Mexican Luxury at Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel de Allende

by ED Walsh
Tuesday Oct 4, 2011

Casa de Sierra Nevada, in picturesque San Miguel de Allende, is setting the standard for luxury and service in Mexico. Conde Nast Traveler named it as one of the ten best hotels in all of Mexico and Central America.

The 37-room property, in the heart of downtown San Miguel de Allende, consists of six different 16th to 18th century mansions and two other buildings that house a spa and a cooking school. Each of the six houses maintains the colonial architecture that has made San Miguel de Allende famous while including all the state of the art conveniences that you would expect in the most modern luxury hotel.

Casa de Sierra Nevada, like the town itself, is very gay-friendly. The hotel has earned certification from the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (ILGTA) and the hotel offers concierge recommendations for gay and lesbian friendly establishments and locales. The hotel is part of Orient-Express, a hotel, travel and "experiences" company. Orient-Express’ out director of sales, Tom Alderink, is very much clued in on promoting the company to the LGBT market.

Casa de Sierra Nevada

Casa de Sierra Nevada has been a hotel since the 1940s. Orient-Express took it over five years ago. The company has a reputation for excellence and it shows in every aspect of the hotel as well as the property’s restaurant and bar.

The city itself has a huge appeal to art and design lovers and the hotel fits a niche for the demand for upscale accommodations. The property puts you directly in the center of the town. Virtually everything is in easy walking distance. The main cathedral and town square is two blocks away. The town’s bullfighting ring is right around the corner.

If you are not relaxed enough sitting by the pool and soaking up the sunshine, the hotel has a full-service spa ready to pamper you. The oils and other cosmetics used in the spa are organic.

By the way, the hotel is committed to leaving a small environmental footprint. The toiletries supplied in each bathroom are made with organic ingredients. The food served in either of the hotel’s two full-service restaurants is locally grown.

After you are fully relaxed, how about going to a cooking class so you can enjoy homemade Mexican food when you get back home? The hotel offers a two-hour cooking class that is available for guests and non-guests alike. The class costs 600 pesos or about $55. It includes the lunch that you will help prepare. The Tuesday class includes a tour of a nearby organic market.

As you might imagine, Casa de Sierra Nevada attracts the rich and famous from all over the world. Who’s stayed there? Here’s a sampling: Tim Burton, Sharon Stone, Robert de Niro, Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Julio Iglesias, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, Melanie Griffith, the late Anthony Quinn, past President of Mexico Vicente Fox, Manuel Camacho Solís, film director José Zacarías, producer and actor Pedro Damian, and New Kids on the Block member Jonathan Knight.

Rates start around $250 but like all hotels, are a matter of supply and demand. Check the hotel’s Web site or call or e-mail for special rates or packages.

San Miguel de Allende

Even the best hotels are only as good as the destination itself and San Miguel de Allende is very good indeed. If Disney created an idyllic Mexican town it would look a lot like San Miguel de Allende.

The city of 140.000 people is best known for its old-world cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. Just about everywhere you look downtown is like a postcard, with colorfully painted stone buildings lining the city’s narrow streets.

San Miguel de Allende is also rich in history. The Franciscans first settled the town in 1542. The first cathedral was built in 1555. Part of the old cathedral is still in place today next to San Miguel’s main cathedral, which was constructed in 1683. The unconventional pink façade was controversial when it was added on in 1880 but that distinctive color has endeared itself to locals and visitors alike.


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Mexican independence was born in San Miguel de Allende. It gets its name from General Ignacio Allende, who along with Miguel Hidalgo, first planned the revolution. Allende was born in what was then San Miguel. His name was added after the successful revolution against Spain.

The charms of the city have not remained undiscovered. Nearly ten percent of the population is made up of English-speaking foreigners from the US and Canada. Tourism is the city’s lifeblood. Unfortunately, because of the negative press Mexico has received over drug violence, more Americans are scared off from taking a trip south of the border. San Miguel de Allende is one of the safest cities in the world and has not been hit by the drug violence that has plagued other towns used by drug traffickers.

San Miguel de Allede is 6,400 feet above sea level giving it a wonderful climate year-round. The warmest months are March through May. The afternoons can get up to 90 degrees but its high-desert climate means that temperatures cool down quickly at night. The coolest months are December and January. You can expect the high temperatures to be in the low to mid-70s with lows in the 40s. June through mid-October is considered the rainy season. Expect at least some light rain about three or four days a week during those months. The rains often bring out the best in the desert with blooming wildflowers and lush green vegetation sprouting up everywhere.

Gay-friendly San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel’s gay-friendliness dates back to the 1960s. Hippies were attracted to the city’s natural beauty, architecture, and bohemian arts scene. The legacy of open-mindedness they brought paved the way for the city’s thriving gay community.

While there are no gay bars in the city, most are very gay-friendly. Most locals regard La Azoteca as the gayest of the city’s bars. While mixed, the rooftop watering hole draws a loyal gay clientele.

A number of gay-owned businesses have become entrenched in the city’s fabric. The arts and design scene, as you might expect, draws its fair share of gay folks. Fabrica La Aurora, a converted textile plant, houses at least two gay-owned businesses, the Kerlegand Gallery (three of the four artist owners are gay) and the gay-owned Manuel Chacon fine arts gallery.

The colorful gay-owned Camino Silvestre shop features products for birds. The store’s courtyard hummingbird feeders turn the shop into a bird watcher’s paradise.

The gay-owned soap shop Ablu is known for its exotic soaps which use all locally produced organic ingredients. Casa y Campo is a gay-owned design shop near the Casa de Sierra Nevada. Abrazos is a lesbian-owned gift shop that specializes in locally produced crafts. Tutto Bianco is a gay-owned shop that proudly displays a rainbow flag at the front door. It sells clothes that the owners design themselves.


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You must eat, so why not support a gay-owned eatery?

El Petit Four is famous for delicious pastries and croissants. It is owned by Paco Cardenas who also runs a cooking class on Mondays. The day-long class includes a shopping trip and you get to cook and sample the food in Paco’s home.

If you don’t have that much time, Paco also runs a 90-minute tour of the local markets and can give you valuable tips on picking out the best of everything. For more information and for reservations e-mail Paco at

Mezzanine Bistro is an upscale gay-owned restaurant downtown known for its authentic Portuguese and French cuisine, great views, great food and friendly service.

Getting There:

The recently opened Aeropuerto Internacional de Queretaro (QRO) is a little over an hour’s drive from San Miguel and is served by Continental Airlines, Aeromar and Aeromexico with once daily direct non-stop flights from Los Angeles and Houston.

The Guanajuato-Leon Airport (BJX) is a scenic 1 ½ hour drive from the city. It is served by American Airlines, Continental, Mexicana, and Aeromexico. Contact the hotel to arrange a pick up and drop off service. Mexico City’s airport is about 3 ½ hours away.

LINKS: Casa de Sierra Nevada

Ed Walsh is a San Francisco resident and longtime writer for the LGBT press. Follow him on Twitter at SFTrip.


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