Last Updated on June 27, 2023 by Nellie Huang
Colorful and vibrant, Guanajuato is one of my favorite states in Mexico. This 10-day road trip itinerary is an excellent way to explore not just the state of Guanajuato, but also Hidalgo and Queretaro states.
Poised in the very heart of Mexico, the state of Guanajuato is a mishmash of Mexican traditions, colonial architecture, cacti-studded highlands, wineries and hot springs. Pastel colored colonial buildings and leafy green parks line the enchanting cobblestoned streets, winning UNESCO World Heritage statuses in many of the cities.
Unbeknownst to many, Guanajuato is the name of both the state and its capital city. Guanajuato City itself is just an hour away from the expat-favorite San Miguel de Allende and two hours from the historical city of Queretaro in the Queretaro state. 3 hours away is the spectacular Grutas Tolantongo, Mexico’s most impressive hot springs in Hidalgo state.
In this blog post, I’m sharing my own 10-day Guanajuato itinerary, that packs in the historical attractions of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, the wineries and archaeological sites worth visiting in the outskirts, and the spectacular Grutas Tolantongo hot springs as the highlight of the road trip.
Table of Contents
- Guanajuato Itinerary & Guide
- 10-Day Guanajuato Itinerary
- Guanajuato Itinerary Day 1: Guanajuato City
- Where to Stay in Guanajuato
- Guanajuato Itinerary Day 2: Guanajuato City
- Guanajuato Itinerary Day 3: Guanajuato City
- Guanajuato Itinerary Day 4: Ruta de Vino
- Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende
- Guanajuato Itinerary Day 5: San Miguel de Allende
- Guanajuato Itinerary Day 6: Queretaro
- Where to Stay in Queretaro
- Guanajuato Itinerary Day 7: Queretaro
- Guanajuato Itinerary Day 8: Grutas Tolantongo
- Cost of Visiting the Grutas Tolantongo
- Where to Stay in Tolantongo Mexico
- Guanajuato Itinerary Day 9: Grutas Tolantongo
- Guanajuato Itinerary Day 10: Queretaro
- Guanajuato Travel Guide
Guanajuato Itinerary & Guide
How to Get to Guanajuato
Guanajuato has a small international airport that serves several major cities in the US, such as Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston. Del Bajío International Airport (BJX) is about a 45-minute drive from Guanajuato city center. Search for Flights here!
There is no direct public bus or train service between Guanajuato and the airport. If you’re not renting a car, the taxi fare from Guanajuato Airport to city center is around 500-600 MXN (US$25-30).
An alternative is flying into Mexico City, which is a 4.5-hour drive to Guanajuato. You can find much cheaper flights there from outside of Mexico. From there, take the excellent first-class bus from Mexico City on ETN or Primera Plus.
How to Get Around Guanajuato
Guanajuato state is relatively big and you’ll need transport to get around the state. We rented a car from Guanajuato Airport and drove it the entire time during our 10 days in Guanajuato.
An economy rental car in Mexico averages just $200 for a whole week, which is less than $25 a day. The current price for gas is 16.50 pesos per liter (about $2.50 per gallon). We always use DiscoverCars.com as they’ve consistently given us the best prices and customer service.
If you’re staying in the historical center, you could get by without a car as most of the places to visit in Guanajuato are located in the city center. Otherwise, Uber is readily available in Guanajuato, and it’s very affordable.
10-Day Guanajuato Itinerary
To see the highlights, you’ll need at least 1 week, but I suggest planning 10 days in Guanajuato to explore at a comfortable pace. In this Guanajuato itinerary, I’ve packed in a good mixture of city wanders, winery visits, and adventures in nature. It’s perfect for travelers who are curious about Mexican culture and love museums, but also enjoy spending time in the backcountry.
Here is a summary of my recommended Guanajuato itinerary. I will be giving a day-to-day breakdown below.
- Days 1-3: Guanajuato City
- Days 4-5: Ruta de Vino & San Miguel de Allende
- Days 6-7: Queretaro
- Days 8-10: Grutas Tolantongo Hot Springs
Guanajuato Itinerary Day 1: Guanajuato City
Start at Basilica de Guanajuato
There’s a whole load of things to do in Guanajuato City, so make sure to reserve 3 days to explore this cool city. Dominating the main plaza of Guanajuato is the eye-catching yellow Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato topped with a massive rose red dome. Built in 1696, the building features a Mexican baroque architectural style, with unique details left by miners and silver barons.
