Millions of Americans, Canadians, and Europeans visit Mexico every year. But the vast majority head to the coasts, to vacation hot spots full of resorts and bustling beach towns like Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas.
But Mexico is a large country, about one-fifth the size of the U.S., and has a lot more to offer than margaritas under a beach umbrella.
One of the country’s hidden charms can be found in its interior, about four-hour’s drive northwest of the capital, Mexico City. The town is called San Miguel de Allende, and it’s located in the Colonial Highlands region. It offers a lot of benefits: temperate climate, low cost of living, an active expat community, welcoming locals, charming local cultural traditions, and a focus on the arts.
The setting is beautiful. Its colonial centro is a UNESCO World Heritage site. So it is mandated that homes, churches, civic structures, businesses…just about every original structure…retain its historic, original appearance. And that is strictly-enforced here. Even signage for businesses is discrete. Narrow streets, cobblestone or flagstone, are lined with homes in shades of yellow, red, orange, and brown terracotta, barrel-tile roofs. It might be tough to drive a car here, but it’s certainly a pleasant place to take a long walk, exploring the architectural splendor that includes grand homes with wrought iron bars and imposing wooden doors, baroque churches with carved archways depicting religious scenes, and more.
Thanks to its beauty and peaceful atmosphere, along with all the other benefits, San Miguel is certainly no stranger to expats—they make up about 10% of the 125,000 residents in the wider metro area. These days the population swells during the North American winter, when Canadian, American, and European “snowbirds” flock to town for the great climate.
Why Retire in San Miguel de Allende?
As you turn a corner you’ll more often than not come into plazas and parks filled with shady trees and benches. These are hives of activity with food vendors, couples strolling hand in hand, playing children, and chatting retirees. There is guaranteed to be at least one shoe shine stand.
Behind plain doorways and windows with wrought-iron bars are hidden treasures. Colonial homes are historic inside and out, although the renovated ones have updated electric and plumbing, as well as high-speed internet. Interior courtyards with gardens and fountains, intricate decorative tile work, vaulted ceilings with the original timbers…you’re living in history.
Because it’s in the high sierra, the air is crisp and clean. And the climate is temperate year-round, staying in the 70s F most days and cooling down at night to the 50s F. Only in January and February will you experience colder months, with comfortable days and dips close to freezing on the coldest nights.
There is also high quality and low cost medical care available. Well-regarded doctors, dentists, and medical clinics are located in town, with large hospitals and specialists available in the nearby city of Queretaro, about 45-minutes’ drive away.
The epicenter of life for expats and locals is El Jardin, the main plaza and park in front of the famous red gothic style church known as La Parroquia. In the colonnaded buildings surrounding the park are cafés and restaurants where you can enjoy a café con leche (coffee with milk) and people watching.