We’d heard a lot about San Miguel de Allende, an artsy mountain town about 4 hours north of Mexico City. It is very popular with North American expats, especially retirees, and had been a long-term home for one of the nomad-lifestyle podcasters I follow. So we had high expectations for our week in SMA, and I’m happy to report that it met every one of them.
We flew from Cancun to Mexico City and rented a car to bring us to SMA. The drive, which can be as short as three and a half hours, took us just over four due to traffic, so we arrived a little later than I’d hoped. We stopped at the La Comer grocery store on our way into town, one of the biggest and nicest supermarkets we’ve seen anywhere, including the US. Although it took us a while to find our Airbnb house (review below) in the dark, we felt at home right away.
Although there are museums and other activities in SMA, we were more focused on settling into a nice routine and getting some work done. SMA was perfect for that. We had daily hikes, frequent picnics, and a mix of great dinners out and nicely made meals at home. We had our ideal quality of life in SMA and found the prices at most places very reasonable, especially a great meal enjoyed at a popular restaurant Hecho de Mexico and delightful vegan tacos at Don Taco Tequila. SMA is known for its restaurants and these didn’t disappoint.
Hikes and Activities
SMA is considered an “eternal spring” city, meaning it has temperate weather year-round. The weather in January was pretty idea for us – 70s and sunny during the day. However, it was definitely quite chilly at night in the mid-40s, but our home was energy efficient enough we never needed the heater. And you can’t beat sunny days! They were perfect for hiking.
Our two favorite hikes were reachable from our neighborhood, and we did each of them twice. The first was a walk to a point overlooking a lake near SMA, but the whole walk was picturesque.
The second was a hike up to what we believe is the highest point in the area, which is marked by a cross at the top. We did this hike both times at sunset (with a cerveza to sip) and both sunsets were spectacular.
We also visited a very interesting place called Santuario Escultórico y Museo de Arte Actual “La Estrella.” Though listed on Google as a public place (with 13 reviews), when we pulled up the owner said it was not yet open. However, he let us walk around the property and he was interesting to talk to. He has big plans for his museum and sculpture park onsite and we are interested to see how it changes when we come back in a few years.
We also spent a lovely afternoon at the El Charco del Ingenio Jardín Botánico y Área Natural Protegida. This botanical garden featuring desert plants was well worth its 50 pesos per person entry fee. Even though we visited on a Saturday, it was over-crowded and the grounds were quite extensive, giving us about two hours there.
Of course, SMA is most well-known for its UNESCO-designated historic center. We only spent one evening seeing it, but were impressed by its charm. It is an easy city to navigate on foot, and equally easy to get a taxi to take you home after dark.
Another day, we walked to the Parque Benito Juarez, which is not far from the center. We were very impressed by how lush and verdant the park is – you hardly know you’re in a desert climate! We wanted to go back again and identified the area around the park as an ideal future neighborhood for a longer stay.
We really enjoyed our time in San Miguel de Allende and hope to come back in the future, likely for a month-long stay. However, there are so many places we want to visit in Mexico, it will probably by several years before we reach SMA again. But it is great to know that it lives up to all the hype and is an extremely comfortable and liveable city.
Airbnb Review – We stayed here for a week and loved the place. It feels very homey and it was so nice to have a whole house to ourselves. The home is very spacious with the bedrooms upstairs and a large living space downstairs. The wifi worked well all over the house and the kitchen had everything needed for cooking. We had no trouble with the shower – just be patient letting it heat up fully and then regulate it with the cold water tap. The home’s location is about a 35-minute walk to the historic downtown or it was easy to get a taxi for about 60 pesos (when going out in the evenings, we generally walked to town and took a taxi back). It wasn’t the easiest place to find on our first night arriving tired, but the host was very responsive and helpful. Great communication throughout our stay. We had a car, which made it easier to explore the area and pick up groceries, and it was nice to be able to park right in front of the house always. The best part was being able to walk to a really nice point up the hill for a beautiful sunset (there’s a cross at the top you can see from below).