The standout feature of the Basilica is the a wooden statue of Virgin Mary, Guanajuato’s patron saint. Felipe II of Spain gave it to Guanajuato as thanks for the revenue it generated for the crown. During our visit, we could enter the Basilica and visit for free.
Stroll along the Pedestrianized Calle De Sopeña
The main artery of the city is the pedestrianized Calle de Sopeña, which passes along many major Guanajuato sights. Take a leisurely stroll on this street and you’ll tick off several items on this list of things to do in Guanajuato in just one day: including the Teatro Juárez, Museo Iconográfico del Quijote, and Jardín de la Unión. Continue reading for more details on each sight.
People Watch at Jardín de la Unión
Guanajuato is sprinkled with many green spaces that feature immaculately landscaped trees, fountains, and benches. This triangular plaza in particular stands in the heart of the city and it features perfectly squared shaped trees beautifully trimmed to form a square box around the periphery of the park.
On Sundays, the Jardín de la Unión truly comes alive as it becomes a gathering spot for families. There are street vendors selling balloons of all shapes and sizes, puppet shows, and a Mat-Hatter-lookalike posing with kids. Get a raspado (shaved iced with fruit syrup), sit back on a bench, and enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere.
Join a Callejoneada Walking Tour
At the Jardín de la Unión, you’ll probably be approached by an estudiantina (student tour guides) dressed in elaborate Spanish era folk costumes. These estudiantinas lead callejoneada, or evening cultural tours around the many alleys that snake their way around the city.
These aren’t just normal walking tours — the estudiantinas share interesting stories, jokes, and myths, and also entertain with traditional Guanajuato music and folk dance. They’re in Spanish only, but they’re so entertaining you don’t need to understand Spanish to enjoy them! Book in person or here. Cost: 120 MXN (US$6).
Where to Stay in Guanajuato
There are plenty of accommodation options in Guanajuato to suit all budgets, from spacious Airbnbs to luxury boutique hotels. We recommend staying in the historic center (within a few blocks from el Jardin) so you can easily walk everywhere.
Luxury: Hotel Mision Casa Colorada
One of the best hotels in Guanajuato, Casa Colorada is a heritage hotel housed in a historical building perched on the hills overlooking the historical center. It may need some updates, but the views from the room are outstanding (with ceiling to floor windows) and the entire ambiance is surreal. Check rates here.
Mid Range: 1850 Hotel Boutique
Set in the centre of Guanajuato, 1850 Hotel Boutique is housed in a charming, neoclassical building, dating from the 1850s. The striking, modern rooms feature French, classic and contemporary design. The sky bar is one of the best rooftop bars in town! Check rates here.
Budget: Hotel La Paz
Located in the heart of the historic center, this budget hotel overlooks the iconic Basilica de Guanajuato. Rooms are affordable and simple, but with spectacular views and a fantastic location. Check rates here.
Guanajuato Itinerary Day 2: Guanajuato City
Take the Funicular Panorámico
My daughter’s favorite thing to do in Guanajuato is definitely taking the funicular, an uphill tram ride that reaches the top of the hills overlooking the city. We stayed at a hotel (more on that later) next to the funicular station on the top, and the views were surreal!
The funicular was inaugurated in 1883 and it quickly became an icon of the city. The ride is short but picturesque. Take the funicular from the station behind Teatro Juárez; click for Google Maps location. Cost: 30 MXN (US$1.50) each way.
Feast on the Views at Monumento El Pípila
At the top of the funicular station stands the Monumento El Pípila, a massive pink sandstone monument that honors the hero who helped win the first victory of the independence movement. In 1810, when the priest Miguel Hidalgo called for the end of Spanish colonial rule in Mexico, the city’s local hero – nicknamed El Pípila – torched the Alhóndiga gates, enabling Hidalgo’s forces to forge ahead.
The statue shows El Pípila holding his torch over the city. You’ll see these words carved into the base of the sculpture: Aún hay otras Alhóndigas por incendiar (There are still other Alhóndigas to burn).
