The day of the dead is a celebration of life, not death. Ancient Mesoamericans believed that death was part of the journey of life. Rather than death ending life, they believed that new life came from death. This cycle is associated with the cyclical nature of agriculture. Día de los Muertos originated with the indigenous groups, including Aztec, Maya, and Toltec, who had specific times when they commemorated their loved ones that had passed away.
Celebrated on November 1st as a day to remember children who have passed away, and on November 2nd to honor adults. Cities around Mexico such as San Miguel and Oaxaca host festivities and parades with streets full of decor and people dressed in skull makeup and skull costumes. Marigolds line the doorways as they are flowers with intense smells thought to lead the spirits to the cemetery. Monarch butterflies play a role as they are believed to hold the spirits of the departed. Brightly colored and decorated candy skulls are sold at the markets meant for children who have passed.
First, How to get yourself there
San Miguel de Allende is a 90-minute drive from Guanajuato International Airport (BJX) which is accessible by the baijo shuttle for $24 USD per person, or uber, however, it is possible a taxi at the airport might be a faster option.
Walking around the city is easy, for those in flat shoes. Ankle boots were tested and approved, wedges were a disaster, and stilettos are simply out of the question.
The city of San Miguel is colorful like the marigolds themselves. It is said there are over 2000 ornately carved wooden doors that lead to open-air courtyards around the city. Cobblestone streets crawl uphill winding around alleyways full of coffee shops, bakeries, and eateries all decorated for Día de los Muertos. It is clear that San Miguel has become an epicenter of art, expats, culture, and cuisine. It is a foodies paradise, without the typical price tag.
The Packed Perfectly team arrives on Oct 31st. If you are used to celebrating Halloween there is nowhere better and scarier than hanging around a cemetery.
Tips and Tricks:
Book your make up artist in advance as everyone wants their face painted. Allow 1.5 hours for each person in your party. We only use the talented Fernanda Olivares, our favorite makeup artist. You can email her here
Worth waking up early, as it is typical to experience an hour wait time to have breakfast at the charming Lavanda Cafe. Infamous for its lavender-infused coffee creations, chilaquiles, and crunchy tortilla chips atop black beans, smothered with salsa verde, cotija cheese and a perfectly cooked sunny-side up egg. You’re welcome.
Our make up artist @FernandaOlivares comes to our hotel, L’otel Dôce-18 Concept House. We sip champagne, order lunch from The Taco Lab downstairs, and get ready for our night out exploring the city with photographer Ernesto Morales. Ernesto’s work is magic.
Our hotel the Dôce-18 Concept House is a ritzy collection of eateries and boutiques, including a coffee bar, chocolatier, florist, library, art gallery and more—all under one roof. You can have the florist add flowers to your headpiece. TIP and TRICK: bring your own toolkits such as wire, wire cutters, tap, and scissors.
Makeup and headpiece inspiration
Grab a bottle of Casa Dragones at the concept house, the joven will set you back about $180 USD, $100 less than retail in the States. We didn’t do the tasting because it is served everywhere you go.
After exploring the city and taking photos with Ernesto we head to the Rosewood Hotel for Drinks at 7 pm, an 11 min walk from our hotel.
I have to hand it to the Rosewood hotel’s marketing department. Día de Los Muertos isn’t celebrated around Halloween in San Miguel and is more authentically celebrated in the city of Oaxaca. The Rosewood opened in Feb 2011, bringing with it an idea to attract locals and expats to the city by bringing in a parade and a city celebration. The hotel hosts a cocktail party on its rooftop and face painting during the day. It is also where the Parada de las Catrinas begins at 8pm. The parade starts at the Rosewood Hotel and ends at Doce Concept House.
Make sure you have a reservation at The Restaurant because you will want to be here for a while. Dinner and dancing, what more could you ask for?
After Party: La Calaca Dead Beats Burger and the stunning Casa Dragones house. Parties are often private, but if you can get on these lists your doing something right.
Sunrise happens easily in this town, as tequila is an upper. So pack Advil.
Breakfast at Ki’bok Coffee, a hip coffee joint indigenous to Tulum.
The beans are 100% Arabic, grown by a co-op of organic farmers in Veracruz. Try the stuffed avocado.
To do: Cemetery Walk to visit Altars.
Don Taco Tequila. The dining room is stylish, yet understated. The hand-shaken margaritas are frothy and fresh. The house salsas (four of them) are addictive. But don’t miss the restaurant’s eponymous taco: tequila flamed ribeye, caramelized onions, and garlic wrapped in cheese crust.
Dinner at Buenos Aires Bistro, an intimate cozy restaurant with delicious everything from salad, to steak, to vegetarian lasagna. Everything is carefully curated including the service.
Dinner for us was at a local residences house which gave us insight into the community and the art, a local chef, the preparation of this time year, and what is like to live in San Miguel.
Casa Dragones threw the afterparty in their stunning home. No cup was without the delicious sipping tequila.
Sunrise Happens. Go to bed.
Room service because of 2 days of sunrises.
To Do: The Fábrica holds a collective Art Walk during which all the galleries open their doors, offer cocktails, and inaugurate new exhibitions.
In the early twentieth century, the building was a textile factory where manta (cotton fabric) was produced. For over 90 years, it was the main source of work in the city. The current architectural design respects the machines and gears that remain from that time.
