The extraordinary Unesco World Heritage city of Guanajuato was founded in 1559 due to the region's rich silver and gold deposits. Opulent colonial buildings, stunning tree-filled plazas and brightly colored houses are crammed together on to the steep slopes of a narrow ravine where excellent museums, handsome theaters and a fine marketplace punctuate cobblestone streets. The city's main roads twist around the hillsides and plunge into long dank subterranean tunnels, formerly rivers.
The city is best known internationally for its acclaimed annual arts event, the Festival Cervantino. Yet this colorful and lively place holds center stage all year; much of the youthful vibrancy and prolific cultural activities – callejoneadas, films, theater and orchestras – can be attributed to the 20,000 students of the city's own University of Guanajuato. In short, Guanajuato is the state's slightly gritty but fascinating capital city and should not be missed by anyone traveling in the region.