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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Places Not to Miss Around San Miguel de Allende

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful town adorned with cobblestone streets, colorful colonial houses, cute little cafes and museums, and iconic churches. When here it is hard not to feel like you’re stepping back in time or at least visiting a historical European city. However, it is not just San Miguel de Allende that is here to explore, there is also the archeological site of Canada de la Virgen and the nearby town of Atotonilco. There is definitely lots to see and do in the area that you don't want to miss when around San Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel de Allende Old Town

Exploring by foot was by far the best way to explore this Old Town. We really enjoyed the parks & plazas and of course, the picturesque main square that is home to the Church of Saint Michael the Archangel. Interestingly this wasn’t the original church of when the town was established in 1555, rather it is a reconstruction that was inspired by the Gothic Cathedral in Cologne, Germany.

Red sandstone church in the middle of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
In the main plaza of San Miguel de Allende you'll find the picturesque Church of Saint Michael the Archangel.

However, like mentioned above there are tons of other things to do in the city, including shopping at boutique shops, enjoying a coffee at one of the cafes, museums and few different markets. One of our favorite moments in the town was checking out the main square and listening to the mariachi band.

While its architecture is beautiful and it is a very well preserved historical town, it is growing in popularity amongst expats and tourists. You’ll find a very prominent expat community of people who have chosen it as a base for living. Therefore, compared to Guanajuato we found things to be a bit more expensive, and at times it didn't feel as authentically Mexican as some other towns.

Canada de la Virgen Archeological Site

Located about 15 minutes outside of San Miguel de Allende is the ancient astronomical observation site built by the indigenous Otomies who used it during the time period of 600-900 AD. This is a relatively new archeological site, as the structure was only discovered in the 1980s and welcomed its first visitors as a historical site in 2011.

Two children looking up at largest structure at the Canada de la Virgen site that was a astronomical site by the Otomies.
Canada de la Virgen: Relatively new archeological site (open in 2011) located just 15 minutes outside of San Miguel de Allende.

How Do I visit Canada de la Virgen?

There are third party organized tours you can sign up for, but we decided to just do the general admission option & it was such a great deal! Admission is only 39 Pesos per adult and 12 pesos for children 6-12 years old (5 and under were free). So for all four of us it was only $4.43 USD or $5.55 CDN. We couldn’t believe it was so affordable, considering it included a 15-20 minute bus ride there (& back) and a guide who takes you around the site. The tour is only provided in Spanish, but there is signage at the site that includes some English. If you are in search of tons of information and don’t know Spanish, then probably doing one of the third party tours is the best way to go. However, it is important to note, the only way to visit the site is with a tour guide, it isn't possible to visit the site independently.

The process of the tour wasn’t entirely clear prior to our visit, so I’ll try to explain it a bit better. Upon arriving at the site, you purchase your tickets at the ticket office and wait for the next bus that that takes you to the site. The bus leaves at the top of the hour, so it is best to arrive about 15 minutes prior to the hour. Everyone who has tickets loads the bus and takes a 10-minute bus ride that takes you closer to the site. However, the site is still located about 1.5 km away, so we walked the rest of the way with the group. The pathway is cobblestone for part of it and then more of a dirt trail as you approach the site. Therefore, it is best to wear good shoes and have sun protection because you’ll be directly out in the sun.

Canyon-type walls near the Canada de la Virgen archeological site.
Views as we walked approximately 1.5 km from the bus drop off to the main site with our guide & group.

The guide will take you around the gardens and the different temples at the site, stopping to explain things several times along the way. At the end you walk back to where the bus dropped you off and take the bus back to the parking lot. In total the tour is 2.5 hours.

Cactus with the Canada de la Virgen astronomical temple in the background.
Canada de la Virgen Archeological Site near San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

A couple other things to take into account, there are also no backpacks allowed at the site, so you can pretty much only bring bottled water and your camera/phone, and the site is closed on Mondays.

Nearby Town of Atotonilco

This church complex -- Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco -- is just outside of San Miguel de Allende and was one of the more unique churches we have visited. Inside is filled with ornate murals and statues in the main nave and chapels. In fact, it is dubbed “The Sistine Chapel of Mexico.”

Detailed art of the crucifixion of Jesus and the stations of the cross on the ceiling of Santuario de Jesus Nazareno de Atotonilco.
Ceiling art at Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco, which has been dubbed the 'Sistine Chapel of Mexico.'

The church still has services on Sundays and visiting the sanctuary is free of charge. However, if you want to see inside the chapel to the side that has the large assortment of sculptures then it is $20 Pesos.

There is also a cute little street craft market next to the church and a beautiful courtyard just outside the church. The area is also known for thermal springs, although we didn’t visit any here. If you have extra time the town of Atotonilco was nice to visit and definitely didn’t have as much of a tourist feel.

San Miguel de Allende is definitely becoming a popular tourist spot and a place many people are eager to visit, and we can see why. However, if you’re looking for authentic Mexican and little tourists, then this probably isn’t the spot but it's still worth it for a brief visit. However, if you do come to San Miguel de Allende, just remember some of these other nearby places - Canada de la Virgen and Atotonilco - that you can explore too!

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