Travel Guide: San Miguel de Allende

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende is a 67-room boutique hotel, which has received accolades for its family program.
Rosewood San Miguel de Allende is a 67-room boutique hotel, which has received accolades for its family program.

The desire to experience different cultures as a motivation for a vacation has grown dramatically over the last two years, with Millennials leading the charge. Mexico, perhaps more well known as a sun-and-fun destination (think Cancun, Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, et al), also offers many destinations that beckon experiential travelers — and they don’t have to fly across an ocean to get there.

San Miguel de Allende, for one, has something to satisfy oenophiles, art lovers and true spa enthusiasts. There’s also a case to be made for family travelers as well. Here are some insider tips to pass along to interested clients.

Getting There

Travelers will reach this historic city, in the heart of Mexico, by flying into Leon/Guanajuato Airport (BJX). San Miguel is about a 90-minute drive from the airport. International flights are available from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Other airport options include Mexico City Airport, which is about three hours away and Queretaro Airport about an hour away. Tip: Consider combining Mexico City (another cultural hub) and San Miguel de Allende for first-time visitors.

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What to See and Do

Vineyards: This region of Mexico is ideal for wine connoisseurs; there are four vineyards less than 20 minutes from San Miguel. Top Tip: Many hotels will arrange transportation to the vineyards and other sites. The nearby vineyards include:

* Bodega Dos Buhos: This vineyard works with 10 types of grapes. Guests can plan special occasions like a picnic and wine tour afternoon. Tip: Bookings for the picnic must be made in advance.

* Vinicola Toyan: The cellar welcomes large groups and couples for tastings. There is also an area that can host up to 30 people for special events.

* Cuna de Tierra: This cellar is a destination in itself with its beautiful architecture.

* Santisima Trinidad: A large percentage of this estate is dedicated to the vineyard, olive trees and lavender fields but this property also incudes a hotel with six rooms.

Tip: If tequila is more to your client’s liking, suggest they visit La Casa Dragones, where they can enjoy an expert tasting of Casa Dragones Tequila and learn about the handcrafted techniques that result in this signature libation.

Art and Architecture: San Miguel de Allende is known for its art and historical sites and no trip to this city is complete without visiting the pink-towered 19th-century Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, a church with a facade designed by the stonemason Zeferino Gutierrez from a postcard of a Belgian church. This neo-Gothic edifice in the center of the city is one of the top sites. Located across from the main square, Jardin Principal, the church is a must-see. Tip: The local choir sings in this church.

Fabrica La Aurora is the center of art and design in San Miguel. Here there are about 50 galleries, antique shops, furniture stores and some restaurants and cafes. We say it’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon, as the best time to visit is from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visitors should check out the old machines and original pipeline that were part of the textile factory. This site is just a 15-minute walk from the main square.

For architecture buffs, the 18th-century Las Monjas (aka the Convent of the Immaculate Conception) is noted for its distinctive octagonal cupola decorated with Corinthian columns. Inside is a collection of art, including a number of religious paintings by Juan Rodríguez Juárez.

 

The 18th-century Las Monjas (aka the Convent of the Immaculate Conception) is noted for its distinctive octagonal cupola decorated with Corinthian columns.
The 18th-century Las Monjas (aka the Convent of the Immaculate Conception) is noted for its distinctive octagonal cupola decorated with Corinthian columns.

Hot Springs: Just 15 minutes from the city are natural hot springs, which provide a perfect escape and relaxation. Guests can choose between hydrotherapy pools, water slides, thermal water and exclusive spas. Escondido Place offers travelers an oasis with 40 indoor pools, open-air pools and thermal water. This spa also provides massages, including body exfoliation. Another spa option is La Gruta, open from Wednesday to Sunday, giving guests access to the popular thermal water and massages.

Children in particular will love visiting Xote, which is more like a water park than spa, complete with twisting water slides and pools.

Where to Stay

Luxury boutique hotels are the most popular accommodations here, with the 67-room Rosewood San Miguel de Allende garnering top honors from such diverse sources as TripAdvisor, U.S. News & World Report and Virtuoso. The latter, which handed out its Best of the Best” awards during last month’s Virtuoso Travel Week, cited the hotel for having the world’s “Best Family Program.” Among comments from the consortium’s members, Robert Merlin of SmartFlyer said, “The hotel has an amazing family program that introduces children to the culture of the city before they go out and explore it in person.” Kimberly Wilson Wetty of the Valerie Wilson Travel, Inc., noted, “The painting lessons are awesome and a fun way to incorporate culture.”

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende also offers culinary classes and wine tastings; Sense, a Rosewood Spa; and the Rose Buds children’s program. Tip: Families can reserve up to two adjoining suites, and children under 12 stay free in the same room as their parents.

Another highly regarded property is the Hotel Matilda, a modern, minimalistic boutique just three blocks from the main square. The most luxurious accommodation is the Owner Suite C, with its 820-square-foot bedroom that opens onto a terrace.

Matilda was voted “Best Wellness Experience” in Mexico in this year’s Travel + Leisure Hotel Awards. An Art Tour of the hotel is offered throughout the year, giving guests and visitors the opportunity to see some of the most contemporary art in San Miguel from the world-class collection of Harold Stream III. On Fridays, the hotel hosts Mui DJ Nights curated by resident DJ Be Golden.

Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada occupies several colonial mansions within walking distance of popular cultural sites such as the San Miguel de Allende Historical Museum and Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel. At the Sazón Cooking School, housed in an 18th-century mansion, the hotel’s chef guides guests on a culinary journey ranging from regional Mexican favorites to modern classics. For those who just want to savor the flavors, the Andanza restaurant celebrates Mexican tradition in a colonial-style setting. For wellness seekers, the Laja Spa offers a variety of treatments and has a Temazcal (a traditional Mesoamerican sweat lodge).

Tour Package

Journey Mexico’s customizable “Guanajuato and San Miguel Allende” itinerary explores the heart of Mexico’s independence and revolutionary past by visiting these two UNESCO World Heritage Cities as well as the colonial mining village of Mineral de Pozos, one of Mexico’s Magic Towns. Clients will marvel at the colonial architecture, meet local chefs and sample the area’s cuisine, be welcomed into the homes and shops of local artisans, and be taken to underground passageways and mines, including Boca Mina, one of Latin America’s most productive silver mines for more than a century.

Other highlights include a class at the Sazón Cooking School and a visit to San Miguel Artistico to view a private collection of silk embroideries, ceremonial masks, toys, handmade hammered paper art and elaborately painted tin box art. Some items are available for purchase.

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