The closest airport is Del Bajío International (BJX), under two hours’ drive from the hotel. Connecting flights are available from most major cities, though United (www.united.com), American (www.aa.com) and Aeroméxico (www.aeromexico.com) offer direct flights from Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles. Direct flights from most major international cities are available into Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX), around a three-hour drive.
Roads in Guanajuato are well-paved and safe enough, making rental cars a reasonable option. Most major car hire companies have outposts at the airport. Depending upon which route you take, the drive should take under two hours; the hotel offers free valet parking. Note, however, that you don’t need a car in San Miguel and will only want one for excursions outside the city, for which you could easily hire a driver.
Buses are a common and convenient way of getting around Mexico, and first class buses (a genuinely plush affair) are available to San Miguel from MEX for approximately $20. If you’re flying into BJX, book a mini bus shuttle through Viajes San Miguel (http://www.viajessanmiguel.com/) for $25.
Worth getting out of bed for
Much more than an average Mexican backwater town, San Miguel de Allende has been hosting culture-seeking expats since the 1930s. Step out your front door and you’ll find the well-maintained cobbled streets lined with red, blue and yellow walls, behind which flourish gourmet restaurants and cafes, boutiques selling local homewares and clothes, and galleries showcasing works by the town’s thriving artist population.
You could easily while away the hours exploring, wandering from El Jardín, the town’s central square, and its towering La Parroquia church to the leafy Parqué Juarez on the southern side of town, but we’d recommend getting involved in the vibrant local culture. Go on guided market tours with chefs and take cooking classes at Sazon and Petit Four. Pay a visit to the public library at 25 Insurgentes for a tour of the city’s restored historic homes and to buy tickets to local concerts. Peruse art galleries like the sprawling Fábrica La Aurora design centre. Follow in the footsteps of countless visitors and take a class at the Instituto Allende; it’s best known for its Spanish classes, but offers plenty of other options, from jewellery-making to photography. If you come in the summer, be sure to catch a film at the popular Guanajuato International Film Festival, held every July.
Although there’s more than enough to keep you occupied in San Miguel – you might even find yourself tempted to just stay, as others have done – a quick jaunt out of town will prove rewarding. Swim in the hot springs at La Gruta, five miles away, and marvel at the bizarre and impressive frescoes at the Santuario de Atotonilco, six miles from San Miguel.
A manageably sized city of food-lovers, San Miguel has more exceptional restaurants than you’ll be able to visit. Prepare yourself for a trip full of fresh, local cuisine, where the blend of flavours is as diverse as the population and the quality beats that of many major cities. If you can tear yourself away from L’Otel’s abundant breakfast, skip down the street to Cumpanio (+52 415 152 2984), a bakery/café/restaurant with baked goods you’ll dream about. One of the city’s longest-running and consistently highly-rated eateries, The Restaurant (+52 415 154 7877) is run by an expat Californian chef and serves up elegant, locally sourced ‘global comfort food’ in a romantic courtyard; be sure to book in advance.
If you’re craving a burger, either find the hamburguesa stand in El Jardín – seriously, just ask any locals and they’ll point you in the right direction – or head out of town a few minutes to La Burger (+52 415 114 0073), frequented by expats and discerning Mexico City weekenders alike. Indulge in Mexican haute cuisine specialties like ceviche and mole at Moxi (+52 415 152 1015), at 53 Aldama, captained by one of Mexico’s hottest chefs, Enrique Olvera. Or let another national favourite, Dina Butterfield, customise your menu for you at Dos Casas (+52 415 154 4958), where she serves up only the freshest local, organic cuisine in innovative ways. La Cartuja (+52 415 152 2057), hidden away on a side street at 107 Hernandez Macias, is a more low-key family-run café that’s especially popular for lunch, boasting house-pickled vegetables and a welcoming Spanish expat owner-chef.
Sip cocktails and demolish small plates atRosewood’s Luna Tapas Bar (+52 415 152 9700), a rooftop affair with access to one of the area’s most impressive tequila collections. If a more traditional night on the town strikes your fancy, long-time favourite Berlin Bar & Bistro (+52 415 154 9432) draws a cool, artsy crowd for late nights and well-mixed drinks.