“Instead of climbing over the mountain, they blasted a tunnel right through it, but they didn’t run electricity,” our friend told us about Las Siete Luminarias. Bring flashlights stuck in mind.
One place that I really wanted to visit ever since learning of its existence was Las Siete Luminarias. The best known is called El Rincón del Parangueo. This is located near Valle de Santiago, Guanajuato, Mexico.
This begs the question, what are Las Siete Luminarias?
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Las Siete Luminarias or The Seven Luminaries
In the state of Guanajuato, there is an area that is known for its many craters. It is called Las Siete Luminarias (or the 7 Luminaries), because there are 7 craters within a 90 km (56 mile) area (my research confirmed there are actually 16 craters in this area, but legends only talk about 7). I was told the area is considered an alien hotspot and online research confirms there are many legends about aliens, UFO sightings, and stories about the giant vegetables grown in this area.
The most famous of the seven (and the more “touristy,” if one can call it that, of the two we visited) is El Rincón del Parangueo. This crater is worth including in your Guanajuato itinerary. When I say it is the most touristy, I use the term loosely. We followed people who knew where we were going and without them, I’m not sure we would’ve found it, even with the few signs (marked Las 7 Luminarias ).
Our Story Begins Here
One sunny Saturday, our friends said they were going to Las Siete Luminarias and would we like to come? HECK YES, I responded. I’ve been wanting to go since I heard about it 3 months ago. We followed our friends to their friends’ house. When we arrived, our friend announced he’d received a call from his dentist and that he needed to go in and have his tooth worked on. He’d been suffering all week and this last minute appointment was necessary. So, our friend bowed out, but his friends graciously agreed to take us to the crater anyway.
Luckily, our new friends spoke English (and quite well), so we could easily communicate. I did practice my Spanish un poquito (a little), because I do have a goal to be conversational by one year and fluent before 2 years. And now that I’ve announced that publicly: YIKES! Maybe I should edit that out.
Finding this gem
After an hour or so of driving and winding through little country towns, we parked in someone’s driveway (we paid) and it was very close to the entrance of the crater. The entrance isn’t a big fancy, well-marked area, but there are vendors outside selling fruit and candy. The entrance is a roughly 1 km tunnel without electricity, so bring a flashlight. Be aware that your phone will search for signal in the tunnel and also the crater (though my husband was able to get one bar and bookmarked the location). I kept my phone on airplane mode the whole time. I still used up quite a bit of battery by taking pictures and videos.
Once you emerge from the tunnel, you can see the whole of El Rincón del Parangueo before you. The crater itself is white and dotted with two “lakes” (called jewels). We stopped for a photo op there, before continuing deeper down.
It’s awe inspiring
From there, you walk down a path (this area does have railings) and into a fairly flat area, where there are stalls and vendors selling food and horseback rides. I did see a playground, but we didn’t end up heading in that direction. We decided to descend into the crater.
Most of it seems sheer, like it’s not climbable. The fearless 16 year old we were with did not share my trepidation. He went down and back up the crater before the rest of us even decided to try the descent. There is an area near where the vendors are that is not as steep and you can climb down in a switch back pattern. My 4 and 5 year old children had zero problems with this and we had to remind them to slow down, in case the gravel decided to slide under them. Younger children will likely need some help, but it’s do-able.
As always, use caution when trying something like this with a baby who needs to be carried. I do NOT recommend babywearing and climbing up or down this crater, as falling is a hazard.
Beam me down to the planet’s surface, Scotty
Inside the crater feels like another planet. So much in fact, that I wouldn’t be surprised if episodes of Star Trek, Doctor Who, or other sci-fi shows and movies had been filmed there (to my knowledge, the only thing filmed there was a music video, so Hollywood producers, take note!) It’s also much bigger than it looks from the top. We were also warned not to get too close to the lakes because the mud is famous for stealing your shoes. However, as the wet season seems to be over, most of the ground inside the crater was dry and we stayed a few feet away from the water’s edge.
I might’ve taken a few hundred pictures of this crater, because I found it unique and so beautiful. It was also astounding to me that this majestic natural wonder felt like a hidden gem. Yes, it was “discovered,” but it wasn’t overrun with crowds.
Our group of 10 ended up climbing up one of the sheer walls of the crater, except upon closer inspection, this climb was not that bad at all. Yes, I was out of breath, but it also didn’t feel difficult. My kids climbed it like it was easy. You don’t need fancy equipment, you do need to have a bit of balance and flexibility.
After climbing out of the crater
We walked back towards the tunnel. We did stop to buy cold water and esquite from the vendors (I still didn’t take a picture, I dug right in because I love it). I was able to get mine in a cup, because I’m not ready to eat esquite on the cob in front of people. I’m afraid I’ll make a big ol’ mess. My kids went with the other family’s 7 and 12 year old and found snacks that they liked.
“There’s another crater not far from here, would you like to go?” our friend asked. “It’s different from this one.”
Of course, we said, yes! This adventure led to more adventures and that is another post for another day.
Is it worth is to see Las Sietes Luminarias?
Is a resounding YES enough to convince you to go visit? I hope so. When you are planning your visit to Guanajuato City, GTO, or Queretaro, QRO, know that Las Sietes Luminarias are under an hour and a half drive. It is worth trying to find this lovely gem. Be aware, you will want to take a lot of pictures, so make sure your batteries are fully charged!
While this crater is called El Rincón deul Parangueo, I’d only heard it called Las Siete Luminarias. The signs also say Las Siete Luminarias. If you google search this term, it gives you the location of the area and not of this specific crater. However, you can find the location on facebook.
As I mentioned, it’s suitable for kids and I found food suitable for celiacs (esquite is corn with cheese, mayonnaise, limon, and chili spice). At the entrance, we also purchased pomegranate seeds (a whole cup for 10 pesos – wow!) and other cut fruits, marshmallows, and candy were also available for sale.
How to get there
This is a little tricky. I can’t tell you how to get there, as we made so many twists and turns. When we got close, kids started running after us, perhaps with the intent of convincing us to park in their house’s driveway. Since we were following people, they made the arrangements of where to park. We paid 30 pesos. We only had to walk a short distance (maybe 2 minutes) to reach the entrance.
From this site, the English translation says, “Departing from the city of Valle de Santiago, take the road to Guarapo in km.5 approximately is the deviation to the community of Rincón de Parangueo, through which there are signs that lead directly to the tunnel. ”
What places have you visited that have lived up to the hype in your mind? Are there any places you’ve visited that have been disappointing?