canada de la virgen

The typical visitor to San Miguel de Allende checks out the few sights, does some shopping, strolls the pretty streets, and eats well. On this trip I wanted to do more, so I hooked up with Coyote Canyon Adventures to go beyond the norm.

People tend to have very polarized views of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. Many visitors and residents praise it with words like gorgeous, beautiful, perfect, and inspiring. Detractors use words like gentrified, fake, gringoland, and Disneyesque. In a way, they’re both right.

This is the best-kept city in Mexico for sure: clean, well-maintained, and orderly. It’s a very artistic place filled with artists and aesthetically there’s little to complain about. You can even take photos here without any wires in them: in much of the center the electric cables have been buried. On the other hand, since foreigners make up approximately a quarter of the population, it’s a rather surreal Mexican town, all jewelry stores, galleries, and restaurants in the center catering to tourists and the foreigner population.

Our latest tour feature is about exploring some areas outside of the city, places that leave this whole pros and cons discussion aside. With Coyote Canyon Adventures my family and I went horseback riding in a dramatic region with sheer cliffs, a river, and giant cacti. We also explored a nearby pyramid that’s a thousand years old, with the foremost expert on it, archaeologist Albert Coffee. We also spent some time soaking in some hot springs outside of town, Escondido.

These areas are a world away from the bustling colonial center and offer a chance to see a bit of rural Mexico. The scenery around here is spectacular, so visiting San Miguel de Allende and not venturing beyond the urban core is a shame.

horseback riding San Miguel de Allende

We did spend one day in the center though, taking a cooking class at Sazon. This long-established culinary center a couple blocks off the main plaza is affiliated with the Casa de Sierra Nevada luxury hotel and the chef leading classes is from their excellent restaurant Andaza.

He first took us on a tour of the market, picking up items we’d cook with that day and explaining the differences between various dried chilis and local herbs. Then back at the cooking center with TV monitors and mirrors, we prepared a whole array of Mexican dishes that were scrumptious.

On a different evening, when we weren’t already full, we did get a luxury dining experience at Moxi, the Enrique Olvera restaurant in Hotel Matilda. Experiencing a tasting menu matched with paired wines, it was heavenly.

See the full story here: Becoming Cowboys and Cooks in San Miguel de Allende.