Heading north from Mexico City is a region of beautiful colonial towns and cities built on the wealth of silver mines and famous for their stunning architecture, ornate baroque churches and pretty cobbled streets. The central highlands have long held a strategic place in Mexican history. For the Spanish conquistadores, discovering rich deposits of silver allowed them to build opulent towns, many now designated World Heritage sites. Also the scene of Mexican rebellions against the Spanish in the 19th century, the region is often referred to as the Cradle of Independence. Stroll cobbled streets set deep into hillsides and marvel at beautiful colonial buildings and fabulous local arts and crafts – especially silver jewellery and ceramics.
A circular route north of Mexico City takes you on a journey of discovery that visits many of these colonial gems including Queretaro, San Miguel de Allende, Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Leon and San Luis Potosi.
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel is so strikingly lovely in its architecture that it has been designated a national monument. Its many beautifully restored colonial mansions house delightful patio restaurants and fine shops. It is also a great university town popular with students of painting, weaving, sculpture and photography making it a haven for artisans and a great place to browse galleries and handicraft stalls.
This is one of Mexico's finest colonial jewels. The town is studded with charming and amazingly well-preserved baroque churches, temples and mansions boasting graceful balconies and ornate facades. The name Queretaro is believed to be Purepecha for 'site of the ball-game' or 'place where there are rocks'. If the second is true, perhaps the rocks the Indians were referring to were opals, amethysts and other precious stones found in rich supply throughout this mountainous region. The town much later also played a vital role in the struggle for independence from the Spanish and the revolution. It was here that Mexico's Constitution was written and signed.
Nestled in a narrow canyon between huge mountains, this town is very picturesque with its quaint plazas, colonial buildings, winding cobblestone streets, hidden alleyways and underground passages. When the Spaniards arrived, they found the mountains were rich in silver and a mining town flourished here that soon became the richest in Mexico, producing more than a third of the world's silver by the 18th century.
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