Another Bus Adventure

Last month my friend Colleen and I went on the first of what we hoped would become a long string of fun and affordable bus adventures here in San Miguel de Allende. This week we went on our second. (To read about our first adventure, go to: . To learn about the second, please keep reading….)

This time around we knew where we wanted to go – the small town of Atotonilco, eight miles northwest of San Miguel, which, along with San Miguel itself, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dominating Atotonilco is the wondrous 18th century church complex, Sanctuary of Atotonilco (Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco), which remains a place of worship and spiritual retreat to this day, attracting thousands of visitors.

So Colleen and I decided to be among those visitors. We caught the SMA city bus (Ruta VII), clearly marked “Atotonilco” on its windshield, on Calzada de La Luz, near Animas (in front of house number 9) at about noon on Wednesday. The fare was 30 pesos ($1.44 USD), and the trip’s duration was under 30 minutes. Everyone on board was fully masked. The day was beautiful, and the view of the countryside glorious.

Here are some highlights from our afternoon adventure. If you haven’t yet been to Atotonilco, do go if you can. If you can’t, I’m hoping these photos might magically take you there:

 Here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the city buses are large, sturdy (primarily Mercedes-Benz), clean, and well maintained. Most cost only 8 pesos, or $0.38 USD per ride. The bus to Atotonilco (Ruta VII), however, costs 30 pesos, or $1.44 USD, one-way, and ours didn’t make other stops.

The bus let everyone off at its destination, the town of Atotonilco, across from this colorful grocery store (pictured above), and only a short walk down the main, market-lined street to the magnificent Sanctuary:

The Atotonilco area was considered sacred even before the arrival of the Spanish because of the hot mineral springs in the vicinity. The name Atotonilco is common in Mexico, especially here in the central highlands. The name comes from the Nahuatl language, meaning “place of hot waters.”  Today, the upscale La Gruta Hot Springs thermal spa is located nearby.

The main feature of the interior of the church complex is the rich Mexican Folk Baroque mural work that adorns the main nave and chapels. This mural work, which was done over a period of thirty years, has led the complex to be dubbed the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico.”

(Above:) One of the many marvelous pieces of art inside the church. This historical tidbit is from my favorite SMA guidebook, Robert de Gast’s The World of San Miguel de Allende: “On September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende and their ragtag army stopped at Atotonilco and fetched a banner with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which became the standard for the army of the Independence Movement.”

Before catching the bus to return to SMA, which left promptly at two o’clock, Colleen and I had a light lunch at a traditional open-air “café.” Cost? Ten pesos.

26 thoughts on “Another Bus Adventure”

  1. Bonnie, maybe you’ll feel like taking that trip again when I get there! Are those hot springs open to the public? That would be fun, too!

  2. What day of the week did you go? When we went there several years ago there was nothing set up in the village. We then walked from Atotonilco to Nirvana which was an interesting trek. Someone from Nirvana drove us to the highway where we perched on a guardrail until a bus came along. Would like to return and see more activity in the village

  3. Hi BB, So wonderful to see the santuario at Atotonilco again! And to learn what the word means. Your account of your bus trip brought a flood of images back to me. I was there at Christmas time and the light inside was so beautiful, illuminating two “trees” elegantly and sparsely holding large round Christmas bulbs of many colors. Such history there.

  4. The frescoes in the church were almost non-existent 20 years ago when I first went there. UNESCO had named it to be in danger of destruction and so a group of us raised money to have restoration begin under the able eye of a restoration architect. The work was completed just a few years ago and now the frescoes are exquisite again. I’m thrilled to hear that you were able to enter the church as it has been closed for a long time due to covid. I don’t know if there have been any pilgrimages since covid but the facilities are built to handle as
    many as 50,000 people at any one time in the building adjacent
    to the church! Second most visited religious site in Mexico!

  5. It was a gorgeous day for one of my favorite things to do. A blue sky, bright sun, a gentle breeze and a quiet calm. Other routes are all about bumping along through neighborhoods. Not sure how many routes there are, but Bonnie and I plan to take them all! Simple, wonderful fun.

  6. Thanks for leading the way! You are wonderful to share how to take advantage of the nearby sites in an inexpensive and independent manner!!!

    1. Thanks so much, Joyce. Come to think of it, this seems to have been my role since childhood. As the eldest girl in my neighborhood (of many girls), I found myself the leader in all of our outdoor adventures in the nearby woods and fields and back roads. Seems I was always saying, “Come! Follow me!” And they did. 🙂

  7. Dear Bon,
    What a beautiful town. The cobblestone streets seem to have stood the test of time well. The sanctuary and church look lovely. Thank you for a magical little day trip to Atotonilco.

    1. Thank you, dearest Paul! In my next post (which I’ll be writing today), I’ll take WOW readers to my idea of paradise — the Candelaria plant-and-flower fair here in SMA. Now I must get up and go there, to take more dazzling photos! — xx

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