There was broken glass everywhere.

Lucha libre

Lucha libre

Lucha libre

Basilica, Guanajuato

Basilica, Guanajuato

Dolores Hidalgo makes an excellent day trip from Guanajuato. Be sure to try the unusually flavored nieves and ice creams for which it’s famous.

The famous Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Los Dolores in Dolores Hidalgo, where the Mexican Independence movement started

The famous Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Los Dolores in Dolores Hidalgo, where the Mexican Independence movement started

Shoe shine booths in the plaza

Shoe shine booths in the plaza

Corn and avocado ice creams. Delicious!

Corn and avocado ice creams. Delicious!

Zacatecas

View over Zacatecas from my hotel balcony

View over Zacatecas from my hotel balcony

From Guanajuato I took a Primera Plus bus to León and then Omnibus de México to Zacatecas, since there are no longer nonstop buses from Guanajuato. Zacatecas is a beautiful colonial mining town with a surprising wealth of attractions. I spent two days exploring in town and then took a day trip to Jerez the last day.

Guanajuato is famous for the quirky names of its alleyways, but Zacatecas has some great street names too. From top left, clockwise: Alleyway of the Dark Monkey, Alleyway of the Sad Indian, Street of the Angel, and Street of Desire.

Guanajuato is famous for the quirky names of its alleyways, but Zacatecas has some great street names too. From top left, clockwise: Alleyway of the Dark Monkey, Alleyway of the Sad Indian, Street of the Angel, and Street of Desire.

Rodeo posters. Lots of charro (cowboy) culture in Zacatecas.

Rodeo posters. Lots of charro (cowboy) culture in Zacatecas.

Rafael Coronel Museum. Located in the ruins of the lovely 16th-century Ex-Convento de San Francisco, it houses Mexican folk art collected by the Zacatecan artist Rafael Coronel, brother of Pedro Coronel and son-in-law of Diego Rivera.

Rafael Coronel Museum. Located in the ruins of the lovely 16th-century Ex-Convento de San Francisco, it houses Mexican folk art collected by the Zacatecan artist Rafael Coronel, brother of Pedro Coronel and son-in-law of Diego Rivera.

Marionettes, Rafael Coronel Museum

Marionettes, Rafael Coronel Museum

All the sidewalks in the historic center have LED lights to illuminate the beautiful architecture.

All the sidewalks in the historic center have LED lights to illuminate the beautiful architecture.

Plaza de Armas, Zacatecas

Plaza de Armas, Zacatecas

Jerez is a charming little pueblo with a tradition of charro (cowboy) culture. It makes a great day trip from Zacatecas.

Sombreros, Jerez

Sombreros, Jerez

Teatro Hinojosa, Jerez. This historic theater has chairs instead of seats. Originally the audience used to have to bring their own chairs from home.

Teatro Hinojosa, Jerez. This historic theater has chairs instead of seats. Originally the audience used to have to bring their own chairs from home.

Caretaker who was kind enough to give me a tour, Teatro Hinojosa

Caretaker who was kind enough to give me a tour, Teatro Hinojosa

From Zacatecas I flew back to the US. Looking forward to my return to Mexico later this year for Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead).

6 Comments on “One Wonderful Month in Mexico City, Guanajuato, Zacatecas (2017)

    • Thanks for stopping by, Lucy! Hope to meet up with you and M in Mexico sometime. 🙂

    • Thanks, Rainier. Looking forward to trading travel stories with you in person soon! 🙂

  1. Du machst dir so viel Mühe mit deinen Beschreibungen und Bebilderungen.
    Deine Berichte sind eine große Hilfe für andere Reisende.

    • Hallo Wolfgang, vielen Dank für den netten Kommentar! Ich freue mich darauf, bald mit dir übers Reisen zu quatschen.

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