Want to Travel to the Best City in the World? Art Routes San Miguel de Allende is the One!

Trying to decide where you want to travel solo to in 2018? How about visiting San Miguel de Allende, selected by Travel and Leisure magazine readers as the Best City in World. A historic hotbed of mystical and creative activity, this colorful, lively Mexican city is better than ever. Celebrity chefs, art galleries galore, stunning Spanish Colonial architecture, Meso American pyramids, artisan markets and music everywhere makes San Miguel the perfect setting for a great solo adventure.

Happily, this June AstridTravel,LLC in partnership with the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge is offering a seven-day trip to San Miguel de Allende as the second Art Routes cultural travel initiative. What makes the Art Routes trips so special is their focus on discovering fabulous art and cultures around the world. The first collaborative excursion was a fantastic week in St. Petersburg, the cultural capital of Russia, which focused on Classical Dance, specifically ballet.


Now our second travel experience will have a completely different theme; the art, culture and mysticism of Meso America that was centered in San Miguel de Allende, as well as, the dynamic, modern elements of the city's vibrant essence. As with the St Petersburg trip, the San Miguel itinerary will be filled with a variety of activities to give the solo traveler a complete and vivid understanding of what makes this city and it's culture unique.

Before sharing with you some of the highlights of the upcoming San Miguel Art Routes trip, I like to explain why it is also considered the "most beautiful city in Mexico." Situated in the Guanajuato mountainous region, San Miguel enjoys a year round temperate climate with clean, crisp air and many days filled with sunny skies. The weather and geography make it a place where flowers and vegetation flourish. Many residences and commercial buildings have an indoor/outdoor design with interior courtyard gardens and gathering spaces where people can enjoy this healthy, invigorating spot on Earth.

In addition to the wonderful climate, San Miguel is a picturesque city filled with well-preserved Spanish Colonial architecture, colorful ethnic shops, homes and cafes, landscaped public squares and hilly cobbled stone streets making it highly atmospheric. As with any area where many artists live and work, San Miguel has an energy. In addition, the quality and intensity of the natural light lends to the aesthetic foundation of the creative activity in the area. 

Sancturio de Atotoilco, Mexico's Sistine Chapel

Sancturio de Atotoilco, Mexico's Sistine Chapel

Besides the natural and man-made beauty, the warm and friendly people of San Miguel make it a comfortable place for solo travelers to visit. Hard-working and family-oriented, the residents love their "paradise" of a city and welcome travelers to discover the "magic" of their home. Gathering in open air markets, cafes or squares the spirited city dwellers enjoy conversation, food, mariachi music with friends and foreigners alike. Hospitality is in the air in San Miguel.

The genesis for this San Miguel tour evolved from a conversation I had with a friend about my trip to Egypt and how the history and civilization of Ancient Egypt had fascinated me so greatly which led me to want to continue traveling to places that had a strong spiritual and mystical past. These storied locations usually included fabulous architecture and artifacts such as ancient cities, pyramids, hieroglyphic writing systems, etc. Casually, friend shared her son Albert Coffee, a noted Meso American archeologist, lived, excavated, worked and conducted tours of the area outside San Miguel known as the Canada de la Virgin, the location of a powerful, ancient Olemic Indian civilization. Suddenly, during this conversation, I had an "Ah Ha" moment. 

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcange, probably the most recognizable of San Miguel's churches, dates back to the 17th century.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcange, probably the most recognizable of San Miguel's churches, dates back to the 17th century.

Knowing San Miguel was an upscale, tourist destination with wonderful things to do and see surrounding the arts and culture scene, I had already had it on my potential Art Routes destination list. When I found out that it had a mystical past which paralleled that of Egypt, the deal was sealed. We would be traveling to San Miguel. 

Meso America, which encompasses the southern tip of Mexico and most of Guatemala, was the home of several powerful Ancient civilizations such as the Olmec, the Toltec, the Mayan and the Aztec. Like the Egyptians, these early Meso Americans worshipped many gods, practiced blood sacrifices, and developed a calendar which helped them change from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural based economies. Similar to other areas of the world where there are pyramids or pyramid-like structures, the man-made mountains in San Miguel have a relationship with the heavens. Basically, they are astronomically oriented.

