The stairway to heaven is real, and we’ve found it amid the Unesco-treasured edifices of San Miguel de Allende. So, what’s at the top of these glowing white steps? Angels? Pearly gates? No – even better – it’s where boutique retreat Amatte Wellnest Community worships Mexico’s culinary excellence and gets you good and drunk at no less than four bars. Drink champagne with Bajan oysters, artisanal tequilas with ibérico ham, and avant-garde cocktails, or get stuck into wood-fired steaks, omakase menus hosted by celeb chefs, and the roof garden’s tasty yields – with a side of Mirador-rivalling sunset views. And if that doesn’t convert you, the attention to Mexican craftsmanship and ‘if Escher went to spring break’ design the hotel’s constructivist architect has dreamed up will have you singing hallelujah.
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability and with a week’s notice. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £196.09 ($244), including tax at 16 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of 4% per booking on check-in and an additional service charge of 10% per booking prior to arrival.
Smith guests can choose from the breakfast à la carte for free. Quite the plus, because holy guacamole, what a spread: loaded omelettes, fruit platters with yoghurt and honey, toasts and muffins, pastries, granola, guajillo chilaquiles, and vegan options.
Set on a cobbled hillside with 71 steps up from the entrance, the hotel may not seem like the most wheelchair-friendly space; but, guests with mobility issues can use the glass elevator to ascend to all levels, and stay in six of the more sizable rooms.
At the hotel
Roof garden and terrace, outdoor-only restaurants, kitchen garden, gym, sound room, courtyard, free WiFi. In rooms: Smart TV, Nespresso coffee machine, tea-making kit, Lutron lighting system, minibar, bathrobes and slippers, umbrellas and air-conditioning.
Our favourite rooms
All rooms are masterful displays of Yucateno craftsmanship, with woven and earthenware pieces, chukum-plastered walls, cacti and a beach-y feel. Decor is fairly similar in each, but the Master Suite stands out for its deep-soaking tub steps from the bed, and the Colonial Residence is great for groups, with its private barbecue terrace.
Open from 7am to 11pm, Amatte's beautifully designed pool is laid out in the central courtyard, surrounded by shaded loggias and potted cacti, and architect Shinji has outdone himself in styling out its curvaceous sunken basking benches, tree-planted podiums and hopscotch stone pathway separating shallower water. It resembles an aquatic Zen garden and – while you may need to navigate the odd Instagram shoot – it nicely balances out the rooftops liveliness as a place to drift in peace.
Bring a few spare suitcases – or some kind of U-Haul – for filling with the many handicrafts and homewares you’ll want to bring back with you (luckily, even humble market stalls can help with shipping). And, squish in romantically frothy dresses and floppy hats for sundowners.
Shinji Miyazaki, the hotel’s Japanese constructivist architect, has slayed the assignment, from the reception's chandelier with 150 terracotta pots commissioned in Oaxaca, to statement cacti, and woven and hand-thrown Yucateno handicrafts.
The hotel’s best suited to grown-ups letting their hair down. After all, many steps, shots and pointy cacti don’t mix with young ‘uns.
The hotel cares for the environment in style. A Lutron lighting system and LEDs help to conserve energy; the hotel has reduced plastic use and duly recycles (for example, Casa Dragones’ discarded tequila bottles are used as water bottles in rooms and the paraben-free Laguna Cyprien bath products are stored in glass containers); and drinking water is purified using a BWT filtration system. Traditional and thermodynamic chukum stucco is used in construction to regulate temperatures throughout, and the hotel homages Mexican craftsmanship, with rustic earthenware, woven and carved statement pieces in rooms and a spectacular terracotta chandelier in reception (crafted in Oaxaca). Local, seasonal food is kind of the default now and it’s no different here, but not all hotels have their own roof garden, where herbs, vegetables and flowers for decoration (or cocktail garnishes) are grown in planters, using composted waste from the restaurant; other ingredients come from local ranches or the closest coast. Students of sustainable agriculture at the local university stop by to tend it too. And, monthly, the hotel staff team up with local businesses to form clean-up brigades and clear rubbish from the neighbourhood.
All restaurants are outdoors, but close to Casa Dragones, there’s a sunset-side round table with city-and-beyond views that we'd recommend. And, vertigo-sufferers take note, the sturdy-yet-glass-topped omakase table looks down to the ground floor.
Match the city’s dawn-till-dusk hues: dazzling citrussy shades, sultry siennas and ochres, and first-light pinks.
There are certainly options here; Hacmans is a one-stop shop for epicutes, and the fully wood-fired kitchen slaps steaks from family-owned farms and ranches, sustainable fish and seafood from Baja or nearby rivers and vegetable dishes from local orchards or their very own rooftop garden (raspberries, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and all manner of herbs…), on the grill. Menus change every six months, but (if you can) try aged Cortija cheese risotto, tiradito with cured cucumber and yuzu, or organic chicken with bean stew in a sage jus. At Spanish Corner – you guessed it – Spanish fare abounds in the form of dry-aged Iberico hams and oil-dosed sourdoughs. And, there’s more still: in the interior courtyard is 71st Floor, serving up breakfast, brunch and lunch (think chilaquiles, loaded toasts and omelettes, tropical fruit bowls and more).
