The Guanajuato tunnels are a series of wide channels that extended under the city and help divert traffic away from the city centre. These tunnels were not primary constructed for traffic, but as a diversion for the “Rio Guanajuato” (Guanajuato River) to prevent flooding to the early mining town. The tunnels are a unique sight of Guanajuato, with decorative entrances and charming open stretches, but it is unpleasant to walk through the longer sections due to traffic fumes.
Inside the tunnels, there are footpaths, but the pollution and fumes are nauseating
Tourist Information about the Guanajuato Tunnels
The tunnels of Guanajuato are like a rabbit warren, with different layer cross roads and underground junctions. Few other cities can boast such an elaborate method to both hide and limit traffic. The tunnels generally take traffic that is heading in an eastwards direction, while the westward direction passes through the city centre.
These two levels of roads make maps of Guanajuato particularly confusing especially as some of the city’s major bus stops are subterranean. All of the tunnels have footpaths but some of the longer enclosed tunnels can be tiresome on the lungs and eyes, as polluting lorries and buses pass through. The tunnels are perfectly safe to navigate along and (according to the locals) are even safe for tourists late at night.
History of the Guanajuato Tunnels
The longest of the tunnels, the “Túnel La Galereña”, was originally excavated in the early 19th century to divert the “Rio Guanajuato” (Guanajuato River) that flowed through the heart of the city. The diversion was required during the wet season, around August, as the river commonly swelled and caused significant flooding. The tunnel was blasted out using dynamite, using the skills and expertise mastered during the many years of mining operations. The river diversion prevented flooding in Guanajuato since the construction.
The tunnels are vital to the road network
A second tunnel was dug during 1960’s, which diverted the river much deeper and used improved materials and techniques, as the original tunnel showed signs of collapse and subsidence. This, combined with the dam further up stream, meant that the present day water flow is much smaller and more controlled. The old river tunnels were strengthened, reinforced and converted into a road tunnel to cater for the increased levels of traffic. The tunnels were of a suitable size to allow cars, medium sized bus and vans, but prevented larger transport getting into the city. The first journey was in 1961. Several additional tunnels were excavated during the late 1960’s and 1990’s.