TIP: The easiest way to reach it is via the funicular mentioned above; but you can also get there via steep stairs from Callejón del Calvario. If you walk, wear comfortable shoes, don’t go alone, and avoid carrying valuables.
Get Gory at the Museo de las Momias
The Mummy Museum is Guanajuato’s most famous (and bizarre) sights. We visited Guaajuato during a Mexican holiday and ended up waiting an hour in line to get into the museum! That said, my daughter said it was well worth it, for the spooky experience.
In the early 1800s, Guanajuato experienced a cholera outbreak that led to thousands of deaths in the city. When part of an old cemetery was exhumed later, workers discovered that the bodies had been immaculately preserved — apparently due to the minerals in the soil and the area’s low humidity. Over 100 of the bodies make up the museum’s gruesome display, with many featuring grotesque forms and shocked expressions.
In all honesty, the museum can be horrifying for some. But it is a quintessential example of Mexico’s celebration of death, as seen from how the country celebrates the Day of the Dead with fervor every year. The museum is open from 9:00 – 6:00pm every day. Entry: 85 MXN ($4.50).
TIP: Guanajuato Mummy Museum is located outside of the historic center; click for the location on Google Maps. It’s a steep walk from the historic center. Take the bus marked Las Momias (The Mummies) from Avenida Juarez. or an Uber for just 100MXN (US$5).
Guanajuato Itinerary Day 3: Guanajuato City
Get Lost in Mercado Hidalgo
Every Mexican city has a bustling city market that’s usually bursting with fresh food, raw meat, and all kinds of locally produced goods. Guanajuato is no exception – Mercado Hidalgo is a colorful display of fresh fruit, local produce, and meat. On the second floor, you’ll also find many artisan shops and souvenir stores.
But the real appeal of Mercardo Hidalgo to me is the architecture of the building itself. From the outside, you’d be forgiven to think the market is a train station. In fact, it was originally constructed to be a major central station, and the famosu French architect, Alexandre Gustave Eifel, was even involved in the project.
Sadly the railway never happened. As the completion of the building coincided with the 100-year celebration of Mexican independence, Porfirio Diaz named the building after Miguel Hidalgo, the national hero. Porfirio also transformed this failed project into a market where it would definitely be put to good use.
See the Callejón del Beso
Guanajuato has an intensive network of narrow alleys and twisted streets. The narrowest (and most famous) of them all has to be the Callejón del Beso, which translates to mean Alley of the Kiss. In this ultra-narrow alley, the balconies of two houses practically touch, at just 68 centimeters (around two feet) wide.
According to a local legend, a wealthy family once lived on this street. Their daughter fell in love with a commoner. Her father forbid them to see each other, but the young man sneaked in and exchanged kisses from these balconies. Inevitably, the romance was discovered and the couple met a tragic end.
Today, the alleyway is the backdrop for visiting couples who are supposed to kiss in order to ensure seven years of happiness. When we were there, there was a line for the Instagram shot and around a 10-minute wait.
Walk the Underground Tunnels
When strolling through the pedestrians-only historic center, you must be wondering, where are all the cars?! You see, there’s hardly any vehicle traffic in the city.
This is largely thanks to the extensive network of tunnels underground that were originally built to prevent flooding from the nearby Rio Guanajuato (river). These tunnels were dug out by the mining companies that operate in the outskirts of the city.
Today, both cars and pedestrians can the Guanajuato tunnels to get around the city. There are many stairways and ramps that lead to the tunnels from the historic center; search for Calle Subterranea on Google Maps and you’ll find your way there.
Visit the Museo Iconográfico del Quijote
One of the best things to do in Guanajuato is visiting the Museo Iconográfico del Quijote, a museum that showcases the characters and stories in the Spanish writer Cervante’s most famous book, Don Quijote de la Mancha. Guanajuato’s obsession with Cervantes is intriguing, but once here, you’ll understand why.
The museum is actually great for kids; we came here to teach our daughter about the famous Don Quijote story. It’s surprisingly interesting to see all kinds of paintings, sculptures, and tapestries depicting scenes from the story. Entry: 30 MXN (US$1.5), free on Tuesdays.
