San Miguel de Allende is a central Mexican town surrounded by mountains and founded around a hot spring. Its warm days and cool nights, preservation of Central Mexican highland culture, a history steeped in art, and its cobblestone charm have made this off-the-beaten-path town a must-see destination for tourists in the know. The famous Mexican art school, Instituto Allende (tel. +52-415/152-0190; www.instituto-allende.edu.mx), founded in 1950 brought Mexicans, wealthy foreigners and American G.I.s eager to spend their G.I. Bill cash beyond American borders. More recently, Tony Cohan's book On Mexican Time has lured foreigners and Americans seeking a mild climate and an upscale Bohemian lifestyle.
Where to Stay
With hospitable foreigners and art students lurking about, it's no surprise that a fair share of bed and breakfasts and inexpensive rooms have popped up all over town. Casa de Liza (tel. +52-415/152-0352; www.casaliza.com) is an upscale bed and breakfast owned by an American interior designer who has put together a colorful and comfortable place that's well situated for exploring the art scene, small alleyways and wide squares of San Miguel de Allende. Composed mostly of suites, Casa de Liza has accommodations for couples, families or groups of friends. The Library Suite starts at $169 per night with the Villa Manuela that sleeps four going for $385 per night. The hotel overlooks the hot springs around which San Miguel de Allende was founded.
Located just a few steps from El Jardin, San Miguel's town center, the Casa de Suenos (tel. +52-415/152-0637; www.casadesuenosmexico.com) bills itself as a guest house and artistic retreat. Rates for the three available rooms start at $80 for the Green Room and $120 for the Blue Suite with private bath and private patio. Whether you stay at the guest or not, you can participate in Casa de Suenos owner Keith Keller's painting school where tuition costs just $180 per month.
San Miguel is also home to many individually-owned boutique hotels. La Morada Hotel (tel. 877/587-6748; www.lamoradahotel.com) is a 12-suite and three deluxe room spot with a large downstairs gathering area surrounding a courtyard. Like most San Miguel guest houses and hotels, La Morada has a rooftop patio for enjoying the local views and the well-lit spires of local churches and ancient buildings. Rates start at about $145 per night. Call for 2007 high-season rates, which should be available within the next few weeks.
On the inexpensive side, the Mansion del Bosque (tel. +52-415/152-0277; http://infosma.mexican-gold.com/mansion) is a small guest house located slightly away from the church bells and taxi horns of the central square but just four blocks away from the Instituto Allende. With meals, rates start at just $49 for a single bed with a shower. The hotel has a small, well-stocked bar and a blue-tiled dining room. Rooms with double beds cost $90 and all of the hotel's 23 rooms have private terraces. A room without meals in the low-season summer costs $37. High season runs from December 15 to the end of March.
Like most mountain destinations, getting to San Miguel de Allende is an experience in itself. Buses from Mexico City take between 3½ and 4½ hours per trip. First-class buses have bathrooms, air conditioning and often provide a box lunch. Second class buses mean fewer frills and do not have on-board bathrooms. You can catch a bus to San Miguel (www.portalsanmiguel.com) from Mexico City's Central Del Norte station. The price of the bus trip costs between $14 and $20 one way.
The closest airport to San Miguel is the León International Airport, an hour and a half from San Miguel. Continental (tel. 800/525-0280; www.continental.com) and American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) are a few of the major carriers that service the airport with direct flights from Los Angeles, Houston and Dallas. Most hotels can arrange transportation to San Miguel for arriving passengers. American Airline flights from Dallas cost around $424 roundtrip booking one-month in advance. Check back for online specials and sales to and from Mexico.
As far as things to do and see, San Miguel is a walker's paradise. The streets widen and narrow all in the same view with sunsets peering in behind church tops and tall trees. El Jardin, the town's main square, is filled of roving musicians, people painting, reading on park benches, and selling local crafts. Churches are the principal architectural gems. You should visit the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel and the Oratorio de San Felipe for examples of the stark differences in architectural styles. The Instituto Allende is also a must see, as much for its Spanish colonial architecture as its central role in the town's resurgence.
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