Located about 18 miles from San Miguel de Allende is the archaeological site of Canada de la Virgin. It represents an important part of pre-hispanic mexican culture where many historical relics have been found. There are 7 pyramid structures of different sizes and styles that were built around 540 A.D. by Toltec and Chichimeca architects. According to experts, the site was designed and configured in such a way that all structures would be symmetrically aligned with cosmic cycles. Hence, this pattern of construction allowed the pyramids to serve as sky observatories among other things. In addition, Canada de la Vrigin is also part of a nature preserve offering a variety of recreational activities such as camping, hiking, horseback riding and astronomy tours, as well as a venue for special events.
A 500 year old cosmopolitan city, San Miguel de Allende became a Unesco World Heritage site in 2008. In summary, Unesco is an agency of the United Nations and its purpose is to promote world peace and international cooperation through education, science and cultural exchanges. To be included in the world heritage list, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of ten cultural or natural criteria.
In addition to having outstanding universal value, San Miguel de Allende qualified for acceptance on 2 of the other criteria. According to Unesco, “San Miguel is an exceptional example of the integration of different architectural trends and styles on the basis of 16th century urban layout. Both religious and civil architecture exhibit the evolution of different styles well integrated into a homogenous urban landscape”.
Unesco also considered San Miguel to be qualified as an exceptional example of the interchange of human values. “Due to its location and function, the town acted as melting pot where Spaniards, Creoles, and Amerindians exchanged cultural influences; something reflected in its tangible and intangible heritage”. Additionally, the town exhibits an acceptable state of conservation while the legal system in place ensures protection of property and continuity.
Thanks to this heritage and a thriving community of international artist, San Miguel has become one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations. Visitor’s will find that studios, galleries and craft shops are ubiquitous in the central historical area. In addition, the art institute of San Miguel attracts many students with a variety of degree programs and workshops in the fine arts. However, San Miguel is not just for art lovers, there are many other diversions here as well; such as music festivals, concerts, plays, film festivals, and other special events throughout the year that appeal to a wide variety of interest.
The botanical garden of San Miguel de Allende is a 250 acre ecological reserve just minutes away from the cities central historic district. It is also know as El Charco del Ingenio, the name comes from a large spring fed pool within the reserve’s canyon which has great bio-diversity. The park’s other highlights include a snack bar, conservatory of plants, auditorium, pavillion. retail store and variety of special events that take place on a year around basis.
From the entrance at the vistor’s center, there are a series of inter-connected trails that lead to a dry chaparral zone, a canyon zone and a wetlands zone. These paths are great for both hiking and viewing a variety of plants and wildlife native to their respective ecological zones ranging from cacti to aquatic plants as well as migratory birds. In addition there are plant displays including an agave garden, nopal garden and an endangered species garden.