TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours – Mexico Travel Tips

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Not all Guanajuato tours are alike. In this TransportArte review, I’ll talk about one of the best Guanajuato City tours you can take. I’ll cover what we learned and everything we saw and did. If you’re interested in tours of Guanajuato City, then read on.

_mirador 2. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

Nestled into central Mexico’s high desert plain, the state of Guanajuato Mexico is an amazing place to explore. It has a unique and fascinating history, amazing views, great food and more.

We worked with Daniel Vargas from TransportArte transportation services, and I’m so glad we did. When I started researching Guanajuato tours, TransportArte began to stand out. As our driver and guide, Daniel made a good day even better. He showed us the sights and explained the city’s rich history. In addition, he kept us happy and comfortable from start to finish. There are lots of tours in Guanajuato, and many Guanajuato City tours, as well, but I can recommend TransportArte without hesitation. If you’re headed to central Mexico and looking at Guanajuato tours, consider TransportArte.

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Guanajuato Tours with TransportArte

We’ve spent over five months in San Miguel de Allende at the time of writing, and I met Daniel through friends. TransportArte is his business, and most of his customers come from airport transfers. San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato City don’t have international airports. That’s why most people arrive by bus or car (more on that here).

Daniel has a fleet of 13 vehicles: luxury sedans, SUVs, and vans. With these, he and his team do airport pickups to and from airports in Leon, Mexico City, and other cities. He also does personalized tours in the area. When my parents came for a visit, I asked him about going to Guanajuato City together, and he agreed. This TransportArte review is about our day together and why Daniel’s services are one of the best options for Guanajuato tours.

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_church facade. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

Summary: Guanajuato Tours with TransportArte

  • Clean, High-End Vehicles: Leather seats, climate control, and good suspension for a smooth ride over the area’s many cobblestones and speedbumps
  • Knowledgeable local guides: TransportArte does a great job of explaining history, architecture, and more.
  • Well-Planned walking itinerary: Guanajuato is extremely hilly, with lots of stairs and steep inclines, but our plotted route was designed so that we rode up and then mostly walked downhill.
  • Flexible Group Sizes: TransportArte can accommodate up to 13 people per group
  • Meals & Admissions Not Included: TransportArte tours include transportation and your guide, but do not include food or tickets to museums, the funicular rail, etc.
  • Tour Length: The Guanajuato Tour from San Miguel de Allende is approximately 7-8 hours. The drive from San Miguel de Allende to Guanajuato City take approx 1 hour, 20 minutes each way.
  • TranportArte Tour Price: USD $200 per Sedan (seats 5), USD $240 per Suburban (seats 7), USD $300 per Van (seats 10-14).
  • Meals & Admissions Not Included: TransportArte tours include transportation and your guide, but do not include food or tickets to museums, the funicular rail, etc.
  • What to Bring: Wear good walking shoes. Also, the sun is harsh at this altitude. Bring a hat and sunscreen if you need it. TransportArte provided everyone with one bottle of water.
  • More on their services at the TransportArte Website

The Pickup: Guanajuato Tours_Daniel and Suburban. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

Daniel asked us to wait outside of my parents’ hotel in downtown San Miguel de Allende at 9 AM. We climbed into his Chevy Suburban while Daniel made introductions, and then we were on our way. San Miguel de Allende is a city full of speed bumps and jagged cobblestones. It keeps traffic slow, but can sometimes be jarring and jittery in the usual taxi cab. Daniel’s Chevy Suburban gave us a smooth ride out of town and for the next hour or so towards our Guanajuato City tour.

The Suburban could seat up to seven comfortably. But since there were only five of us, the kids got real comfortable, real fast. They crashed out on the leather seats and fell asleep before we had even hit the city limits.

The Ride: TransportArte Review

_asleep in the suburban. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

The road between San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato is smooth and fairly empty. This is high desert here. We took our Guanajuato tours before the area’s brief rainy season (usually June through August), so most of the hills were still covered in cacti and hay-colored scrub. By late summer, the area is more lush and green, but for now, it was amber with patches of prickly green. 

Daniel explained a little about the history of the area as we drove across the golden hillsides. We learned about silver mining and the agriculture of the nearby farmland. Daniel also pointed out a particular church as we passed. Inside, he told us, was an altar to Saint Martin, the patron saint of cowboys. Once a year, thousands of them descend on the area on horseback.

Daniel was a considerate and confident driver. He passed slower cars when the opportunity presented itself. Yet he never took the kind of risks that make some travelers nervous. The ride was smooth and relaxing, and the hour flew by.

