July 6, 2016 – New York — The colonial city of San Miguel de Allende took top honors at Travel + Leisure magazine’s World’s Best Awards 2016, where it was named “No. 1 City in Mexico and Central and South America” and No. 3 in the overall category of “World´s Best City”. The awards were determined by readers of the publication, who were surveyed from Nov. 2, 2015 to Feb. 29, 2016.Located in the Bajio region of Mexico, in the state of Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende has enjoyed a favorable reputation because of its colonial architecture, year-round spring-like climate, colorful cultural celebrations, gastronomy and romantic setting. In recent years, it has become an important tourist center for Mexico and the world.
“It is an honor for San Miguel de Allende to be recognized by the readers of an influential magazine such as Travel + Leisure,” said Ricardo Villarreal, Mayor of San Miguel de Allende. “We accept it on behalf of a city and its citizens who welcome all its visitors with open arms and strive to provide a unique one-of-a-kind destination in Mexico and Latin America.”
The city won the same recognition from Travel + Leisure readers in 2008, when it was also named a UNESCO World Heritage site under the title of “Protective town of San Miguel and the Sanctuary of Jesus Nazareno de Atotonilco.” The latter distinction was granted because of the city’s cultural significance, its architectural contribution to the Mexican Baroque art and architecture movement, and also the role it played in the fight for Mexican independence.
The town has a mystical quality. Its picturesque cobblestone streets and colonial architecture — combined with colonial-era traditions both religious and secular, a spectacular natural setting and the vibrant Mexican culture — are only enhanced by the embrace of all its many facets by both the friendly locals and the diverse, melting-pot population comprised of hundreds of expats, representing 63 nationalities, who have made San Miguel de Allende their home.
The world’s most influential travel brand, Travel + Leisure offers insider access to destinations around the globe with a signature mix of smart advice, immersive photography, expert reporting and award-winning coverage of hotels, food, design, style, culture and trends. With a global reach of more than 6.5 million readers, the U.S. edition of Travel + Leisure — which originally launched in 1971 — is today also designed for tablet readers.
I agree with the very real concerns about water, traffic, and rapid development, and share the frustration that more is not being done to manage growth intelligently and to deal more equitably with basic human needs, both inside and outside San Miguel. However, just to offer an additional perspective, to walk just a few blocks outside the historic center is a walk well worth the effort. Yes, surrounding colonias are changing as well, but sometimes they also offer a timeless charm and neighborhoods that are not dedicated to tourism. I live in one of those neighborhoods and have come to appreciate deeply both my neighbors and the community life we share.
As a resident of this wonderful city, I consider the increased tourism, traffic, etc. as a natural result of its charm.
What disturbs me more is the complete political apathy (or worse, complicity) that this is an area so low on water that outlying communities (the poorest, of course) are experiencing increasing problems accessing potable water and children are developing diseases associated with high levels of arsenic and fluoride from scraping the bottom of aquifers that only began to be tapped in the 1950’s. As reported by the NY Times this May, most of this water has not gone to residents, but to wealthy farmers who export their crops to the US or grow alfalfa for the local dairy industry. So while the tourists play, the poor suffer from inattention, and the use of the precious little water remaining goes to corporate agriculture. In the end, we will run out of water or have it piped in from somewhere else, depriving some less wealthy community of their water. None of this is very charming, but its true. Remember that when you visit our beautiful town.
Thank you for speaking up. One does not have to go far outside this historic town to find extreme poverty despite the best efforts of the foreign community to alleviate it. The well publicised tourist area is a bubble in a very unequal economy.
Step across the street from Historic Centro into Colonia Guadalupe, the Mural District. Stroll the streets and along the arroyo to enjoy the most vibrant wall murals from the best of local, national and international graffiti artists. Muros en Blanco Distrito de Arte
I am very happy to share the whole story of how all this came together!
As with all towns and cities around the world that have been ‘discovered’ San Miguel has joined that group. I’ve heard of a movement that has been formed to begin looking at how to protect these towns and not spoil them with too many tourists (i.e. Florence and Venice). I know Cortona, Italy has suffered the same fate since Under the Tuscan Sun and San Miguel will too if a solution isn’t found. Too much of a good thing spoils the essence and spiritual nature of a place and our urgent desire to escape the madness of everyday life will only increase the demand for such places. Is there really a place on earth that isn’t ‘discovered’?
Been to San Miguel de Allende twice and the longing to be there once again remains an important part of my existence. Why? If you are an artist of some sort……it’s a place of inspiration and rejuvenation. If you are a person with deep appreciation for architecture, art in general, love of people and their culture, San Miguel will offer your life the nourishment it needs. It is a city that exhilarates the senses……and you will be drawn to everything beautiful and delicious. Go for no less than two weeks to really enjoy it all. Go…..you deserve it!
Mass tourism is going to kill this beautiful city.
The traffic is already absolutely awful especially during weekends. The air in the narrow streets is polluted, the big cars take so much space when parked that when another BIG car passes, the car alarms go off. It is hell here in El Centro during the weekends and holidays. Another matter is :how long is our water supply going to last????
I wish you would not write about San Miguel all the time.
I came here the first time 1970 and it was another world.
So agree with Ingrid. The town is bursting at the seams with tourists,loud noise and traffic. Wonderful town that is/has been slowly ruined.
Hi Bonnie. Thanks for checking in. Hope all is well in your Mexico travels.
I FEEL YOU !!! IT IS THE SAME WITH AUSTIN and I always wished they had shut up but it is too late now we are ruined as well
Thanks Ingrid. I feel the same way about some of our favorite spots, but eventually people explore and are stricken by the love, warmth and charm of Mexico. I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting SMA yet, but trust that the overall opinions of those who live, travel to or who have retired there are fairly accurate. Thanks for checking in, cheers.
Of course it was a different world…you are comparing this city to what you knew 46 years ago !
Did you see anyone with a cell phone then? Even beggars have them now.
I have only lived here 8 years and I see the changes.
When I went back to Europe after only 4 years I didn’t recognize my own town..
This was a lovely article and glad San Miguel de Allende is getting the recognition it deserves except you could have chosen an opening photo of somewhere in or near San Miguel rather than somewhere on an ocean. San Miguel de Allende is in central Mexico – not near an ocean. There is a small lake on the edge of town, but you can see across it.
Hi Talulah, I think you might be referring to our website header (which was taken in Puerto Vallarta). In the SMA piece, the photo is a compilation of many photos (from the official SMA website). Thanks for checking in, cheers.
I just got back from a week in SMA last month… I’m already scheming how to get back there.
Fantastic Denise. Safe travels to you! Cheers.