Located in the highlands of Central Mexico, San Miguel de Allende is a busy yet relaxed UNESCO World Heritage-listed city that’s best known for its baroque-style colonial buildings and colorful art scene. After exploring all the sights in the cobblestone streets of the old quarter, don’t leave too soon because there are also some great day trips from San Miguel de Allende to make.
San Miguel de Allende is located in the state of Guanajuato, where the Mexican nation was born during the Mexican Wars of Independence in the 1800s (meaning there’s a lot of history to see nearby!) The town is surrounded by lush wineries and thermal hot springs and, of course, there are the ruins of ancient pre-Hispanic temples to be explored, too.
Keep reading as we showcase the 10 best day trips from San Miguel de Allende!
How to Get Around
Although many of the day trips mentioned below can be done by public transport, consider renting a car for the day to give yourself more flexibility and independence. Your own four wheels allow you to be in control of your time and schedule, and depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out cheaper than other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the cheapest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregate site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies so that you can be sure of getting the best possible car for your budget
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries, we have listed the best tour for each day trip (where available).
1. Dolores Hidalgo
Start your day trips from San Miguel de Allende by making the short journey north to the small, seemingly insignificant city of Dolores Hidalgo. For Mexicans, the journey is often more of a pilgrimage because this is where the modern Mexican nation was born on September 16, 1810.
Officially named Dolores Hidalgo Cuna de la Independencia Nacional (which translates to Dolores Hidalgo, the cradle of national independence), the city is named for the iconic rebel priest who incited a rebellion against the Spanish after giving an impassioned speech on the steps of the church.
The priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, set off a chain of events that would eventually lead to Mexican independence, although the Spanish wouldn’t recognize it for at least another decade (and only after many bloody battles).
You can visit the church where Mexican independence began, several local museums, and the curious tomb and museum dedicated to Mexican ranchera singer Jose Alfredo Jimenez.
Getting there: Dolores Hidalgo is just 40 minutes north of San Miguel de Allende. You can join a Ruta de la Independencia tour, which takes in other key sights on the Independence Route in the state. There are also direct public buses running throughout the day.
2. Guanajuato City
One of the best side trips from San Miguel de Allende is to the state capital, colorful Guanajuato City. Surrounded by mountains and old silver mines, Guanajuato City is a place of steep hills and outstanding views.
Guanajuato City is also revered for its role in the Mexican Wars of Independence. You can visit the Alhondiga de Granaditas, an old storehouse that played a central role in the battle for the city and that’s now a wonderful museum. Then climb the hill to stand in the shadow of the statue of El Pipila, a famed character who supposedly helped take the city from the Spanish.
Guanajuato is a lively fun place to be when the sun goes down, too. You can join a musical Mariachi-style tour of the city, dine out al fresco in the center, and enjoy a few glasses of local wine before heading back to San Miguel de Allende.
Getting there: Guanajuato City is just over one hour by car from San Miguel de Allende, or you can take one of the many public buses that run between the two cities.
Queretaro City (officially known as Santiago de Queretaro) is the capital of Queretaro state and one of the best side trips from San Miguel de Allende. As is true for many cities in the region, the historic center of Queretaro City is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its colonial-era buildings.
For Mexicans, the city is well known for its role in the Mexican Wars of Independence (again, like many cities in the region!) and you’ll find countless monuments and museums in the historic city center dedicated to the cause.
A short walk out of the center will bring you to the city’s impressive aqueduct, which is a marvelous feat of engineering, as well as El Cerrito, an archeological site that’s home to a fascinating pre-Colombian pyramid.
Getting there: Queretaro City is just a one-hour drive from San Miguel de Allende. There are public buses running throughout the day.
4. Mineral de Pozos
If you’re looking to escape the busy streets of San Miguel de Allende, then one of the best places to visit is Mineral de Pozos. Located an hour into the countryside, this old silver mining town was once home to tens of thousands of people but now has a population of just a few hundred.
Mineral de Pozos was largely abandoned when the silver ran out, but the cool mountain air and the magnificent solitude have attracted a lot of artsy folk in recent years. It’s a great place to unwind in peaceful surroundings and to browse through the local arts and crafts galleries.
Getting there: It’s a one-hour car ride to Mineral de Pozos from San Miguel de Allende. There’s not much public transport, so hiring a car or private driver is recommended.
5. Cañada de la Virgen
If you spend all your time exploring colonial-era cities like San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato, it’s easy to forget that there were thriving cultures and civilizations here long before the Spanish arrived.
