06 Jul Day Trips from San Miguel de Allende
Updated July 2020
San Miguel de Allende is beloved nationally and beyond. Nicknamed the crown jewel of Mexico, it’s known for its narrow, cobblestoned streets painted in hues of red and yellow, its iconic pink gothic cathedral and surrounding gardens in the town square, and its relaxed, small-town feel, fused with cosmopolitan offerings, world-class cuisine, design, art and fashion.
It’s not hard to imagine the draw that San Miguel has on people. Its magnetism has pulled in many a wayward traveler, many of which have relocated to the city creating a vibrant, blended art scene of talented locals and foreigners collaborating to create intriguing projects.
And, beyond all of the beauty and magic that make the city so beloved, the region is equally impressive. San Miguel de Allende is located in Guanajuato, home to its capital city (which is also a gem), as well as many unique small towns, areas of nature, and more. Wanting to explore beyond San Miguel? Read on for the best places to visit, what to do, and more.
Ready to Explore Near San Miguel de Allende?
Living in San Miguel can feel relaxed, even sleepy at times. While events and festivals abound, it’s nice to get out and explore near San Miguel. The semi-arid mountains and plateaus, make for gorgeous vistas dotted with cactus and mesquite, drop-offs into endless canyons, and eerie ghost towns. In certain stretches, natural hot springs provide swimming and spa options, near wineries that cultivate olives and lavender.
I’ve written extensively on what to do in San Miguel (take a look at what to do in the city here) as well as some of the reasons that I’ve loved living there (I lived in San Miguel for 10 years!) Take a look at those articles if you want to know more about what’s happening in San Miguel.
Day trips under an hour from SMA
Looking for the easiest, closest spots to discover outside of San Miguel? We’ve got your covered! All within an hour from the beautiful UNESCO world heritage town, these are great places to visit, enjoy a relaxing day, and still be home for dinner.
Las Aguas Termales
There are several hot springs just outside of the city: La Gruta, Escondido Place, the Mayan Baths, and Taboada, among others. This is one of the things we do most frequently when we have a free day and want to really unwind. About 15 minutes outside of San Miguel, it’s a quick drive, cab or bus ride (The bus goes to Dolores Hidalgo.) Many of the hot springs have in-house massage therapists, restaurants, and beautifully manicured grounds. Want to know more about the Aguas Termales? Read our article on it here.
Cañada de la Virgen
Another absolute favorite destination is the Cañada de la Virgen. The relatively recently discovered pyramids, excavated just outside of San Miguel, are located on an incredible swath of high desert, home to a deep and craggy canyon accessible by horse, and lots of wild flora and fauna native to the area. Touring the pyramids and official grounds is a fascinating experience, and horseback riding through the canyon with Coyote Canyon Adventures is seriously one of my favorite activities …ever. I wrote an article about Cañada de la Virgen; you can see it here.
We are lucky to have the Ruta de Queso y Vino (Cheese and Wine Route) just outside of San Miguel de Allende. The arid climate and full sun make this a great area for growing and making wine. Many of the wine producers in the area offer tastings, tours, and events on their property. The annual win harvest (Vendimia) is an excellent event to catch if possible.
About 30 minutes outside of San Miguel de Allende, this sweet little town was the point of origin of the Mexican Revolution. Miguel Hidalgo, the priest of the town, gave a speech that would ultimately lead to their independence, called the Cry of Dolores.
The town square is known locally for its wildly unusual ice creams. In the (relatively) normal department, flavors include rose petal, garambullo (small, red cacti fruits, similar to blackberries), black sapodilla (a creamy brown, sweet fruit, similar to chocolate), and prickly pear. In the adventurous realm, there is tequila, beer, lard, pigskin, and shrimp & octopus ice cream.
Dolores Hidalgo is also known for its carnitas, braised pork eaten on tortillas with salsas and sides, and the restaurant Carnitas Vicente is particularly loved. Expect to pay about 6 usd to fill your belly.
