Baja California, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende and Puebla

Issue 34
November 2018

Greetings,

Greetings from Indonesia where I am currently researching new destinations from this most magical of archipelagos. More to come on Indonesia next year but for this month, Steve’s trip to Mexico is brought to life…

Yours laterally,

Twenty years ago I set foot in Mexico and Latin America for the first time. Despite travelling the country in depth, I didn’t ever make it to Baja California. This year seemed an appropriate time to return to Mexico and explore Baja California’s rich coast and interior. Combining Baja with a circuit covering Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende and Puebla you experience Aztec pyramids by hot-air balloon over Teotihuacan, fascinating art, history and nouveau Mexican cuisine in Puebla and old-world cobbled charm in San Miguel. The Baja coast starting in La Paz is the gateway to Isla Espiritu Santo and the Sea of Cortes, the stretch of water that separates the peninsula from the mainland. Rich ecosystems thrive here and you’ll be able to snorkel with manta rays and sea lions, sail amongst humpback, grey and blue whales, sea kayak along crowd-free coves and hike in the deserts of the interior. Unwind at one of the luxury resorts in Los Cabos for some r&r and a fitting end to days of exploration.

Mexico City

Mexico City has certainly cleaned itself up in recent years. Gone are the days of the old beetle taxis, the constant sound of honking horns and mayhem. Today’s historic centre has been largely pedestrianised to create a far more civilised introduction to this incredible country. Just outside are the majestic Aztec pyramids of Teotihuacan. There is no better way to see these than by hot-air balloon. Drift peacefully over the archaeological site and in the evening head to the world famous Anthropology Museum for a private visit with the museum’s curator. Our hotel of choice here is Las Alcobas, an upmarket boutique hotel in the heart of Polanco District which is home to some of the city’s finest dining.

Puebla

Just 2.5 hours by road from Mexico City, Puebla has remained under the radar for decades, largely due to a lack of infrastructure to attract visitors. The new Rosewood Hotel has however firmly put Puebla on the map by transforming a collection of heritage buildings into a luxurious retreat. Beyond the obvious sites of cathedrals and the Great Pyramid of Cholula, Puebla is a bustling piece of real-life Mexico, best explored on foot. A day’s meandering can cover colourful local markets, parks, plazas and visits to the Uriarte Talavera Pottery Workshop to see the full production process which dates back to the early 1800s or the striking International Museum of Baroque Art. Puebla is also the place to sample one of the country’s most famous dishes – mole poblano – a rich dark sauce combining spices and chocolate.

San Miguel de Allende

Long regarded as one of the most picturesque towns in San Miguel, it is easy to see why it has become one of the country’s most popular inland destinations. Cobblestone streets mixed with quaint plazas, colourful old colonial buildings, artisan markets and inviting cafes abound. This is a place to explore on foot, sip tequila and watch the world pass you by. Luxurious accommodation is provided by both Belmond in their historic Casa de Sierra Nevada and the recently opened Rosewood which is located on the edge of the old town. In town, partake in art workshops and cooking courses; further afield enjoy cycling, quad biking, horse riding and hiking over the desert landscape.

La Paz, Baja California

Still off-the-beaten track, La Paz is a short flight from Mexico City and retains a Mexican feel in the small town centre. Base yourself in the charming Posada de Las Flores and spend a few days snorkelling, scuba diving, sport-fishing, sailing and kayaking to see the rich marine life of migrating whales, gentle whale-sharks, playful sea lions, giant sea turtles and colourful reefs abundant with inquisitive fish. Further afield, travel north to Loreto and a visit to Magdalena Bay. Hike sand dunes and sail amongst curious whales. You’ll see very few tourists in this magical spot.

Todos Santos, Baja California

Driving south from La Paz to Los Cabos, you’ll stumble upon Todos Santos which is a lovely spot for a night. Todos Santos is the San Miguel of Baja with a thriving expat community drawn to a relaxed pace of life in its charming historic centre. It has a bohemian feel and is popular with artists, keen to invite visitors into their workshops. This is also a place to while away time in one of the roadside cafés or head to the beaches on the Pacific side. In the evenings, most of the day visitors have gone and you’ll once again feel like you have the place to yourself. Stay overnight here at the Guaycura Hotel and enjoy margaritas at Tequila’s Sunrise Bar with Mr Margarita.

Los Cabos, Baja California

Los Cabos is by far the most touristy part of the Baja peninsula and is split between the resort town of San Juan del Cabo and the more characterful town of San Jose del Cabo. The area is home to some of the country’s most spectacular hotels and so if you prefer to end a trip with luxury, this is the place. Aside from relaxing by a private pool and dining on exquisite seafood, you can still be active with snorkelling and diving at Cabo Pulmo, hiking in the desert and swimming under waterfalls on a Sierra La Laguna expedition and sunset boat trips around the famous arches. One of our favourite hotels is the Esperanza Resort which has light, inviting rooms, private terraces and large swimming pools with a nicely relaxed, unpretentious feel. If money is no object however, splurge on The Mansion at Las Ventanas al Paraiso which sets a new benchmark in opulent luxury. If a swimmable beach is important, head to the One & Only Palmilla which has lush tropical gardens with all rooms facing the ocean.

Up Periscope: Sheldon Chalet, Alaska

We met the wonderful Sheldon family recently who own the Sheldon Chalet in Alaska. This lateral property dates back three generations of this pioneering family who welcome visitors to the wilderness of Alaska. The Sheldon Chalet is a 5 bedroom engineering marvel, perched on top of a nunatak (an exposed rocky peak). This is a place where you can combine high-octane heli-adventure with calm nights spent observing the aurora borealis with all the luxuries of exquisite cuisine, refined service and the cosy comforts of a beautiful home.

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