The Tunnels: Guanajuato Tours

Tunnels_TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

Guanajuato is shaped like a bowl. And thanks to the city’s history of silver mining by the Spanish, much of Guanajuato City’s roads are underground.

Actually, it’s more complicated than that. Before we drove through the tunnels to where our Guanajuato tours began, Daniel pulled over and explained the history of the tunnels. Over half of downtown roads in downtown Guanajuato City are underground! Around 60%! This means that you can park your car, walk across town or wait for a bus in the shade. Here at 2,000+ meters above sea level, the sun’s rays are harsh, so walking underground is a huge plus.

Daniel explained how an abundance of mining tunnels and an unpredictable canal eventually transformed into the city’s complex underground road system. My dad and I find massive public works projects like this fascinating. It reminded me of Turia Park in Valencia, Spain or the cable cars in Medellin, Colombia. The vision and execution of such grand projects are hard to fathom.

_color buildings. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

After riding through a few of the tunnels, Daniel took an aboveground road straight through the city. Suddenly we went from gray stone arches to houses in every color of the rainbow. It was nice to have a dash of color because our next stop was a little spooky.

The Guanajuato Mummies: TransportArte Review

_mummy museum. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

One place that all Guanajuato tours visit is the mummies of Guanajuato. Set on a hill west of the city, the Guanajuato mummies sit (or stand) in a climate-controlled museum not far from where they were found.

Daniel explained that unlike the mummies of Egypt, these were accidental mummifications. There were fees to have your body placed in the cemeteries of Guanajuato. There were further fees to remain there. The city exhumed some people whose families stopped paying or could not be found.

There they discovered not only bones but bodies, skin, hair and more. Some have cited the dry climate, while others believe the mineral-rich soil plays a part. Whatever the reason, many of these bodies dried and shriveled, but remained intact. Daniel gives a better explanation that I can, of course.

It’s a ghastly sight, but I enjoyed our brief visit. Daniel said his tours usually stay Guanajuato Mummy Museum for about 20 minutes. We stayed 15 minutes max. I could have stayed longer, but some in our group were creeped out and ready to go.

The Vista & the Guanajuato Funicular: TransportArte Review

_Pipila Mirador. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

From here, we all climbed back into the SUV. Then Daniel took us up the hill to the Monumento al Pipila Guanajuato for a panoramic view of the area. Looking down, Guanajuato City spread out before us in the valley. We could see the churches, the plazas, and the hundreds of colorful houses on the hillsides.

In San Miguel de Allende, most buildings are terra cotta colors. You’ll see browns, brick-reds, burnt-orange and ochre-like yellows. Not so in Guanajuato. Here the houses are different combinations of pink, green, baby blue, purple and more.

Downhill: Well Planned Guanajuato City Walk

GTO color houses. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

My girl and I had been to this same lookout point a few months before. However, we had approached it differently. After walking around downtown, we took the city’s funicular train up the hill. Then we walked up the steps to the viewpoint. Then later we took the funicular back down.

Thanks to Daniel’s planning, we never had to walk uphill very much. And that’s saying something when you consider how hilly Guanajuato City is. He drove us to the top of the viewpoint, then took us down the funicular and onto the walking tour. He would go back and get his SUV later.

Our Lunch: TransportArte Review

TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

Once down the funicular and into town again, Daniel offered a few options for lunch. We chose Casa Valadez, as it was nearby and in front of the spectacular Teatro Juarez, Guanajuato City’s stunning Roman-inspired concert hall.

We ate steak, gazpacho, shrimp enchiladas and some of the best cornbread I’ve ever tasted. As we ate, Daniel told us more about Guanajuato’s role in Mexico’s war of independence.

The Walking Tour: TransportArte Review

_David explaining in front of cathedral. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

_cathedral. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

Now it was time to walk around downtown, focusing our time exploring Guanajuato’s cathedrals and basilicas.

Daniel wove elements of Mexican and Spanish history into the fabric of his story. We learned about how the indigenous Mexicans, the Spanish and those with mixed ancestry interacted with each other.

We also visited the University of Guanajuato: one of Mexico’s most respected halls of learning. Daniel told us about the volcanic Cantera stone used to build many of Guanajuato’s most beautiful churches and cathedrals. Cantera stone comes in many colors — from green to pink — and we saw them all across the city. 

Free Time: TransportArte Review

_University of Guanajuato_TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

Daniel’s Guanajuato tours usually have some free time built in. After visiting the University and three cathedrals, Daniel gave us 45 minutes to explore on our own. He would go to get his SUV, pick up our leftovers from lunch (we didn’t want to carry them around) and then meet us in front of the beautiful Guanajuato City Market. We simply needed to follow the same road downhill for 15 minutes to reach it.

