The FREE six-month visa to Mexico for Canadian and American visitors make Mexico an easy country to visit, and to fall in love with. There are not many countries that offer such a long visa at absolutely no cost (I could probably count them on one hand!) The ease of entry, the reduced cost of living, the ease of finding rentals in Mexico, and the gorgeous weather make Mexico a hot spot for North American vacationers, expats, digital nomads, and snowbirds!
Our family decided to drive from our home in British Columbia, down to Las Vegas to visit with my sister and then catch a plane from there to Mexico. Originally we planned and booked for five weeks. Well, within two weeks of arriving in San Miguel de Allende we extended our visit another month, and we would stay longer if we hadn’t promised our children that we would come home so they could ski this winter.
Yes, we love it here, and that surprised us! I had heard a lot of good things about San Miguel. Indeed, I already knew four families that had settled here! But you know when you hear of those popular tourist destinations and they just seem TOO popular? That is how we felt, we wondered if it would be TOO easy, TOO overrun with tourists, TOO many expats. While there are a tonne of expats and tourists here (most of the tourists are domestic) they are here for a reason. It is beautiful!
So what do we love about San Miguel de Allende, Mexico?
1. The Culture
The traditions and beliefs of the people living in this high desert city have been so very interesting to learn about. We are learning about the weaving of Catholicism with witchcraft with the ancient beliefs of Mexico’s first peoples. There always seems to be a celebration going on somewhere in this city. There is always music, fireworks, and a general sense of living in the moment here.
We were lucky enough to visit San Miguel during one of Mexico’s most interesting celebrations, the Day of the Dead. We were amazed at the colorful tradition that honors and celebrates loved ones that have passed on. We were touched by the graciousness of the Mexican people who allowed us to witness a tradition that has now impacted our family’s view on death and remembrance.
2. The Food
Wow. The food! I’m sure my friends are getting sick of all the food pictures I have been posting! From gorgeous, expensive restaurants, to lovely cafes, to the best street tacos we have ever eaten, San Miguel de Allende is a foodie paradise. We can feed our family of four for $10 at roadside stalls, $20 at lovely courtyard restaurants with class, or $40 at really nice restaurants with live music. When we are hungering for something different than Mexican food, we just choose our cuisine. There is even a Thai food restaurant that has delicious Thai food (and having traveled extensively in Thailand we are Thai food snobs so for me to recommend a Thai food restaurant is a big deal!)
3. A Walkable Center
It is so easy to get around here. We have been pretty much walking everywhere we go, always trying to pick a new street that we have not been down before. I must say, however, that although the cobblestone streets are incredibly charming, they are not easy to walk on. Bring some sturdy shoes and be careful not to twist an ankle!
4. The Beautiful Architecture
San Miguel de Allende was voted the World’s Best City by Travel and Leisure magazine and the downtown core is a Unesco World Heritage site! Impressive? It sure is! The old colonial Spanish architecture reminds us of the beautiful streets in Europe. The “Centro” is a photography lovers dream!
5. The Friendliness of the Locals
The friendliness of the locals has astounded us here. People say “Hola” as you pass by on the street, shopkeepers greet us with wide smiles and small talk, and we have not experienced ANY kind of pestering or hard sell from anyone. Even the beggers are friendly and polite. Everyone we have encountered has been lovely to us, and some people have even been extraordinarily kind, like the driver who picked us up in Mexico city and then took it upon himself to be our personal tour guide, Spanish teacher, and friend on the ride to SMA.
6. The Homeschooling Community
You all know I am big on the homeschooling and worldschooling community. We LOVE connecting with other homeschoolers…something that is easy for us to do at home in British Columbia but can be more challenging when we are traveling. SMA is a hotspot for digital nomad families and the homeschooling community is thriving here. We had only been here a few days before we went to our first homeschooling meet-up. We have met lots of families who have settled here for a while and our social life has been very active. Yay for awesome traveling families!
7. The Variety of Things to Do
We have already been in SMA for five weeks and we still have not run out of things to do. Just walking around town has kept us more than entertained, as has trying new restaurants, yoga classes, visiting with friends, exploring the many markets, popping into art galleries, perusing handicrafts, going to the movie theater, seeing a Mexican wrestling match, strolling in the Jardin, visiting hot springs, and so much more! This is actually the longest stretch that we have stayed in one place when we are traveling.
8. The Colourful Streets
Flowers and vines grow up alongside the brightly painted houses that line the cobblestone streets. This town is cheerful and so fun to explore. There is a picture worthy scene around almost every corner.
9. The Near Perfect Weather
Eternal spring. Yup, that about sums it up. It is nice and warm in the daytime with clear blue skies. At night it gets a little cool..we never go out at night without sweaters. Not too hot, not too cold.
10. The Amazing Art Scene
San Miguel is an artists mecca. Art galleries, art schools, art classes in English and in Spanish, workshops galore. Artists have been attracted to San Miguel de Allende since the 1930’s! Not only can you see (and buy!) beautiful art in the art galleries, there is also some AMAZING street art scattered throughout town. Several of our days spent here have been on Street Art Hunts in the Colonia Guadeloupe where the highest concentration of street art can be found.
I know I have painted a very pretty picture of SMA. Before you think it is a fairytale land here, I want to add that nowhere is perfect! As with any city in the world, SMA has its problems. You’ll need to watch out where you walk so you don’t fall into a pothole or crack in the sidewalk, there is a littering and pollution problem just like most developing countries, we have heard that there is a high rate of property crime, and there are quite a high number of beggars, especially in the Centro. There you go….I’m keeping it real for you.