I drink a tequila shot, I drink a champagne flute, I drink a Chihuahuan megacero, I drink a ginger mule…I sing the songs that remind me of the good times, I sing the songs that remind of the best times. Chumbawumba’s classic will likely ring through your head as you skip between the four bars on the roof terrace. But, this is an elevated drinking experience in all senses of the word, with spectacular views to behold, tequilas so special each Casa Dragones bottle is signed and numbered, wines judiciously chosen from Mexico’s most sippable appellations (you can look longingly at them in their glazed cellar cubbyhole), the Champagneria has an admirable dedication to fine fizz, and mixologist Miguel Espinoza has concocted some very special cocktails for Aruma (only open on Thursdays), including the signature drink of tequila and xoconostle fruit, infused with tobacco smoke.
Hacmans serves from 1pm to 11pm (closed on Mondays). Leisurely lie-in fans will be thrilled to hear that 71st Floor's breakfast runs from 8am to 1pm.
If the 71 steps to foodie heaven – or even the glass elevator – look insurmountable after a little overindulgence, in-room dining is available round the clock.
Amatte Wellnest Community sits on a peaceful street in the Zona Centro of historic city San Miguel de Allende. From outdoors the address looks unassuming, but arrive after dark and the hotel’s statement sub-lit staircase will beckon you in.
San Miguel de Allende is a little harder to reach than some Mexican cities, as flights are indirect and can be expensive. But, you can land at Guanajuato International Airport, close to León, around a 90-minute drive away; or Querétaro, around an hour’s drive away. There are direct flights from some cities in the United States and major cities in Mexico, but most arrivals will have to stopover in the capital and change for the one-hour flight to either hub. The hotel can provide transfers from Guanajuato for US$195 each way.
If you decide to self drive, you can travel from Mexico City to the hotel in around four hours along the well-maintained 570 highway – a relatively stress-free journey. There’s free valet parking onsite in a covered lot with 24-hour security. However, in San Miguel de Allende itself, you can ditch the wheels and explore its winding streets and colonial treasures on foot.
You can catch the shuttle to San Miguel de Allende from Tepotzotlán; first you’ll need to catch a train from Terminal Aérea in the centre of Mexico City and then hop on a connecting bus at Mexico Norte. The journey takes four to five hours; it’s the cheapest option if you don’t want to drive, but tickets cost from a few hundred dollars either way.
Worth getting out of bed for
San Miguel de Allende’s ‘all the colours of the sunset’ baroque buildings and cobbled streets have set the scene for a creative renaissance in Mexico’s central highlands since the Sixties, when Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Diego Rivera and other creative juggernauts took a liking to it. This gave it a bohemian reputation that propelled the antique city into the future; after cultivating a thriving culinary scene and a cosmopolitan edge, and being recognised by Unesco in 2008, it’s now a hipster hotspot as well as a historian’s dream. Like a fine mezcal, the hotel’s distilled the city’s best bits into heady experiences, a rotating programme of artists to hold painting lessons and sophisticated tequila-tasting sessions. And, there's a 'sound room', where you can watch movies and sports events. But, the city’s insuppressible energy will draw you out. Hike up the hillside the hotel sits on to El Mirador for views that just pip those from the hotel. From up there you’ll get the lay of the land, or you can ask the hotel to arrange a walking tour or ride a trolley through the cobbled streets to get your bearings. Then you can work your way through Gaudi-esque church Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, towering over El Jardín square; romantic French-style park Benito Juárez; and Bellas Artes (officially Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez ‘El Nigromante’), a famed art school in a former convent, which still bears the large-scale murals and installations of its former alumni – plus it’s still a bubbling hub of arts across all disciplines with frequent events. And, Fabrica La Aurora showcases modern talent – through galleries, artesanias, even mariachi bands – in a former textile factory. For a taste of the more traditional, go eye-to-eye with ceremonial masks at the San Miguel Mask Museum; admire the ceramics and decorative homewares at Casas Michoacana, ad the old-school folk toys at Museo La Esquina del Juguete Popular Mexicano; then dive into the colour and chaos of massive Mercado de Artesanias to haul in icons, woven blankets, rainbow strings of papel picado, puppets, native beadwork, Day of the Dead figurines and other curios. The hotel has an impressive cacti collection, but to see some bigger boys and get a breather, wander through the botanical gardens Charco del Ingenio, where some are centuries old. Ask the hotel to book a horse ride through the city’s mountainous surrounds, or sink into one of the hot pools at Los Senderos. Plus, SMA loves to party – Day of the Dead celebrations (La Calaca Festival) run riot through the first week of November, with face painting, music, feasting and more. The city fomented the revolution against Spanish rule, so Mexican Independence Day on 16 September is quite the fiesta, followed on the 29th by the celebration of San Michael the Archangel, where life-size puppets go on parade and indigenous dancers bring dazzling costumery.