On the Art Routes tour, Albert Coffee's Carmen de la Virgin half-a-day tour will explain to the participants some of the fundemental beliefs and practices of the early inhabitants of this area and how these ancient beliefs are still intertwinned into the area's present day culture. His Archaeotour is rated #1 by Trip Advisor for visitors to San Miguel. On the site is an entire city with seven pyramids built between 540-1040AD.

La Canada de la Virgen is an Otomi archaeological site that was first excavated in 1995.

La Canada de la Virgen is an Otomi archaeological site that was first excavated in 1995.

In addition, we will have lunch with and listen to a noted "archaeoastronomer." How do you like that for a profession? Pretty far out in my book! We will learn how the people of the past have understood the phenomena in the sky and the role the sky played in their culture. Why did ancient man all over the world want to build pyramids? Where did this knowledge and inspiration come from to do these mysterious things? Looking forward to hearing the archaeoastronomer's answers to these thought-provoking questions!

The root of this mysticism is still a mystery. Places where these fantastical, man-made structures were built all have a mysterious quality or vibe to the area making San Miguel, like Giza or Chichen Itza, a fascinating place to visit and explore.

In terms of art San Miguel has so much to offer and this art vibrancy, also, had it's roots in the bygone history of San Miguel. In the early 1950's a series of artist colonies were formed here because of the natural light, the wonderful weather, the quaint Spanish Colonial architecture and the affordable, laid back nature of this Mexican town. The first two art schools established after WWII were Bellas Artes and the Instituto Allende. Many of the Americans that came to study art here stayed which led to the creation of San Miguel's creative community and soul. 

One of the luxurious hotel accommodations available is at the Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada.

One of the luxurious hotel accommodations available is at the Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada.

Today, there are a plethora of arts and crafts studios filled with highly talented designers, craft artisans, painters, sculptors, jewelry makers and writers. In additions tourists can visit art museums, take art classes, attend art lectures and go on art tours, as well as, there are plenty of art galleries and shops for the souvenir and serious collector to satisfy their retail art needs. In terms of art and creativity San Miguel is on "fire!" If you love art, join us on this Art Routes tour. 

Without sharing the entire itinerary of the tour in this post, which can be found on the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge's website, artsbr.org, or scroll to the bottom of this blog post, the following are some of the fun and interesting activities planned:

  • Taste of San Miguel Food Tour
  • San Miguel Vineyards and Wine Tasting Tour
  • Historic Walking tour of San Miguel
  • A Visit to the Mask Museum
  • Separate Specialty Tours to the Sanctuary of Atotonilco, a World Heritage Site with a magnificent church which is considered the Sistine Chapel of Mexico and the fantastical, Chapel of Jimmy Ray
  • Half-day Tour of La Canada de la Virgin archaeological site
  • Fabrica Aurora Arts and Crafts Tour
  • Dining at San Miguel's Top Restaurants. 

 Likewise, there will be ample free time for tour participants to wander off on their own to shop, visit a spa or just relax in one of the squares or cafes and people watch.

There will be two choices of accomodations on the trip. One can either stay at the five star Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada Hotel or share a luxurious, courtyard hacienda with fellow travelers where you will have your own separate bedroom and bathroom. Cost for solo travelers for this seven day, six night tour is $4,280 which includes your accommodations, 3 gourmet dinners, 2 lunches, all tickets to the exhibitions, museums and performances and your transportation to and from the airport. The only additional costs you will be responsible for is your airfare, some of your meals, souvenir purchases and tips.

Even though this Art Routes tour is sponsored by the Greater Baton Rouge Arts Council, it is open to interested solo travelers from where ever who want to experience one of the World's Best Cities. The registration deadline was originally set for January 15 but it has been extended to February 1st. A 20% deposit is required upon registration. See the additional due dates for when the subsequent payments must be received in the brochure at the bottom of the blog post.

Enjoy this short video showcasing San Miguel and subsequently, decide to join the art enthusiasts of Baton Rouge and take this special tour to this special city.


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