Fifty kilometres or so from both Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, DOLORES HIDALGO is as ancient and as historically rich as either of its southern neighbours. This was Father Hidalgo's parish, and it was from the church in the main plaza here that the historic Grito de la Independencia ("Cry of Independence") was first issued in 1810 . The town celebrates the event annually with the Fiestas de Septiembre, ten days of cultural and sporting events, music and fireworks, culminating with the Grito around dawn on the sixteenth.
Just a couple of blocks from the bus station as you walk towards the central plaza, the Casa Hidalgo (Tues– Sat 10am–5.45pm, Sun 10am–4.45pm; M$24, free on Sun), Hidalgo's home, has been converted into a museum devoted to his life, very much a point of pilgrimage for Mexicans on day trips. It's a bit heavy on written tributes from various groups to the "Father of Independence" and on copies of other correspondence he either sent or received – but it's interesting nonetheless and includes a few highlights such as his letter of excommunication from the Inquisition less than a month after the Grito. Continuing in the same direction, you come to a beautifully laid-out plaza, overlooked by the exuberant facade of the famous church, where a left turn takes you to the Museo de la Independencia Nacional, Zacatecas 6 (daily 9am–5pm; M$15, free on Sun). Inside, vibrant, graphic murals depict significant scenes from Mexican history from the Aztec perception of the world through to the life of Hidalgo. Don't miss the glass cabinets filled with record sleeves and cowboy boots that pay homage to the greatest ranchera singer of all time, José Alfredo Jimenez, another of Dolores's native sons, who died in 1973.
Besides a couple of other graceful churches, there's little else here but the attraction of the dilapidated old streets themselves. As you wander around, look out for the locally made ceramics. They're an ancient tradition and on sale everywhere. The bigger shops are near the Casa Hidalgo, but the best deals are found on the outskirts of town.
Dolores is connected to both San Miguel and Guanajuato by regular, rapid buses to and from the Flecha Amarilla terminal, on Hidalgo beside the river. Herradura de Plata also has a terminal a block away at the corner of Chiapas and Yucatán, from where buses run every thirty minutes south to San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City. There's little need to visit Dolores's small tourist office (daily 10am–4pm; Tel:& F418/182-1164), on the main plaza by the church, but they can give advice on where to buy ceramics.
Finding a room is seldom a problem except during the week leading up to September 16, when the town is packed. The cheapest of the local hotels is Posada Dolores, Yucatán 8, past the Independence Museum and then left (Tel:418/182-0642; Price: M$150-200), easily missed behind a small doorway. Some rooms are pretty basic, while others (Price: M$200-250) have been recently modernized. Slightly more upscale places are all good value: try the modern Hotel Posada Hidalgo, Hidalgo 15, near the bus station (Tel:418/182-2683, F182-0477; Price: M$350-500), which has a small gym and a sauna; Hotel Caudillo, Querétaro 8 (Tel:& F418/182-0198; Price: M$350-500), beside the church; and Posada Cocomacan, Plaza Principal 4 (Tel:418/182-6086, Web: www.posadacocomacan.com.mx ; Price: M$350-500), with its cool interior, cable TV and some rooms overlooking the plaza.
You can also eat well around the plaza, notably at the restaurant at Hotel Caudillo, which does a M$65 comida corrida. For those with a sweet tooth, Dulcería el Cubilete is a wonderful candy store right next door that sells all sorts of sugary regional delicacies. The tiny restaurant adjacent to Posada Dolores serves heavenly tacos made with freshly pressed corn tortillas and comidas corridas for just M$28. Dolores Hidalgo is also home to the country's most unusual ice cream flavours: Mexicans come in droves to the Plaza Principal to lick scoops of creamy alfalfa, mole, cerveza, shrimp and avocado (fortunately most vendors let you sample before you commit to a full cone).