Have Coffee at Santo Cafe
After all the walking, take a break and enjoy some coffee at Santo Café. The ridiculously cute cafe located on a bridge perched across two colonial buildings. Come early if you want a table on the bridge, otherwise the cafe has plenty of seating inside. The food is also really food, with a mixture of crepes, sandwiches, and tostadas at amazing prices!
Guanajuato Itinerary Day 4: Ruta de Vino
In recent years, Mexico has gained fame for its wine. The ruta de vino or wine route in Guanajuato’s rolling hills strings together a medley of gorgeous wineries and vineyards. Most of them are located on the drive from Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, so make use of the opportunity and stop at one or two wineries on the way.
Go Wine Tasting at Nearby Wineries
Rent a car like we did and visit wineries like Rancho Toyan and Hacienda San Jose la Vista enroute to San Miguel. Spend the afternoon tasting excellent wine and gourmet platters of cheese and nibbles, wandering through the lavender fields, and even staying overnight in the in-house rooms.
See the Sunset from Lunas Tapas Bar
It’s only a 1-hour straight drive from Guanajuato to San Miguel de Allende, but you’ll probably reach here in the afternoon after a day of wine tasting. Check in to your hotel and head out to catch sunset at one of the best spots in town, Lunas Rooftop Tapas Bar.
This rooftop bar at the elegant Rosewood Hotel offers a sweeping view across the valley. But make sure to book at least a day in advance. They were fully booked when we visited, but they were kind enough to let us head up to see sunset.
Have Cocktails at Quince Rooftop
One of the quintessential things to do in San Miguel de Allende is to catch sunset from the rooftops. The city has no shortage of slick rooftop bars vying for attention with swanky design and gastronomic menus.
Earning the top spot as #1 best rooftop restaurants in the world by Rooftop Guide is Quince Rooftop. Located right next to the Parroquia, it’s perched atop a 16th-century building and offers panoramic views of San Miguel de Allende. Cocktails are pricey, starting from 200 MXN (US$10).
Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende
There are plenty of accommodation options in San Miguel de Allende to suit all budgets, from spacious Airbnbs to luxury boutique hotels. We recommend staying in the historic center (within a few blocks from el Jardin) so you can easily walk everywhere. Check out our complete guide on where to stay in San Miguel de Allende.
Luxury: Hacienda El Santuario San Miguel de Allende
One of the best hotels in San Miguel de Allende, this former convent is a tastefully designed hotel with rooms that feature vaulted ceilings, terracotta tiles, original brick work, and unique folk art. Even if you’re not staying here, visiting the bar is one of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende. Check rates here.
Luxury: Casa 1810 Hotel Boutique
Located close to the main square, Casa 1810 is another stylish boutique hotel that has preserved the character of San Miguel de Allende immaculately. The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, free parking, and family rooms. We really enjoyed staying here! Check rates here.
Mid Range: Cantera 1910 Hotel Boutique
Cantera 1910 is a new boutique hotel in the very center of San Miguel, with freshly restored rooms and a boho chic decor. The on-site restaurant is located in a beautiful terrace, dishing up contemporary dishes and cocktails. Check rates here.
Budget: Casa Liza
This historical hotel is located near Paseo del Chorro and it’s a steep walk from the main square. The colonial mansion has plenty of history and character, and prices are excellent! Check rates here.
Guanajuato Itinerary Day 5: San Miguel de Allende
Admire the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel
All roads in San Miguel de Allende lead to the Parroquia de San Miguel. Sitting in the very heart of the city, the parish church is the icon and beacon of San Miguel de Allende. With a facade unlike any other church in Mexico, this landmark is characterized by its pink exterior and wedding cake towers designed by indigenous stone mason Zeferino Gutierrez. Free entry.
People Watch at El Jardin
The parish church overlooks el Jardin, a charming public square/park that is the social center of San Miguel de Allende. Filled with locals and expats alike, el Jardin is a great place to people watch and enjoy a leisurely afternoon. Sit under the shade of the immaculately landscaped trees, and listen to musicians play or watch kids run after pigeons.
