Guanajuato is divided into 5 geographical zones:
- El Bajio
- Los Altos
- Sierra Gorda
- Sierra Central
- Los Valles Abajeños
- 1 Guanajuato — a beautiful mountain colonial town and UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 2 Celaya — Famous for its production of a milk candy called cajeta
- 3 Dolores Hidalgo — the city where Mexico's fight for independence started in 1810
- 4 Irapuato — strawberry capital of the world, industrial capital of the Bajio
- 5 León — biggest city of the state, a modern and commercial city that is the financial center of Guanajuato
- 6 Moroleon — home to a large textile industry
- 7 Pénjamo — the birthplace of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the "Father of the Mexican Nation"
- 8 Salamanca — home of one of the largest refineries of Latin America
- 9 Salvatierra — small colonial city with a number of festivals, including La Marquesada featuring a running of the bulls (as in Pamplona, Spain)
- 10 San Miguel de Allende — a charming UNESCO World Heritage Site that has become a tourist destination, an art colony, and a retirement community for Americans, Canadians, and Europeans
- 1 San Francisco del Rincon – A small town 15 minutes from Leon. Known as the Hat Capital of the World! The cowboy hat you might buy in Texas is made here. You can find any type of hat – from the latest fashion hats for men to the working mans best friend to the elaborate hats worn buy the beloved mariachi. It has a quaint center of town (zocalo), a half-way decent hotel is on one side and on another, in front of the town hall (palacio municipal), an ice cream shop is famous for its vanilla ice pops filled with cajeta (caramel).
- 2 Plazuelas and 3 Peralta – Two chichimeca archaeological sites making part of the "Tradición él Bajío".
- 4 Cañada de la Virgen – Archaeological site of a 7th century Otomi observatory with 7 pyramids
Guanajuato is between the arid north of the country and the lusher south. It was settled by the Spanish in the 1520s due to mineral deposits found around the city of Guanajuato, but areas such as the Bajío region also became important for agriculture and livestock. Mining and agriculture were the mainstays of the state's economy, but have since been eclipsed by the secondary sector. Guanajuato has particularly seen growth in the automotive industry.
The name Guanajuato comes from Purépecha kuanhasï juáta (or in older orthography "quanax huato"), which means “frog hill”.
Guanajuato's highways directly connect to three of Mexico's ten major highways (Mexico City-Nuevo Laredo, Querétaro-Ciudad Juárez and Manzanillo-Tampico).
The Guanajuato International Airport, formerly the Bajío International Airport, is in the municipality of Silao between the cities of Silao and León. The airport serves many domestic and international destinations. The airport in Celaya serves domestic destinations.
The three main cities for tourism are the capital city of Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende and Dolores Hidalgo. Guanajuato is visited for its colonial architecture and its role in Mexico's history, especially during the War of Independence. Similarly, San Miguel has cultural and historical value. Both have been designated World Heritage Sites. Although not a World Heritage Site, Dolores Hidalgo is particularly important as the site as it is where Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla gave the cry called "El Grito" which began the War of Independence.
The state has set up tourist routes such as the Ruta de Independencia, Ruta de Aventura (Aventure Route), Ruta Arqueológica (Archeological Route), Ruta de los Conventos (Monastery Route) and Ruta Artesanal (Handcrafts Route). The Ruta de la Independencia or Independence Route comprises ten municipalities through which the insurgent army under Miguel Hidalgo passed. These include San Miguel de Allende, Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, León, Irapuato, Pénjamo, Salamanca, Celaya, Salvatierra and Acámbaro. In preparation for the Bicentennial of Mexico's independence, the state rehabilitated and marked the sites in which the significant historic events occurred in each of these locations.
The Ruta de Aventura connects ghost towns and abandoned mines with natural areas for hiking, mountain biking and ATV as well as other extreme sports such as paragliding. One of the ghost towns is Mineral de Pozos in the northeast of the state. The town still has its cobblestone streets with names such as Relámpago (lightning), Estrellas (stars) and Flores (Flowers). The houses here are abandoned, many in ruins and none with roofs. The town reached its height during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it was called Ciudad Porfirio Díaz, but the mines later gave out and the population left. In 1982, the town was declared a Historic Monument Zone. Although no one lives there, tourism keeps a few businesses alive around the main square such as the Pozos cantina, which exhibits photographs and other memorabilia on its walls. Outside the town is the Santa Brigida mine which sustained the town until it gave out. It is marked by three large ovens with tall pyramid roofs. These were constructed by the Jesuits to work ore from the mine.
The Ruta Arqueológica (Archeological Route) links the two pre-Hispanic sites of Plazuelas and Peralta which are open to visitors with two others which are scheduled to be opened in the future: La Virgen de la Cañada in San Miguel de Allende and El Cóporo in Ocampo.
