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One of the colonial cities of Mexico has just been baptized ‘the most beautiful’ in the country, beating household names like Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and even the wider Riviera Maya to the top spot. The honor was bestowed by Mexico’s own Travel Awards, and it’s fair to say that many were surprised at how the voting went.
Mexico’s fame as the king of tourism can almost exclusively be attributed to its Caribbean centers and a plethora of well-preserved pre-Columbian settlements. While Mexico’s Mayan world is still largely responsible for the country’s record numbers, another facet of its multicultural appeal emerges as an equally powerful attraction.
Namely, the colonial-era Mexican cities, which are among the first European settlements in the Americas, with one in particular eclipsing all the others in beauty and charm:
The beauty of Mexico lies in its multicultural past
Mexico Travel Awards is an annual event where the country’s top tourism authorities come together to celebrate achievements in different industry sectors, such as the most outstanding and successful municipalities. In all cases, there is a trophy that is not based solely on broken records and booking trends.
This year, 20 municipalities have been nominated for the title of most beautiful in Mexico, including San Miguel de Allende, a Neo-Gothic/Baroque fusion rediscovered by the American public in recent months, Mérida, the number one city in the state of Yucatan, and of course Mexico City, the vibrant and sprawling jumble of a capital.
Although they were strong contenders, none of them ultimately won the prize. The jewel in the Mexican crown turns out to be the unknown city of Guanajuatothe capital of the state of the same name and one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the Americas – even before the path of Spain intermingled with that of pre-Columbian Mexico.
Much like the aforementioned San Miguel, Guanajuato is famous worldwide for its almost intact colonial monuments, although on a larger scale. Its old town, or Ciudad vieja The district has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, not only because of its architectural marvels, but also for 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 was at one time the world’s leading exporter of silver before turning its back on the Empire and joining the fight for an independent Mexico. Naturally, this turbulent movement, fascinating past has been etched into the urban landscape of the city.
This 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 Temple of Valenciana and the most easily recognizable landmark, the Church of St. Francis, with its iconic bright yellow hue.
Although not yet as big as Cancun or its main rival Mexico City, Guanajuato is surely becoming more popular every year. The state itself, which bears the same name, saw a steady increase in arrivals from 2007 to 2018, peaking at more than 956,000 annual visitors. However, it was years before the official start of the Mexican Renaissance.
This year, eight to nine million visitors are expected, a big increase on the figures of 2018, just before the millionth monument. This proves that Guanajuato has a key role to play in promoting Mexico as a diverse destination, and a world capital of culture known for more than its pristine beaches and luxury all-inclusive packages.
What other cities made the list?
The 4 most voted cities, excluding Guanajuato, were:
- Mexico City
The Mexico Travel Awards are, in fact, an award voted for by tourists, proving Guanajuato is indeed the most attractive city of the twenty surveyed. As well as being praised for its architectural grandeur and contribution to history, it has been described as a ‘culturally rich city with many museums, theatres, concert halls and festivals‘.
The top five cities have one thing in common: they have managed to retain their look from the Spanish eradespite the turn of the centuries and the overwhelming wave of industrialization that swept across North America throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, destroying everything in its path.
Direct flights to Guanajuato from the United States
As for accessibility, the Bajio International Airport is the nearest airport in Guanajuato, serving both the state capital and neighboring Leon. Direct flights from the United States 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 Travel Off Path. For the latest breaking news that will affect your upcoming trip, please visit: Traveloffpath.com
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