Tasked with keeping alive the culture and traditions of this historic city whilst simultaneously developing creative and unique tourism experiences, we speak with Tania Castillo, Tourism Director at San Miguel de Allende.
Tell us about the vision and mission behind San Miguel de Allende.
Tania Castillo, Tourism Director (TC): San Miguel de Allende is one of the most touristic cities around the world. We are known for our unique restaurants, hotels, vineyards, architecture, weddings, culture and more.
One of our main objectives is to give locals, visitors and tourists another reason to visit us and explore the different attractions we have in our beautiful city – from walking tours to delicious meals, wine and tequila tastings, hot air balloon experiences, 5-star hotels and more. Above all, we try to keep alive our cultural events and traditions.
Details are important for us – we want your visit to be perfect, to walk around the cobbled streets feeling safe and happy while enjoying the views, the people, the cultural events, festivals, markets and more. The idea is to be different, to innovate and create various ways to attract new markets, and not to be afraid to make things different.
In your opinion, why should someone visit San Miguel de Allende?
(TC): San Miguel de Allende is a city that has evolved its cultural, gastronomic and artistic value to an international level. A beautiful destination not far from Mexico City, we have great connectivity and appeal to all tourism trends, including wellness, sustainability, romance, incentives, adventure and nature. Just by walking around town, visiting our marvellous stores and eating delicious meals, you can get to know a little bit more about the history of beautiful San Miguel de Allende.
We have a world full of possibilities, with wineries just a 20-minute drive from downtown, hot springs that are rich with minerals that promote health and well-being, as well as horseback riding tours, ATV tours, bike tours, zip line circuits, archaeological walks, and hot air balloon rides. Also close to the city is the historical site of the Sanctuary of Jesus Nazareno in Atotonilco, named by UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
We are proud to be a city rich in art and culture. Since the opening of the Instituto Allende and Bellas Artes with their plastic arts workshops, San Miguel de Allende has become a stage for local, regional and international artists. A paradise for curators, collectors and art enthusiasts, everywhere you walk there’s a gallery two steps ahead or a store. You will find incredible pieces at our design stores and from our local artists at the artisan market where you see the effort, hard work and talent each and every one possesses in their craftmanship.
And last but not least, people come for our excellent food made by renowned chefs. Our famous rooftops are the cherry on top of the cake; what’s better than a really nice meal with an amazing view and good company? They are sure to entice you to stay with their views, food and music.
“San Miguel de Allende is a city that has evolved its cultural, gastronomic and artistic value to an international level”Tania Castillo, Tourism Director, San Miguel de Allende
How does San Miguel de Allende cater to sustainable and eco-friendly travel experiences?
(TC): We are not just a beautiful city with architecture, history and mountains – we are also characterised by our firm commitment to economic and social development in balance with care for the environment and natural resources.
One of the activities that follows this mission is in Agustín González, a community located within a 15-minute drive from downtown. 15 women spend part of their time hooking up rugs and producing textiles to boost their economy giving the “Rancho Tour” – an excursion in which visitors can live the daily life of this community with demonstrations of typical cooking, stone carving, Otomi language classes, among other activities. All this can be enjoyed in an environment surrounded by nature with cacti, cows, horses, donkeys, flowers, traditional houses and more.
San Miguel de Allende has incredible tourist sites that impress all national and international travellers, and there is no better way to get to know them than through a bike ride. A bike tour is a sustainable activity that shows the other side of town going through places such as the Allende Dam, the Laja River, the Indian Chapels, ruins and the beautiful landscapes of the farm fields on the outskirts of the city.
There’s also Rancho Xotolar which is a stroll through the countryside with horseback riding, hiking, camping, tours of the pyramids, even cooking classes with crops from the land and other elements of the region.
What are some of the major tourism trends in your area?
(TC): Architecture is a huge part of our charm, with beautiful boutique hotels and houses, as well as the iconic Parish of San Miguel Archangel which you see in pictures and postcards. We also have Atotonilco’s sanctuary, the baroque-style church of the Oratory San Felipe Neri, the church of San Francisco de Asís, the historic house of Allende Museum, Casa Canal, and La Aurora Factory – an old textile factory now converted into a Cultural Center of Art and Design full of canvases, sculptures and handicrafts from great artists.
Our cuisine is something you cannot miss, and tourists will appreciate a local walk around town where you can try ice cream, tacos and esquites or eat at one of our more glamorous restaurants. Almost every bar and restaurant downtown combines the antique charm of the house with the renewed cosmopolitan version of the city.
Finally, weddings in San Miguel de Allende are a unique and special feature here. These begin with the typical callejoneada in the cobbled streets with the Mojigangas, dancing, singing and having the most wonderful time. We boast some breathtaking venues that offer tailor made experiences for brides and grooms. If you are planning on getting married, there is no better option!
As a small city, how can overtourism be avoided?
(TC): We focus on high quality tourism. San Miguel de Allende is, as mentioned, a cosmopolitan city with more than 60 different nationalities living here and 10 percent of our population are Americans. This creates a certain kind of bubble, an oasis, which attracts luxury hoteliers, entrepreneurs, and investors to settle here. Our actions cater to a high-end market, like the tourism agreements that we have with specific cities for cultural events, festivals, happenings in different spots in San Miguel de Allende and much more.
“We are not just a beautiful city with architecture, history and mountains – we are also characterized by our firm commitment to economic and social development in balance with care for the environment and natural resources”Tania Castillo, Tourism Director, San Miguel de Allende
What are your key priorities for the coming year?
(TC): We hope to increase our numbers of foreign tourists, giving everyone a reason to come back and enjoy their stay. Most importantly, we want to give our locals back their culture and traditions with more festivals and happenings.
Finally, what would you like to highlight that might be overlooked by international visitors?
(TC): Not many visitors know about our wineries. We have good, award-winning wine, some with restaurants that allow you to try a delicious meal or even stay for the night if you would like to wake up to a beautiful scenery outside of town.
Our hot springs are a great idea for something different to restart your body and mind from the stress of everyday life. Another unknown for most visitors is tasting our local products such as tequila Casa Dragones – a top-of-the-line tequila inspired by our history with its colours and design, but also the beer Allende, as another of our local products loved by many.