Visit the Museum of San Miguel de Allende
History buffs will want to visit Museo de San Miguel de Allende across the street from el Jardin. Housed in the former home of Mexican independence hero, Ignacio Allende, this museum gives a good peek into the town’s rich history. Head up to the upper level to see replicas of Allende’s furnishings and possessions for an idea of how the wealthy lived during that period in time. Entry: 55 MXN (US$2.75).
Have a Beer at Rincon de Don Tomás
If you’re wondering which of the cafes/restaurants at the main square is worth checking out, I recommend El Rincón de Don Tomás. Take a seat at one of their outdoor tables, order a beer, and enjoy the perfect view of the Parroquia. The historical bar might not have a big menu (only serving breakfast items and snacks) but it’s got a great atmosphere and ice cold beer!
Snap Photos at Calle Aldama
For the best shot of San Miguel de Allende (and its iconic parish church), wander down Calle Aldama. This is where you can get that million-dollar shot of the cobblestoned street and its colorful buildings, backdropped by the Parroquia. You might find other Instagrammers trying to snap photos here. Be aware that it’s not a pedestrianized street, so don’t be a jerk and hog traffic.
Eat Churros at San Agustín
For your merienda (afternoon snack), indulge in some churros at the legendary San Agustín Chocolates & Churros. Café San Agustín is perhaps best known among Mexicans for its owner, Argentine actress Margarita Gralia, who is hugely popular in Mexico for her appearances in telenovelas and Playboy.
But it’s really the churros that draw in the crowds. Since the 1950s, this institution has been serving up Mexican breakfast favorites like churros and authentic Spanish hot chocolate (a rich and thick drink). They’re lauded the best in town, and I can attest to it!
Visit the Mercado Ignacio Ramirez
Behind the oratorio is the sprawling central market of San Miguel de Allende. It’s smaller than markets you’d find in Mexico City, but this is a great place to get a sense of local life and taste regional dishes. The market is named after Ignacio Ramirez, the Mexican president who declared San Miguel the country’s first official Pueblo Mágico (magical town) in 2002. It’s a vibrant mishmash of stalls selling everything from fruits and vegetables to clothes.
Browse the Mercado Artesanía
If you’re looking for handicrafts, head to the Mercado Artesanía right next to the central market. This market is dedicated to selling crafts from all over Mexico. You’ll find everything from blown glass and pottery to hand-embroidered fabrics and leather goods. Outside of the artisanal market, you’ll find the photogenic Callejon de Loreto street, featuring colorful papel picado (paper flags).
Hike up to the Mirador
San Miguel de Allende might look pretty from street level, but wait till you see it from above! In spring, the jacaranda flowers bloom and add patches of violet color to the already colorful skyline. There are quite a few viewpoints around the town, but the nearest one is just a 15-minute walk from the main square. Top on the list of things to do in San Miguel de Allende is to catch sunset here.
Marked as “El Mirador” on Google Maps, this viewpoint may look near, but it’s a steep walk up. You’ll however be walking on the cobblestoned streets of the city (and not unpaved trails). Alternatively, you can catch the tranvia turistico, a tourist trolley bus, to the viewpoint (tickets are available at the tourist office overlooking the main square).
Guanajuato Itinerary Day 6: Queretaro
Swim in Hot Springs
Start your day early with a relaxing dip in the many hot springs that surround the city of San Miguel de Allende. These hot springs bubble with curative waters that provide a glorious respite especially in cold winter months. Of all the hot springs, La Gruta Spa is perhaps the most famous (a 15-minute drive away). Read my full guide on how to visit la Gruta hot springs.
In total, there are four thermal pools located onsite at La Gruta San Miguel de Allende. The star attraction at La Gruta San Miguel de Allende is the cavern “La Gruta”. Entering through an entryway from the main pool, you’ll make your way through a white, narrow stone walkway that leads to a domed-shaped grotto where the source of the hot spring water is. Entry: 250 MXN (US$10).
Admire the Sanctuario de Atotonilco
Just 10 minutes away from La Gruta Spa is an impressive sanctuary that you need to visit before hitting the road. Lauded as the Sistine Chapel of Mexico, this famous religious sanctuaries forms part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage listing.