The hotel’s impressive microcosmic dining scene is merely an amuse bouche for the feast that is San Miguel de Allende. There are fewer street-food options here – although you can feed your ‘el pastor’ cravings at on-the-hoof joints like Tacos San Francisco – but more bricks-and-mortar eateries (most with roof terraces) show the considered approach to meals made using the bounty of the surrounding ranches, farms, orchards and vineyards. Quince is also laid out over a city-view roof terrace and serves a well-seasoned menu with the likes of jerk-crusted tuna with ancho chilli and chipotle sauce, panko-crusted seabass with ginger rice and a lemon-cream sauce, and rump steak aguachile with a habanero-avocado sauce. Plus a sushi menu and treats from the in-house bakery. Atrio’s terrace overlooks the Parroquia, quite the sight whichever time of day you see it, and people don’t just visit for the view – the tuna tataki, lechón (suckling pig), key lime pie and mojitos are all stand-out dishes. Bulla isn’t quite as view-blessed (although its plant-strung colonial courtyard is lovely in its own right), but its daily changing blackboard menu has homey hearty fare such as seabass in a peppery Vizcaina sauce, fabada bean stew or re shrimp with sticky rice. Sister restaurant, the cantina-style La Única, has a vintage feel with its aged-leather seating, dark wooden floors, taxidermy and decorative tiles; and the chef has been a barbecue master since he was very young. And, the Restaurant might not have the most inspiring name, but it’s a different story when it comes to its burgers, which are filled with gorditas and Korean slaw; rib-eye patties with Oaxacan cheese, chilli aioli and fiery salsa macha; or blackened turkey, smoked brisket and chipotle-honey sauce in a garlic bun.
Café Rama is the sort of place where one inclined to might write a novel – with its chevron flooring, wood beams and lashings of local artwork over the mint-green walls. But, you’re on holiday, so snap the laptop shut and order up spicy-chocolatey chicken enmoladas; croque madame à la Rama with manchego cheese, pulled pork and chipotle sauce; or on weekends pozole rojo, a chilli-laden pork and corn stew. Or go the ‘breakfast dessert’ route with fat cinnamon-y churros dipped in molten chocolate at San Agustin Chocolate & Churros (21 San Francisco).
If you’re taken with the tequilas at the Casa Dragones bar, then visit the OG tasting room, which has just six seats and has a coating of 4,000 obsidian tiles, each handcrafted by Mexican designer Gloria Cortina. The tequilas here are made for sipping rather than shooting, and go down very smooth. And, La Adelita feels ‘lived-in’ but is all the better for it. After a few rounds of tequilas in this local-attracting living-room-style space, you’ll feel as though you’ve been adopted into a Sanmiguelense family. And, Bar La Cucaracha hasn’t changed all that much since it opened in 1947, and it’s this vintage charm and its cinematic connections that drew Golden Age of Hollywood stars, beat poets and Mexican muralists.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this sunsets and shots hotel in Unesco darling San Miguel de Allende and slept off their artisanal-tequila hangover, a full account of their bar-hopping break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Amatte Wellnest Community in Mexico’s northern central highlands…
We want to shout our love for hedonistic San Miguel de Allende retreat Amatte Wellnest Community from the rooftop. We fear it’s possible, because Amatte’s rooftop has no less than four bars. One – a partnership with hip artisanal tequila brand Casa Dragones – holds the smoothest of tasting sessions, the second keeps the champagne flowing and fat Bajan oysters on ice, the third has a glass wine cellar with a stairwell so you can ogle bottles like it’s an alcoholic candy store, and the last shows off its masterful mixology. Hit all four and you’ll definitely feel – and be quite vocal about – the love; just watch out for the glowing statement staircase that leads enticingly up to the terrace from the street. The hotel’s culinary clout will be your saving grace, whether a noted chef is courting you at the omakase table, or you’re getting a taste of the region’s fertile landscape: steaks from local ranches, sustainable seafood, veggies from the hotel’s impressively cultivated roof garden or farms nearby – and outliers such as frog’s legs – all given the smoky-oaky treatment on the wood-fired grill. But this retreat doesn’t just try to work its way into your heart through your stomach – Japanese constructivist architect Shinji Miyazaki has created an ‘Escher gone wild’ layout of staircases and terraces with plentiful private nooks; placed a Zen garden of a pool as the centrepiece; and given pride of place to handicrafts from across the Yucatán, including a Oaxacan chandelier made with 150 terracotta vessels. So, you needn’t be 10 tequilas deep to declare your affections, because the reputation of somewhere this cool and well-crafted will easily resonate with locals and visitors alike.