This post was written by Achaessa, a busy mom of two girls and sundry rescue critters. She works from home for a distributed company and enjoys road trips, reading, and eating her husband’s cooking.
I live in San Miguel de Allende, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in central Mexico. It’s so central that it is called the “Heart of Mexico.” Our town is known for its colonial heritage and being the birthplace of the Mexican Revolution. But, when springtime arrives, we’re better known for our trees – specifically, the jacaranda trees that grow throughout the city.
This season our city is filled with purple blooms. An internet search can show you flyover views of a fairy tale city, filled with puffs of purple, with the pink Parroquia church standing right in the middle. From the Mirador lookout, it’s equally magical without the church in view:
At ground level, you’ll walk through carpets of delicate flowers. If you’re out in the late afternoon, when the sunset winds arrive, you’ll experience a real purple rain.
And, it truly does feel enchanting when you’re drenched by purple blossoms.
In addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage site, San Miguel de Allende was voted “Best City in the World” by Travel & Leisure magazine readers – for two straight years (2017 and 2018). Keep these accolades in mind if you decide to travel to the beautiful town, which is known for its Spanish colonial architecture. The city has narrow roads and alleyways, certainly adding to its charm but also making navigation challenging, especially as increasing throngs of tourists visit. But, don’t let it deter you – San Miguel del Allende is a magical place!
How to get there:
There are three airports that will get you to San Miguel de Allende: Mexico City (MEX), Queretaro (QRO), and Leon/Guanajuato (BJX). From any of these airports, you either can rent a car or catch a bus, depending upon your travel preference. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to stop at an ATM inside the airport to get Mexican pesos because you’ll generally obtain a better exchange rate (instead of using a currency exchange shops). Most transactions in Mexico are done in cash.
MEX – If you’re watching your budget, then fly into Mexico City and catch a PrimeraPlus bus to San Miguel de Allende. The bus fare is less than $40USD, but it will take you about 4.5 hours to arrive from Terminal 2 of MEX airport. This travel time includes a change of bus in the Queretaro Central bus station (be sure to ask for the bus sin paradas, i.e., without stops). The buses are modern and comfortable and often have television screens with movies playing. You also can take a taxi within the Mexico City airport complex from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 and then ride a four-hour bus directly to San Miguel del Allende (with no bus change).
If you rent a car in Mexico City because you want to take a road trip and make stops along the way, the drive is about four hours on the highway. You should plan your stops and try to arrive before dark (or stay in a hotel along the way). I don’t recommend driving after dark because the highways and roads are often not well-marked or well-lit, and, if your route includes any non-highway roads, you easily could come across an unexpected road bumps or livestock. You’ll also want to plan to have pesos on hand for highway tolls.
QRO – If budget or time isn’t a concern and you want to travel as directly as possible, then fly into Queretaro. Your arrival time will be about the same as if you’d flown into MEX and caught a bus because you’ll usually have about a 90-minute layover in MEX for your connecting flight. From the QRO airport you can take a taxi to the Queretaro Central bus station, and then take a bus to San Miguel. Or, you can rent a car for the 90-minute drive.
From either MEX or QRO airports, you also can use a local transportation service like BajioGo.
You’ll notice that I didn’t talk about the BJX airport. It’s about the same amount of time as QRO, but I don’t like the roads in between, and the flights often arrive during the dark morning or nighttime hours.
Where to stay:
Since I actually live in San Miguel de Allende, I do not have any particular recommendations for hotels. However, there are some lovely studios/apartments available for rent, all within walking distance of el centro, or the main plaza.
In addition, I have two different studio apartments available for rental: one small and one large. I typically offer the apartments for around $33 per day (short-term rentals under 2 weeks) or $22 per day (two to four week rentals). For long-term renters, I can offer a month-to-month discount (ping me on Facebook for more details!). I live in the Guadalupe neighborhood, which is only an eight-minute walk to el centro and famous for its graffiti murals.
Travel & Leisure magazine recently published some hotel recommendations in their April 2019 issue. Here’s their list, which includes a number of luxurious options:
- Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada
- Rosewood San Miguel de Allende
- Hotel Amparo
- L’ôtel at Dôce 18 Concept House
- Casa Blanca 7
- Live Aqua Urban Resort San Miguel de Allende
Where to eat:
There are food surprises on every street in San Miguel de Allende. My latest discovery is an unexpectedly delicious crunchy parsley taco with olive oil at Ten Ten Pie. My favorite place to eat, with spectacular traditional Mexican food and top-notch service, is El Rincon de Don Tomas. Both restaurants have outdoor seating on busy corners along La Parroquia, which is great for people watching.
Here are some other top places to eat in San Miguel de Allende, per the latest Tripadvisor.com ratings:
- El Pato Barbacoa y Mixiotes
- Nicasio Comedor Mexicano
- Inside Café
- Mon Bistro International Cuisine
- La Parada
- Casa Nostra Restaurant (Terrace & Rooftop Bar)
- Mario’s Mariscos Frescos Estilo Mazatlan
- Café MuRo
Fun stuff to do (in addition to jacaranda viewing and exploring the beautiful town):