Along the way, we stopped to admire the Plaza de San Fernando. This beautiful European-style square is full of cafes. We also stole a quick look at the Callejón Del Beso, a tiny alley where couples want to kiss for good luck. Daniel had explained the Romeo-and-Juliet-like story to us earlier.

Many Guanajuato tours stop at the city market and it’s easy to see why. The outside is designed like a French train station. The inside is a riot of color and sound, with hundreds of stalls selling everything from clothing and hats to fresh juice and pottery.

Once we arrived, my dad and I grabbed some lemon-chia drinks while the kids and my mother wandered the stalls. Before we knew it, Daniel had arrived and it was time to return to San Miguel de Allende. Wow! Had seven hours passed already?

On the way back to San Miguel de Allende, Daniel regaled us with more stories and history. We covered everything from Diego Rivera to the Chupacabra. A little over an hour later, we were standing in front of my parent’s hotel once more.

What We Learned: Guanajuato Tours

_University. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

We learned a lot during our Guanajuato city tour. For example, we learned about the different castes of society in colonial Mexico. There were the full-blooded Spaniards, born in Spain. Then there were the Spanish who were born in Mexico (yes, your place of birth knocked you down a rung in the social order). Then there were the Meztizos: children of Spanish and indigenous Mexicans. At the bottom of the heap were the full-blooded indigenous Mexicans and the African slaves. Daniel explained how each fit into society. And how the injustice of the class structure would eventually lead to its destruction.

War History

Daniel told us about Guanajuato’s pivotal role in the war for Mexican independence. San Miguel de Allende and the city of Dolores Hidalgo were also part of the story, and we learned how they all connected. We also learned about a few of Guanajuato’s heroes. For example, we heard the story of local hero El Pipila, whose statue overlooks the city on the hillside.

El Pipila led a raid on a Spanish warehouse that is commemorated in several statues and monuments in the area. That includes a statue in San Miguel that we’ve ridden by dozens of times without thinking about it. 

Role of the Church

My parents especially loved learning about the role of religion in early Mexico. From indigenous faiths to the dominance of Catholicism, we also learned about how class and religion intertwined.

My family and I were all fairly ignorant to most of Mexican history before this tour began. Daniel did a great job giving us a broader view. Yet he also told us lots of stories and details to begin filling in the gaps in our knowledge. He answered our questions patiently and in great detail.

Architecture

We also learned about the various architectural styles of the city, as well as the local types of stone used to make it. Daniel also told us about the mining industry here and its importance in history. Guanajuato was the largest exporter of silver in the world until the 19th century. Many of the churches and buildings here were built with that money.

What We Missed & Why We’ll Go Back: Guanajuato Tours

_Juarez Theater. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

One-day Guanajuato tours like this simply cannot cover everything. For example, when my daughter and I had visited Guanajuato on our own a month earlier, we visited multiple places that we didn’t have time to see today. We went to Diego Rivera’s childhood home (closed on Mondays). Then there was the incredible museum dedicated to artistic interpretations of Don Quixote. We chilled out in beautiful cafes and went to an all-you-can-eat pizza joint, too.

I want to share these places with the rest of my family, and with you. One-day Guanajuato tours can only do so much. I want to go back and try to capture some of Guanajuato’s colorful streets with my camera. That alone could take a day. We’ll definitely return to Guanajuato City again soon. This Guanajuato tour was just the start!

Conclusion: Why TransportArte?

_family portrait at square. TransportArte Review – Great Guanajuato Tours

We highly recommend Guanajuato tours with TransportArte. Daniel was warm and professional. He articulated his knowledge and love of the city in an interesting, dynamic way. Like only a person who cares for the place. Daniel is from San Miguel de Allende but went to college in Guanajuato, and the pride shows.

Our SUV was spotless. The drive was smooth and comfortable both coming and going. I can recommend using TransportArte without hesitation. In fact, I’ll probably be using TransportArte again long after this short partnership is over.

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Disclosure: TransportArte sponsored our day out. However, my opinions are my own and I only recommend places, services and Guanajuato tours that would benefit my readers. This TransportArte review is my honest opinion, and I can’t wait to take more Guanajuato Tours with them on my own!

Image Credits: #7, #8, #9

Comments

  1. This definitely seems like one of the best Guanajuato City tours I could get when exploring Guanajuato Mexico, Jason. Thanks for the exceptional review and the recommendation. I’ll keep it in mind to add it to my bucket list!

    • Definitely put Mexico on your list. It’s an amazing, welcoming and extraordinarily diverse place. We love living in Central Mexico, but the coasts are exceptional as well!

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