San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, recently tagged as the best city in the world in one travel magazine, is best known for its picture-perfect streets full of Spanish colonial architecture. It has gorgeous hotels, fine restaurants, and excellent shopping.
This is a small city in a large countryside though and there’s plenty to do just outside of town. Last week I hooked up with the top tour company in the area, Coyote Canyon Adventures, to go exploring. Watch for a full feature story later, but the highlight was horseback riding in a dramatic canyon area less than 20 miles from the center.
I brought my wife and daughter on this trip and after arriving at the ranch, two of the three of us took a shot at milking a cow. We then washed up and had a hearty breakfast to get ready for the ride, including some fresh ranchero cheese and free range eggs from the chickens running around.
The docile horses trotted off after we saddled up, our guides being a transplanted French woman Marie and one of the ranch’s cowboys. We moved through cacti and thorny bushes before descending down into the canyon. At the bottom we rode through the water across a river and took in the gorgeous view under a sunny blue sky.
We moved along the river bank, each turn presenting another impressive vista. It’s hard to believe this countryside is such a short jaunt from central Mexico’s main tourist town. We stopped at one spot to see geodes scattered among the rocks, quartz and colorful crystals reflecting the sunlight.
Eventually we climbed off the horses for a long lunch break, sitting on the giant boulders while the ranch hands built a campfire to heat tortillas and make quesadillas. We took in the view while colorful birds alighted in the trees, a lizard came out to sun on a rock, and vultures soared over the cliffs.
What goes down, must come up, so on the way back we leaned forward in the saddle instead of back as the horses climbed up the mountain on a different route on the circuit. At one point we emerged from the nopal cacti—higher than us—and came to a sheer rock cliff rising up above us. For the extra-adventurous, Coyote Canyon will set up gear for people to go rappelling down the rock wall. Looking at it from the top a little while later, I thought it looked scary, but kind of fun. For the others., just scary.
The horses sped up as we got closer to the ranch, in anticipation of returning home and getting more to eat. We looked forward to getting our unaccustomed butts off the saddles and into a more normal position. It was an exhilarating day though, with fresh air and a look at a countryside you wouldn’t even know is there from driving by on the road a few miles away.
To book your own horseback riding trip near San Miguel de Allende, see the Coyote Canyon Adventures contact page.