San Miguel de Allende: Outdoor Adventure in a Mexican Paradise
By Nadine Jacomo
As a new norm of travel takes shape amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s comforting for tourists to know a destination is taking every necessary precaution to ensure the health of its residents and visitors.
On July 15th, San Miguel De Allende opened its doors so guests can once again experience the magnificent magic of this region, garnishing the World Travel & Tourism Council’s “Safe Travels” stamp of approval.
This designation recognizes the city’s implementation of global standardized health and hygiene products to safeguard locals and visitors in the wake of the pandemic.
6200 Feet Up
Located in the far eastern portion of Guanajuato, Mexico, 6,200-feet above sea level, San Miguel de Allende is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Earning a distinctive honor as a UNESCO World Heritage City, the delightful mountaintop community nicknamed the Heart of Mexico is filled with unforgettable Old Mexican charm.
A Magical Blend
It’s here in this magical place that the modern and the ancient blend together in perfect harmony.
Picturesque cobblestone streets, Spanish colonial architecture, inspired works of art, and fascinating 18th-century churches celebrate San Miguel De Allende’s folklore and age-old traditions. Newer architecturally-designed structures add complimentary touches of cosmopolitan flare.
Painters and Writers
The purity of San Miguel’s seductive colors, character, and light draws painters, writers, and sculptures like moths to a flame. It’s all this and more that gives the town a mystical quality that lures visitors time and again.
One of the best-kept secrets of this awe-inspiring area is its innate ability to immerse visitors in an authentic Mexican experience that few cities can match.
While its amazing history, culture, and food are a major draw, it’s San Miguel’s spectacular natural setting that is so appealing, inviting guests to interact with the beauty of the region through nature and the outdoors.
Here are some experiences outdoor aficionados should have on their “to-do” list as they explore enchanting San Miguel de Allende.
El Charco Del Ingenio
A privately-funded ecological reserve and botanical garden, El Charco Del Ingenio is located just a few minutes from the heart of the historical city. The name is derived from the spring-fed pool nestled within its impressive canyon.
Dedicated to the restoration and conservation of rare, threatened, and endangered Mexican cacti and plants, the picturesque preserve features a network of meandering paths where visitors can stroll, hike, and jog surrounded by the beauty of nature.
The remains of an old mill and hacienda manor house reside within the reserve. More adventurous types will love scaling the walls of the canyon for the best bird-watching spots.
Cañada de la Virgen
Excavations beginning in 1995 revealed evidence that it was the Otomi, an indigenous people of Mexico that once inhabited the Cañada de la Virgen zone for thousands of years.
Located only 13 miles from San Miguel de Allende, the vast, rugged area boasts towering mountain ranges, ancestral pyramids, and natural springs.
The archeological park, with its origins in the 6th– century contains ruins of a Native American Indian observatory, colossal temple, and burial chambers.
Kevin Varner, a recent Stanford graduate says that “walking through the grounds of the pyramid and archeological site with 5 college buddies blew our minds. Imagine being among 6th-century ruins.”
Three of the five architectural complexes within the lesser-traveled ruins can be explored, including Complex A’s “13 Sky House,” a 16-meter tall pyramid ideal for celestial navigation.
Complex B, the “House of the Longest Night” renowned for its pyramidal basement, and Complex D’s mostly-circular “House of the Wind.”
Benito Juarez Park
A delightful park and garden nestled in the heart of town, Benito Juarez Park sports a French-inspired design with ponds, fountains, wrought iron benches, and old bridges. Playgrounds and basketball courts add to the ambiance of this outdoor recreational area.
The wide roads and trails of this 20th-century park are ideal for exploring the native flora and fauna of the region including chirimoyas, blackberries, and walnut trees.
Main Garden (El Jardin)
El Jardin is San Miguel’s main plaza and central square situated in the heart of the historic district.
Though the area is a perfect place to explore magnificent portal arches, colonial buildings, and the old Municipal Palace, it is the garden, with its myriad of colorful plants and shaded laurel trees that beckons visitors to this central spot.
Locals and visitors alike can be found relaxing on the wrought-iron benches as they are entertained by local musicians, or viewing one of the town’s lively, colorful parades.
San Miguel’s Famous Hot Springs
Natural hot springs, or balnearios, as they are locally known are also located within the San Miguel de Allende region. Believed to have healing, detox, and regenerative powers, these mineral-rich waters ranging from tepid to hot, heated by subterranean volcanic activity are amazing.
I loved the peace, tranquility, and relaxation at my favorite San Miguel hot spring, La Gruta (The Grotto).
The spa contains several thermal pools and an underground cave where hot water gushing from a tube gives guests a welcoming water massage to the head and shoulders.
The property also contains a lap pool, a temescal (traditional steam bath), and a variety of massage treatments to choose from. Guests can even stay for lunch or enjoy a traditional margarita in paradise.
San Miguel Parque de Aventura
Ecotourism, adventure and nature lovers flock to the San Miguel Adventure Park that offers a myriad of activities for outdoor enthusiasts.
From horseback riding with panoramic views, mountain biking, and all-terrain quad biking to zip-lining almost 500-feet above a picturesque canyon and suspension bridge, this adventure park provides loads of fun along with plenty of awesome adrenaline rushes.
In addition to individual activities, combination packages are available for zip-lining and horseback riding, zip-lining and quad biking, and more for a full-day of outside escapades.
Coyote Canyon Guanajuato
A family-owned destination management company specializing in adventure and ecotourism, Coyote Canyon Adventures offers numerous outdoor adventures, excursions, archeological and cultural tours in the San Miguel de Allende environs.
Guests can enjoy horseback riding, cattle roundups and rodeos, hiking, hot springs, geode hunting, stargazing, ATV tours, zip-lining, cliff rappelling, and more. Various combination packages are available for full-day adventures.
“I live for adventure and the zip-lining at San Miguel Adventure Park was totally awesome. I had to do it again, this time with friends” exclaims Dan Nadolo, an IT specialist from Seattle.
Other outdoor treasures include captivating cultural tours allowing visitors to explore the traditions of Meso-America and get up-close-and-personal with its fascinating pyramid and archeological sites and the region’s storied past.
For those into food and wine, cooking classes and wine tours are a fun way to celebrate San Miguel de Allende’s fiesta way of life.
Hot air ballooning at sunrise is one of the best ways to get a panoramic bird’s eye view of the San Miguel countryside and bask in the beauty of this magnificent landscape.
Brenda Hill, a marketing executive from Austin says “I had one of the best experiences of my life on the hot balloon ride. Just couldn’t get over the incredible views.”
La vida es buena. Yes, in San Miguel de Allende, life is good.
Nadine Jacomo is a graduate of the University of California and now works as a copywriter in San Francisco.