The Mayan Baths
Book in advance using this email: email@example.com
You will need to put down a deposit on Paypal. These are open to the public on Saturdays. It is a 15-minute drive outside of town. The experience is wonderful. You have outside hot baths, an inside grotto with a waterfall, pool boys bringing you drinks, and optional massage. My advice, book the massage and opt out of the food, but add this to your Must Do list.
The Burning Man party of San Miguel, La Calaca Festival.
Book tickets in advance for this party at Timmyland, aka Ranchito Cascabel. 30 minutes north of San Miguel de Allende, Tim Sullivan built a property inspired by the work of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Spain. What started as a sleeping porch and a storage room has evolved into a rambling, otherworldly folly that has to be seen to be believed. It is a great place for a bunch of Burners to enjoy a good party.
Reserved for Shopping and Eating. Finally get to check out the rooftop bar Quince. Below is a list to keep with you:
Buenos Aires Bistro. This is a must go to!
Atrio-Spanish Mexican, paella, fantastic rooftop
La Parada-casual Peruvian, seafood and rice
Casa Blanca- Moroccan tapas
Turk-Mediterranean street food
Marsala-Mexican with a twist; Instagram worthy dishes
The Restaurant-California style and vibe; modern decor; highly recommend Burger Night on Thursdays.
Mi Vida on Sunday or Wednesday for pizza night; best pizza in town!
Nectar-good for light lunch or afternoon tea; the store has beautiful housewares, trinkets
Los Burritos-cheap, cheap, cheap Mexican food. Great for a quick lunch
Le Petit Four (pastries/desserts)
San Augustin (churros/desserts)
Luna de Queso (healthy, clean option for lunch/brunch)
Gorditas on Stirling Dickinson (next to Miga Panaderia)-local spot and food is safe 😉
Miga Panaderia or Buon Forno (both on Stirling Dickinson) for fresh bread and pastries. We think MP is better for pastries and BF for bread.
La Mesa Grande-good pizza in town, healthy sandwiches, and salad
Rosewood/Luna-good tapas, great view, must go at least once
Antonia-fantastic view; the different vantage point from Rosewood
Trazo in Hotel 1810
Quince-creative cocktails, good music
Azotea-go to bar in town, good music, tapas
Casa No Name Hotel-quiet, peaceful, romantic, not crowded
Johnny’s Bar-live music every night
El Manantial-locals spot, one of the oldest cantinas in town (modern and remodeled ;))
Ocre-great drinks with sunset views and tons of alcoves to get lost in
Talula de la lune
Casa Doce 18
Concept House on Mesones
Tao Studio Gallery (jewelry and furniture)
Olio y Fino (50 different kinds of olive oil and balsamic vinegar)
La Biblioteca (hub for cultural activities, concerts)
Fabrica Aurora–old factory with art galleries and home design
Globo Hot Air Balloon Ride
Sound Healing w/ Billy White @ Life Path (Wednesdays at 6:30 pm)
Yoga at Esencia
Belmond Casa Sierra Nevada spa
Mayan baths-hot springs 15 min outside of town, beautiful views
Zandunga (Live Music and BBQ 15 min outside of the city; only on Sunday afternoon)
Charco del Ingenio (Botanical Garden)
Rosewood Pool (for $30, you get entrance to the pool plus $20 credit of food)
Atotonilco (historical chapel outside SMA, Sistine chapel of Mexico)
Pyramids de Canada de la Virgen
Vineyards: Santisima Trinidad, San Lucas
Tennis-Walter Weber private lesson
Spinning at Power House (at Wolf Gym)
Circuit training for 150 pesos 10am every day except Sunday (rosewood gym)
Organic Farmers Market on Ancha San Antonio (Saturday mornings)
Warren Hardy Spanish School for classes and private tutors
The Spa-$20/hr massages–best massage of my life.
Trolley Tour-$4; the English tour is every day at 1:40pm; meet on Calle Juarez
Manicure/Pedicure-Spa Papatzao on Mesones
Haircut (men and women’s)-Emily
Bistro Mi Casa-Wed/Thur night at Instituto Allende-a la carte dinner and music by Gil Guiterrez
PocketTheater-petit theater showing critically acclaimed movies; 120 pesos and includes a drink
1. Ladies, FLAT shoes. Absolutely no heels, wedges are pushing it. Steep, narrow, cobblestone sidewalks and streets.
2. Drink water! The altitude is real! 6200 feet. Plus you need a buffer between tequila.
3. Taxis are relatively safe. Just make sure you negotiate the price before you get in. You can usually get anywhere in the city for under $4. Uber is also reliable. But many times walking is faster.
4. Get lost in the Centro. There are so many cute shops and galleries, just explore.
5. Use BajioGo taxi to get to and from the airport. It’s like a super shuttle. $25/person.
6. SMA is relatively safe. Keep an eye on your things. Maybe wear a bag that goes across your chest or a waist bag. Just be a smart traveler.
7. Water at any restaurant is fine; all ice and water is filtered. It’s okay to brush your teeth with water from the faucet. I wouldn’t drink straight from the faucet…
8. Have headpieces and outfits already purchased? You can add to them while there with putting more flowers in your flower crowns, but you do not want to stress about your costume. Plus you want to win the best costume, right?
Festivities run from October 30 – November 2 in different places. The perfectly manicured square — called El Jardin — is typically bustling the entire time and a great jumping off point.
Nov. 1 – 2: Cultural dances and performances in front of the Parrochia and other nearby parks. Check the local paper, Atención, for details.
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