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Friday, July 1, 2022

New flight brings Mexico’s alluring San Miguel closer

Here's why we're excited about the upcoming MID-SMA direct flights

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San Miguel de Allende’s Parroquia De San Miguel Archangel Church Tower. Photo: Getty

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico’s high-altitude expat enclave since the mid-20th century, has become more accessible to Mérida’s residents.

A new Volaris direct flight connecting Mérida and León will bring easier connectivity to the airport closest to San Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel de Allende. Photo: File

San Miguel is loved for its beauty, wine scene, and shopping. Temperatures are more moderate than Yucatán’s, so travelers escape there during the hottest months. Artisans make the city desirable when shopping for unusual home décor.

Getting to San Miguel is still somewhat of a chore right now. The new route “will certainly be a relief” to residents such as Lucinda Young and Shirley Hisgen, who fly frequently between Mérida and SMA, which is the affectionate shorthand for the city’s name.

“As of the moment, you can only get there via CDMX,” says Lucinda. “Once there, you can either transfer to a Leon or a Queretaro flight and from either of those airports get a BajioGO shuttle to SMA (90 minutes) or you can take a first-class bus from the airport to Queretaro and transfer there to another first-class bus to SMA — or get a taxi or limo pickup.”

Although Queretaro makes for a fantastic shopping stopover — it has the Antea, Mexico’s biggest upscale mall, and familiar American brands like Pottery Barn and an actual Apple Store — most travelers probably just want to get to their final destination.

The Volaris flight lands in León, and a 90-minute drive from there to reach SMA.

This 17th-century hilltop city is surrounded by mountains, spectacular scenery, and vineyards, which makes it feel very much like a city in Catalonia, says Lucinda.

San Miguel de Allende is in a high desert region and after the early summer rains, the surrounding countryside becomes lush and green. The state of Guanajuato is the fastest-growing wine region in Mexico, with an emphasis on naturally fermented, organic wines and there are many wineries with tasting rooms and award-winning restaurants within a 40-minute drive of SMA.

For hikers — or even more gentle walkers — the temperate summer climate and varied topography make getting outdoors immensely appealing. Charco de Ingenio, the huge ethnobotanical preserve just 15 minutes out of Centro, has extensive trails and offers docent-lead tours.

“I think the combination of desert plateaus, rivers, and dramatic ravines might be pretty attractive to Yucatan folks who live at sea level with little change in topography,” says Lucinda, who as an avid equestrian, finds many opportunities to pursue her passion.

As for more urban pursuits, San Miguel is a premier foodie destination with dozens of notable restaurants — both very sophisticated and more earthy, most with 360 sunset views from a charming rooftop terrace.

“The city sits at the heart of one of Mexico’s most intensive agricultural regions and is also just a three-hour drive to the Pacific coast, so the quality of ingredients is stellar,” Lucinda notes.

“For the energetic, motivated and fit, it’s a great walking city — with a plethora of European-style cafes and wine bars for refreshment stops,” Lucinda adds. “But — unlike Mérida — it’s also very easy to pick up a taxi anywhere and there’s a fixed in-city fare of 60 pesos.”

San Miguel has a citywide mural initiative funding murals in every historic neighborhood. There are mural walking tours. SMA is also a fantastic birding destination as the local Audubon chapter offers regular out-of-town birding hikes with carpooling.

The routes will begin before the end of the year. Ticket prices and schedules will be announced soon, officials said at a trade show press conference.

Our thanks to Lucinda Young and Shirley Hisgen for contributing to this report.

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