This historic Catholic church has long been a place of pilgrimage for Mexicans from all over the country. The Sanctuario de Atotonilco was built on top of natural springs, and so the church has always been revered as a place of healing. Prepare to be When you step inside the Sanctuary de Atotonilco, you’ll also be shocked and awed by the gruesome religious artwork on display.
Explore the Historic Center of Queretaro
From the Sanctuario de Atotonilco, it’s just a 1h 15 min drive to Querétaro City, also known as Santiago de Querétaro. It might not be as famous as its next-door neighbors Guanajuato City and San Miguel de Allende, but it is in fact the capital and largest city of the Querétaro State.
At sunset, head out to the old town’s aqueduct to see the setting sun light up the arches, with the lovely city in the backdrop. Dating back to 1738, the aqueduct is a remarkable engineering achievement that supplied water to the city. The terrace on Ejército Republicano street, behind Plaza Fundadores, is a nice vantage point from which to admire the arches.
Where to Stay in Queretaro
Luxury: Doña Urraca Hotel & Spa
With the perfect blend of traditional architecture and modern furnishings, this spa hotel offers the best of both worlds in the outskirts of Queretaro. It’s perfect for couples who have a car and are looking to have some downtime in peace. Check the rates here.
Mid Range: El Hotel Senorial
Located in the historic center, El Hotel Senorial is a heritage hotel just steps from the Jardin Zenea. Rooms are huge and feature four-poster bed and traditional Spanish architecture. We stayed here and really like the old-school flair of the hotel. Check rates here.
Budget: MS Loft Suite Moderno Ubicadísimo
This modern 1-bedroom apartment located in the Casa Blanca La Corregidora area and it’s an incredible bargain (at around US$35/night) and is extremely comfortable and spacious. It comes with a parking lot and strong WiFi. Book here!
Guanajuato Itinerary Day 7: Queretaro
Stroll to Jardin Zenea
Start your day at Jardin Zenea, in the heart of the historical center of Querétaro. The entire old town is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage Site Monumental Zone, with over 1,400 monuments packed into one compact area. You might not be able to see all of them on this trip, but a few of them are within easy walking distance from Jardin Zenea.
The gorgeous tree-lined park features purple jaranda tree, Spanish-style pavilions, and water fountains. This park is home to the city’s Cathedral, numerous restaurants and cafés, and street buskers. Today it’s the focal point for Queretaro life full of vendors, music, dancing, ice cream eating and holiday decorations.
Visit the Templo de San Francisco de Asis
The most prominent landmark in Querétaro is the Templo de San Francisco de Asis, which is hard to miss with its red exterior and clock tower. It also houses the Queretaro Regional Museum, where artifacts from the convent’s past are on display.
Continue walking along Andador 5 de Mayo, where you’ll spot the Dancing Chichimeca statue beside the Templo de San Francisco de Asis. This pedestrianized street is filled with historical sites, souvenir shops, and several eateries.
See the Museo de Conspiradoros
Make a stop at Museo de Conspiradoros, a free museum on Andador 5 de Mayo. The walls of this former hacienda are adorned with murals depicting the conspirators’ conspiracy to rebel against Spain. All the explanations are in Spanish.
Continue to Plaza de Armas
At Plaza de Armas, you’ll find Casa de Corregidora, the former home of the mayor (Corregidor). Today, it’s the Government Palace and is open to public. If you visit during the holidays, you might see something special in the central courtyard. For Day of the Dead, altars are constructed for prominent people in the community.
Watch the Legends of Queretaro
In the evening, many local artists re-enact famous and dramatic events from Queretaro’s history. Leyendas (Legends), as it is known, is a fascinating experience that is especially appealing in Queretaro. Watching these romantic tragedy portrayals is a great experience, even if you don’t speak Spanish.
On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 6:15 and 7:15 PM, head to the Queretaro zocalo (Portal Bueno, specifically) to listen to the stories that happened in this city. My favorite story was about the impossible love between Don Juan Antonio de Urrutia y Arana and Sor Marcela, who was a nun from the Capuchinas convent. The legend says that he built the aqueduct to provide water to the convent where she lived.
Guanajuato Itinerary Day 8: Grutas Tolantongo
With hot spring water tumbling over calcified travertine pools and cascading down waterfalls, the Grutas Tolantongo is home to some of the most beautiful hot springs in Mexico. Tucked high in the mountains of Hidalgo, this spot is just a 3-hour drive from Querétaro and is a remote area brimming with natural beauty.
