What to Expect: The heart of Mexico—also known as El Bajio—is home to a wealth of sites of great historical and cultural significance, as well as a jaw-dropping collection of architectural delights.
Wedding Bells: Steps away from the plazas and the bustling andadores of Queretaro, La Casa de la Marquesa (lacasadelamarquesa.com) once hosted some of the most prominent figures in Mexico’s past; today, brides can make their own bit of history in this marvelously eclectic boutique hotel. Marry in a civil ceremony in the intimate little chapel, or opt for a larger Catholic wedding in one of the many beautiful local churches (Santa Rosa de Viterbo has an extraordinary baroque interior), followed by a reception in the Moorish-style lobby area. Room rates start at $111.
On the outskirts of town, clients can opt for a serene country wedding at Hacienda Jurica, part of Las Brisas Hotel Collection (lasbrisascollection.com) and once a splendid 16th century hacienda. Book the wedding package (starting at $50 per person) and get a complimentary 4-day stay in any of the Las Brisas Hotel collection properties, as well as one free night at Hacienda Jurica with a dinner on the first anniversary of the couple’s wedding.
With only 13 rooms, the aristocratic Villa Maria Cristina (villamariacristina.net) in Guanajuato is an excellent choice for a family takeover. The suites have high ceilings, Roche Bobois furniture, marble bathrooms with whirlpool tubs or steam baths and state-of-the-art Bang & Olufsen sound systems; and their sumptuous courtyard is made for intimate receptions. Note: They have a subterranean spa with a large indoor heated pool and delectable spa treatments. Rates start at $290.
On the same elegant street, Quinta Las Acacias’ 17 rooms and suites offer an eclectic mix of Old World European style and Mexican decor. The mountain views from the rooftop terrace make a picturesque option for a reception. Rates start at $149 per night. (quintalasacacias.com)
Weddings in San Miguel de Allende can be sedate, elegant affairs—or wonderfully vibrant fiestas with wedding parades, a darling tequila burro, and even salsa dancing classes! San Miguel-based Penzi Weddings & Events (smapenzi.com) can pull all this together and more with a complete wedding program and itinerary that will keep everyone enthralled and happy.
Hotels that offer a wonderful cultural experience include the award-winning Casa de Sierra Nevada (casadesierranevada.com), a group of restored mansions within walking distance of the gothic-inspired spires of the famous La Parroquia church (rates start at $384 per night), and Preferred Boutique Hotels’ La Puertecita (lapuertecita.com), a walled, terraced 33-room beauty set amid 300-year-old aqueduct ruins. This resort also accommodates same-sex weddings. Room rates start at $144 per night.
Morelia (capital of the state of Michoacan) offers a fairytale setting for brides, where they can marry in a majestic baroque cathedral made of pink stone and have their reception in what was once a bishop’s palace, i.e., Hotel Los Juaninos (hoteljuaninos.com.mx). Brilliantly restored, it has an amazing restaurant with a view of the cathedral, with room rates starting at about $155.
Prefer a bird’s-eye view of the city? Couples can marry with the whole of Morelia laid out at their feet like a shimmering pink mirage on the terrace of Villa Montaña Hotel & Spa (villamontana.com.mx), a villa-style property set on a hilltop. Receptions can also include fascinating regional cultural experiences such as the famous danza de los viejitos, Pirekua music of the Purepecha natives or even a spectacular recreation of a Purepecha “soccer” game with a flaming ball. Custom wedding events start at $30 per person (min. 50 people).
Hacienda Ucazanaztacua (haciendaucazanaztacua.com) in Michoacan is a dream and a must for couples who are looking for a traditional wedding amidst fabulous architecture and beautiful nature. The uniquely designed rooms, done up with fireplaces, jacuzzis, punchy colors and ornate decor, offer breathtaking views of the surrounding area. A bride and groom (there’s a scenic terrace that holds up to 300 persons) who want to immerse themselves in traditional Mexico will love that the hacienda’s “old house” was built by hands by the locals. It’s idyllic for couples who want to honeymoon in the same spot where they marry, as there are boat rides on the surrounding lake, a spa, hiking in the hills, and 10 minutes from the village of Tzintzuntzan, the center of Purepecha culture for centuries.
Sightseeing: Queretaro’s aqueduct, all 74 arches of it, is considered one of the most eloquent symbols of colonial Mexico, and the historic center is as famous for its churches and buildings as it is for its andadores. These ample corridors radiating from the busy plazas house sidewalk cafes, handicraft shops and wonderful boutique hotels. City-sponsored trams take visitors on guided tours throughout the historic center—a great way to take in the most important sites. Tell clients not to miss the Casona de los Cinco Patios, a historic mansion constructed in the style of the 18th and 19th centuries with a gorgeous gourmet restaurant, San Miguelito, and La Antojeria, which sells a variety of the best foods from around the state. Promotur Queretaro (promoturqueretaro.com.mx) offers several inner-city tours as well as visits to the nearby Sierra Gorda, a must for adventure-lovers.
Guanajuato boasts a system of underground tunnels that now circulate local traffic. Above ground, the cobblestone streets and plazas are decorated with natural greenery and lined with monumental buildings and homes, each painted a different color. The streets are very crooked and at times so narrow that you can literally kiss someone standing on the balcony across the street—there’s actually one named the Kissing Lane (Callejon del Beso), where lovers were said to do just that. Galleries, theaters and cafes contribute to the erudite-bohemian air of the town. My Guanajuato Tours (myguanajuatotours.com) can show your clients this and other attractions unique to Guanajuato, like the Museo del Panteon, home to the former occupants of the municipal cemetery, who were naturally mummified in their crypts.
No sleepy little town, San Miguel de Allende bustles with activity by day and by night. Cobblestone streets; turn-of-the-century mansions; massive, hand-carved doors; flower-filled patios and shady plazas welcome visitors, and it’s a favorite of both expats and Mexico City’s elite class. Shopping is a sport in the myriad boutique shops selling jewelry, paintings, hand-made accessories, sculptures and more. Home and garden tours of the city are very popular (couples might find themselves falling in love… with a new home!). Helene Kahn Tours (helenekahn.com) specializes in personalized tours of the city (yes, there’s one just for shopping) and of the surrounding area, including the breathtaking Santuario de Atotonilco.
In Morelia, don’t miss a visit to the Mercado de Dulces for handmade candy treats and the excellent Casa de Artesanias del Estado de Michoacan for a glimpse of the wide array of fine handicrafts created in the state and around the republic. Recommend a couple of day tours to the outlying towns—it offers not only great little mercados for arts and crafts, but also hidden treasures like the former convent of St. Francis and its grove of ancient olive trees in Tzintzuntzan, the small, deceptively simple church at Tupataro called the “Sistine Chapel of the Americas,” and the serene vistas of Patzcuaro. Between November and February, Angangueo’s pine forests is the place to be to witness the miracle of the migrating monarch butterflies. Mich Mex Guides (mmg.com.mx) offer bilingual tours of the state with federally licensed specialists in the area.
Weather: The climate in El Bajio is temperate with almost no humidity. The irregular topography makes the temperature lower at the higher elevations, typically 65°F, while the temperature in the lowlands reaches the 80s. Southern Queretaro is quite dry and desert-like.