A UNESCO World Heritage site about 45 minutes from San Miguel de Allende, this dusty quiet town is home to one of Mexico’s greatest churches. Nicknamed the Sistine Chapel of Mexico, El Santuario de Atotonilco is a unique church with fascinating murals inside. The art inside can be described as beautiful, grotesque, and spooky all at once. It’s an eclectic mixture of themes and mediums. Outside the cobblestone streets are lined with carts selling gorditas, treats, toys, and, most importantly, the most amazing hand-made blue corn tortillas and gorditas. The Folk Art Museum is also a lot of fun to see.
Mineral de Pozos
Mineral de Pozos is definitely one of our don’t-miss recommendations in the San Miguel area. Crumbling stone walls and dusty, rugged paths are the characteristic features of this once vibrant silver mining town. After the silver boom passed, Mineral de Pozos was a ghost town, but eventually, people began to trickle back into Pozos and new development began. Still quite sleepy, the ruins, like Santa Brigida, are some of our favorites. After you’ve tooled around for a bit, drop into Pizza & Chelas for cocktails and food, like fruit micheladas and unusual gourmet pizza. They also host events, music and more. Want to learn more about Pozos? Read more about it here.
Truly for the nature-lover, what we love about Jalpa are the swaths of wildflowers that bloom here every September/October. The fields are solid pinky-purple, with little trails to explore (if that’s your thing). Farther along, you arrive at Jalpa, its central church next to a small reservoir. We often picnic on the edge of the small body of water or in the fields of wildflowers.
A Little Farther, but still Day Trips from SMA
Over an hour, but under 3, these destinations are a little farther away, but definitely worth getting to know if you are spending more than a few days in San Miguel (and especially if you live there!). These places can be seen in a day as well, though one might choose to stay a little longer.
Guanajuato is a beautiful colonial city, similar to San Miguel, but with many differences. A college town buzzing with life, this spot is great for theater, dance, and performance art, culminating in their annual Cervantino festival in September, the largest theater festival in Latin America. The Guanajuato International Film Festival is also held here (as well as in San Miguel). Fun for walking around and exploring the tunnels and narrow, romantically-lit alleyways, you’re sure to stumble onto something interesting while exploring here.
Jaral de Berrio
Another of our absolute favorite places, Jaral de Berrio, is an anachronistic dreamscape. Now in a state of decay, this spectacular gem was once the home of the richest man alive, the Marquis Jaral de Berrio. Enter for 20 pesos with a free taste of their Mezcal collection and get lost in the amazing, crumbling labyrinthine structure. Want to read more? We go in-depth on Jaral de Berrio here.
P.S. You are in Mexico! Personal responsibility is everything. There aren’t any signs marking dangerous sections of the buildings, so be careful. Flashback to Kindergarten and look both ways! You don’t want to be distractedly walking through here.
Bernal is home to the second-largest monolith in the world, La Peña Bernal. The town itself is relaxed and small, full of gem and mineral shops and little restaurants. There is camping on the far side of the monolith and access to hike the first part of the mountain, and then strap in and climb the upper portion. Beautiful to admire from the taco and gordita stands below, and with a killer view from the top, it’s a great spot for people who like cultural and outdoor experiences.
Eateries Worth the Trip
Food makes distances seem so much more reasonable, doesn’t it? Many of these restaurants are simply worth the trip all by themselves!
An organic ranch, offering farm to table, and a lovely selection of greens to purchase, this is an outing I love. Having a relaxing lunch at De Temporada, looking out over the greenery of the farm, and ending with one of their scrumptious gelato flavors is so relaxing. It really makes you feel that you’ve escaped dry, dusty SMA. We wrote about it here.
Organic never tasted so good! (Ok, yeah it has, but these burgers are *for real* amazing.) On a little plot of land toward Dolores Hidalgo, the open-air restaurant grows its own organic lettuce and tomatoes, bakes its own bread and ethically sources its meat. Super yummy with a relaxed outdoorsy atmosphere, it’s perfect for feeling like you’re out of town when town is only 10 minutes away.
Gourmet and delicious, the restaurant at Nirvana is upscale. Located in lush gardens, you’ll certainly feel you’re somewhere else. Serving abundant farm to table veggies greens and edible flowers, this is a great place to get romantic or just spoil yourself.