That said, it’s hugely popular with Mexicans who flock here on weekend camping trips. Try to visit on a weekday as there are way less people and stay overnight so you rise early and visit the thermal pools just as they open (at 7.30am). You’ll get to feel the magic of the place without anybody around you.
Cost of Visiting the Grutas Tolantongo
The general access ticket for Grutas Tolantongo costs 150.00 MXN (7.50 USD) daily. Kids under 5 years of age enter free. Tickets are sold at the taquilla (ticket booth) when you’re entering the area. It’s Important to save your tickets!
If you’re staying overnight (camping or at a hotel), you will need to get 2-day tickets. One for arrival day (Day 1) and another for the next day (Day 2). Parking in Grutas Tolantongo costs 30.00 MXN (1.5 USD) per day per vehicle. We stayed for 2 nights and had to get 3-day tickets.
The park tickets cover all of the natural attractions (Grutas, tunnels, river, thermal pools, and swimming pools) and access to all their amenities (bathrooms). Only ziplining comes with an extra charge (200 MXN or 10 USD).
Start at Las Pozas
This was the HIGHLIGHT of Grutas Tolantongo for us. The marble-white travertine pools have become Insta-famous and somewhat the icon of Tolantongo, for good reason. There are over 30 pools at Las Pozas, with natural hot spring waters of temperatures varying between 93 to 100°F (34 and 38°C). I recommend making this your first stop as it’s near located near the ticket booth/main entrance.
There are two separate sections: the pools on the right have a gated entrance and are much nicer. But they open only 7.30am-6pm and no food or drinks are allowed (to keep the environment clean). The pools on the left are open till 1030pm but they’re popular with big families who are usually grilling meat on the barbecue and blasting loud music.
Cross the Hanging Bridge and Cave
From las Pozas, you can see a suspension bridge that stretches across the canyon and leads to the Gruta Escondida (hidden cave). It’s a short walk, but the view is spectacular and it can be exciting when it starts to swing. The cave is really just a small opening at the bottom of the cliff, but it’s worth exploring if you have time. There’s water gushing out from every hole, so be careful as it can get slippery.
Where to Stay in Tolantongo Mexico
Grutas Tolantongo has 5 hotels onsite and plenty of campgrounds — but keep in mind this area is very rural and the infrastructure is pretty basic. The hotels are decent and reasonably comfortable, but don’t expect to find amenities like kettle or stable WiFi.
We stayed at the Paraíso Hotel and highly recommend it — mainly because it’s right next to the glorious thermal pools, the most photogenic part of Grutas Tolantongo. It’s also the newest and nicest hotel onsite, with air conditioning, cable TV, WiFi, and spectacular mountain views. But it’s not cheap, at 2800 MXN (US$140)/night for a simple room.
TIP: The older Paraíso Escodido Hotel is even closer to the thermal pools, but it gets fully booked early.
Grutas Tolantongo Hotels
- Paraíso Hotel — 1600-2800 MXN (US$80-140) *new hotel!
- Paraíso Escondido Hotel — 800 – 1800 MXN (US$40-90)
- La Gruta Hotel — 750 – 1050 MXN (US$37.5-52.5)
- La Huerta Hotel — only open on weekends; 800 – 1200 MXN (US$40-60)
- Molanguito Hotel — only open on weekends; 650 – 950 MXN (US$32.5-47.5)
*These are daily rates per room, not per person. Most hotels have rooms ranging from single to quadruple rooms.
Guanajuato Itinerary Day 9: Grutas Tolantongo
Sprawling across the deep Mezquital Valley, Grutas Tolantongo covers a huge area and there are actually plenty of things to do here. The hot spring pools you’ve seen all over Instagram are in fact just a small part of the Grutas Tolantongo.
Take a Dip in the Tolantongo River
Start your day with a dip in the aqua blue river that runs through Grutas Tolantongo. The baby-blue water gets its color from a high content of calcium and magnesium. The thermally-heated water flows out from the Gruta and runs all the way to the end of the canyon. There are areas where the current is strong, so be careful.