One of the best San Miguel de Allende day trips is to Cañada de la Virgen, where you can explore a relatively recently uncovered pre-Colombian archeological site. The site was only excavated in the early 2000s and only opened to the public in 2011, so rest assured that you won’t find the tourist numbers that you do in Mexico’s more established archaeological attractions.
Cañada de la Virgen was built by the indigenous Otomi culture sometime around the 5th century CE. You can see pyramids and what are thought to have been celestial observation platforms – yes, the site was very much like an early observatory. The area still has a rather wild feel, with much of the excavation work still continuing.
Getting there: The archeological site is in a somewhat remote location, so it’s best to join a day tour from San Miguel de Allende (which ensures that you have a guide, too).
6. Sanctuary of Atotonilco
If you’re looking for a short trip from San Miguel de Allende, then why not visit the sacred Sanctuary of Atotonilco?
This historic church is part of the wider San Miguel de Allende UNESCO World Heritage listing, although it’s outside the city itself on the road north toward Dolores Hidalgo. The impressive church dates back to the 18th century, when a local priest had a vision and decided this was the place to build his extravagant place of worship.
The priest may well have been onto something because the sanctuary was built on top of thermal hot springs and so quickly became a place of pilgrimage for those looking to find cures for their ailments. The fresco-covered walls and ceilings inside the church are particularly unique.
Getting there: It’s a 15-minute drive or taxi ride to the Sanctuary of Atotonilco. You can stop here on the way to or from Dolores Hidalgo if you have your own transport.
Leon is the largest city in Guanajuato state and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s best known for its shoes. Head to the Zona Piel if you’re looking for a new pair of handcrafted leather shoes, as you’ll be able to browse through countless stalls and shops!
But there’s more to Leon than its leather-working history (although this is a big part of the city). As the state’s largest city, there’s plenty to explore, from museums to Mexican baroque-style churches and cathedrals in the center.
Getting there: Leon is a two-hour drive from San Miguel de Allende. There are regular buses, but start early so you can maximize your time in the city.
If you’re looking to get off the beaten track, then one of the best day trips from San Miguel is to Celaya. This small city isn’t exactly on the tourist trail, unless you’re in search of candy or exploding hammers.
Celaya played a huge role in the Mexican Wars of Independence and became known as the birthplace of cajeta, a sweet caramel candy that fueled the soldiers on their long marches. Today, cajeta stores line the main street and can claim to be some of the oldest sweet shops in Mexico.
Close to Celaya is one of the weirdest (and most dangerous) things to see in Mexico beyond San Miguel de Allende. You can experience it only if you’re in the area at the start of Lent when an unusual local tradition sees brave participants strapping explosives to sledgehammers to see who can make the biggest, loudest blasts. Yes, it’s mental.
Getting there: Celaya is an hour by bus or car from San Miguel de Allende. The date of the Exploding Hammer Festival changes each year to coincide with Lent.
9. San Miguel de Allende Wineries
San Miguel de Allende’s high altitude (1,900 meters or 6,200 feet) and relatively temperate but warm climate mean that the area has become a grape-growing hotspot. There are several artisanal wineries located around the city, and they all welcome visitors for tours of the vineyards and a few tastings (or bottles!)
One of the best places to visit from San Miguel de Allende is Dos Buhos (or the Two Owls), where you’ll find a small family-owned winery serving up some great vintages in peaceful surroundings.
The San Miguel Vineyard is also a firm favorite, particularly since they’ve been growing grapes and pressing wine for at least four centuries!
Getting there: Several tour operators provide day tours that visit multiple wineries, or you can take a taxi to individual wineries (If you are self-driving, you’ll have to skip the wine!)
10. Hot Springs and Spas
After all that sightseeing and all those day trips, it’s a good time to relax, unwind, and do nothing at all in one of San Miguel de Allende’s nearby spas. The region is known for its geothermal activity, and there are lots of natural hot springs in the surrounding area.
One of the most popular is La Gruta Spa, which is located close to the sacred Sanctuary of Atotonilco. Natural hot springs are surrounded by an artificial cave, where you can escape the rest of the world for a brief, blissful moment.
Another popular but often busier hot spring is the Mayan Baths, where you can relax in natural, thermal waters in the middle of the countryside.
Getting there: San Miguel de Allende’s hot springs and spas can all be reached easily via car or taxi. There are also lots of day tours that include the hot springs in their itineraries.
The modern Mexican nation was born in the state of Guanajuato, and San Miguel de Allende is located at its heart, making it the best base for exploring the independence trail and the surrounding central Mexican plateau.
Visit rustic wineries for a few glasses of local vino tinto, take a side trip to pre-Hispanic archeological sites, or call in for a spa at the nearby hot springs. However your final itinerary looks, San Miguel de Allende is always one of the best places to visit in Mexico.