The Ruta de los Conventos or Monastery Route is concentrated in the south of the state, where a number of large religious complexes were built in the early colonial period for evangelization purposes. The Agustino de San Pablo Church and Monastery is located in Yuriria founded by the Augustinians who arrived from Michoacán in the 16th century. It is a monumental fortress-like construction designed by Friar Diego de Chávez y Alvarado and Pedro del Toro and constructed in an area with relatively little population. The monastery became a center from which missionaries would be trained and then sent forth and its size and battlements helped to protect it from Chichimeca attacks. The church retains its original function and Plateresque facade, but the monastery area has been converted into a museum. The Las Capucinas Church and Convent is in Salvatierra and is one of only three complexes built for nuns in the entire state during the colonial period. It has a fortress like appearance and its construction is attributed to Joaquin de Heredia, of the San Carlos Academy. During the Porfirio Díaz presidency, the convent was used as a Civil Hospital and later as a school, which still remains with the name of Colegio José María Morelos. The San Francisco Church and Monastery is in Acámbaro and built between 1734 and 1743. Its facade is Baroque of light pink stone. Inside, the church contains one of the most notable main altars in the Bajio region. It is Neoclassical built of gray and pink stone with gilded details, with an image of the Virgen María Refugio de Pecadores (Virgin Mary Refuge of Sinners), which is replica of an image in Zacatecas.
The Ruta Artesanal (Handcrafts Route) connects a number of municipalities which specialize in one or more handcrafted items, including food. These include Acámbaro, noted for its bread, Coroneo for its wool items and Tarancuaro for ceramics.
The state is home to several historically important cities, especially those along the Bicentennial Route, which retraces the path of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla's insurgent army at the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. This route begins at Dolores Hidalgo, and passes through the Sanctuary of Atotonilco, San Miguel de Allende, Celaya, and the capital of Guanajuato. Other important cities in the state include León, and Irapuato.
The state has many water parks and thermal springs converted into water parks. Some of these include El Trébol, Villa Gasco and Comanjilla near León, Caldera Abasolo near Irapuato and Abasolo and Los Arcos and Agua Caliente near Celaya.
The annual Festival Internacional Cervantino takes place in the city of Guanajuato and some other affiliated venues in the state. The event sponsors a large number of artistic and cultural events with artists invited from Mexico and other parts of the world. The festival hosts events such as opera, theater productions, film showings, art exhibitions, academic conferences and talks, concerts and dance recitals. The performances occur in 70 different venues over most of the month of October. In addition to the major events in venues, artists such as dancers, clowns and more, give small and sometimes impromptu shows on the streets, sidewalks and small plazas that are located in the city. Because of this, the event brings many visitors to the city who wander the streets, visiting the many sights of the city. During the event, hotel occupancy rates are as high as 98%.
A parallel event is the Festival International Cervantino Callejero. This event includes hundreds of performances with social themes.
The Festival Internacional de Cine Expresión en Corto is one of the most important cinematographic events in the country. Most events associated with the festival take place in the city of Guanajuato and San Miguel Allende and awards prizes in various categories including commercials. The showing of films is sometimes in unusual locations such as one of Guanajuato's tunnels under the city or in the municipal cemetery at midnight.
The International Balloon Festival takes place each November near the city of León. It's a spectacular sight to see hundreds of hot air balloons take to the sky as the sun rises.
Many of the dishes that are traditionally eaten in Guanajuato are regional variations of dishes known in other parts such as carnitas, tamales, birria and pozole. A version of the enchilada is called the enchilada minero (miners’ enchilada), which is a tortilla fried in lard and then filled with chicken and covered with a sauce made with guajillo chili peppers, a ranchero cheese and chopped potatoes and carrots. A movement to update many of these dishes, keeping to traditional ingredients, is called "Guanajuato fusion". This is most popular in upscale restaurants in San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato and can include dishes such as tuna with chili peppers and duck with mesquite honey.
The state is better known as the producer of a number of food products such as cajeta, bread, candy, and ice cream. The best-known food product is cajeta, a soft, spreadable sweet product made with goat's milk, sugar, and flavorings. The best known place for this is Celaya. The cajeta can be flavored with vanilla, coconut, strawberry, and others; it is eaten with a spoon from the container, spread on bread, or made into candies. Another typical sweet in the state is called charamuscas. It is made with piloncillo, which is melted to form shapes. In the city of Guanajuato, one can find charamuscas in the shape of mummies. Alfeñique refers to glass sugar based candies used to form figures and is most popular for Day of the Dead. Chilacayote is a candy made from a type of melon of the same name, which is prepared by soaking pieces of the fruit in sugar solution. Handmade ice cream is a specialty of Dolores Hidalgo, made with all natural ingredients, often using recipes passed down for generations. While ice cream and ices are made in other parts of the state, these stand out because of the many unusual flavors offered such as beer, pulque, chile relleno, even shrimp and mole. The Franciscans taught the indigenous how to work with wheat and bake bread. Because there had already been a tradition of kneading clay for pottery, the kneading and baking of wheat bread became established quickly, adapting the original recipes to local tastes. The best known breads are those from Acámbaro, especially the type called "pan grande". Other well-known types are pan ranchero, tallado, pan huevo and pan leche. The first indigenous master baker in Guanajuato was Abraham de Silva Cuín, who, in 1526, began to make breads in unique forms and flavors.