Swim in the Gruta and Tunnel
The Gruta is the biggest attraction in Tolantongo. The huge cave is the stuff of legends, with an endless flow of hot spring water cascading down its exterior. It’s said to be the main source of the hot springs, so currents here are strong and temperatures are high.
The swimming area is dark, so bring a waterproof flashlight. It’s not advisable to stay in there for more than 15 minutes. Don’t forget to venture into the tunnel that goes underneath the river.
TIP: It’s strictly forbidden to bring any backpack or food into the cave or tunnel. Only swimwear, camera, and towel are allowed. There are lockers just outside the cave entrance, for 100 MXN ($5).
Explore La Gloria Tolantongo
From the Gruta, cross the short suspension bridge and you’ll reach La Gloria Tolantongo, a separate park from Gruta Tolantongo. It’s a compact but less commercialized version of Gruta Tolantongo, with its own thermal pools, waterfalls, zip line, and campsite.
La Gloria is owned by different landowners so you’ll need to pay another entry fee to get in (150 MXN or US$7.5). We didn’t visit this area as we reached here only in the evening and it didn’t make sense to pay for another ticket. But if we had another day, we definitely would!
Guanajuato Itinerary Day 10: Queretaro
Sadly, it’s the last day of your Guanajuato road trip. I suggest flying out from the Queretaro Airport (QRO), the closest airport to Grutas Tolantongo. The drive from Grutas Tolantongo to Queretaro Airport takes just under 3 hours.
It’s a small airport, but it serves many major cities in Mexico, as well as Houston, Dallas, and Chicago. Check here for flights from Queretaro.
If you have an early flight, it’s best to book an airport hotel to stay there night before. One Queretaro Aeropuerto is the cheapest airport hotel in the area and features modern, comfortable rooms. Hampton Inn by Hilton-Queretaro Tecnologico is slightly more expensive, but it’s closer to the airport and the hotel provides a free airport shuttle.
Guanajuato Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit Guanajuato
Thanks to its location in the central highlands of Mexico, the Guanajuato state is blessed with pleasant spring-like climate all year round. In general, anytime of the year is great to visit as Guanajuato’s climate doesn’t vary too much throughout the year, with average high temperatures hovering between 73°F (23°C) and 88°F (31°C) no matter the season.
But I would recommend visiting Guanajuato between November and April, when there’s less rainfall than the summer months. The jacaranda season starts at the end of March and only lasts till April, but that’s when Guanajuato is at its most beautiful, with purple blooms dotting the landscapes. We visited in March and the weather was glorious, it was always sunny and it not too cold/warm.
One of the most popular time to visit Guanajuato is in October, when the Festival Internacional Cervantino takes place. Cervantino is a tribute to the Spanish author, Miguel de Cervantes, who wrote Don Quixote; his influence is still felt all over the city. Time your trip to visit during one of the biggest Mexican celebrations and you’ll experience plenty of music, dance, and poetry throughout the city.
Is Guanajuato Safe to Visit?
In general, the state of Guanajuato has been relatively safe. But in the last three years, the crime rate has spiked overall in the state of Guanajuato. Currently, there is no safety advisory in effect for the state.
My family and I felt very safe throughout our time in Guanajuato state, and didn’t experience anything sketchy. We were comfortable walking around the cities at night, driving from one place to another, and didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary. That said, that’s just my personal experience.
As with in most parts of Mexico, it helps tremendously to speak Spanish. Not many people in Guanajuato – outside of San Miguel de Allende – speak English and being fluent in Spanish will help you blend in much better. You’ll also get treated far better.
Is it Worth Visiting Guanajuato?
Guanajuato is one of most diverse states in Mexico – it’s chock-a-block with lively cities, cultural experiences, and lush nature. The state is a popular destination for Mexicans rather than international travelers, and it has retained a strong sense of grittiness and authenticity.
I hope you’ve found this Guanajuato itinerary useful. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions on Guanajuato travel. For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:
- 30 Things to Do in Guanajuato
- 30 Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende
- Visiting Grutas Tolantongo Hot Springs
- 10-Oaxaca Road Trip Itinerary 5-Day Mexico City Itinerary
- Where to Stay in Mexico City
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