Source: The New York Times
By BETH GREENFIELD
Published: December 25, 2005
WHY GO NOW — Álamos is always sleepy. That’s one of its biggest charms. But winter in Álamos, a small Mexican town, brings a hint of excitement in the air. It’s when snowbirds from the United States join the locals in occupying the cobblestone streets, the casual restaurants and the restored 18th-century colonial haciendas. It’s also when sunny days bring temperatures that hover between 70 and 80, then dip into the 40’s at night, perfect for snuggling up in front of the fireplace at an inn. Late January has the added buzz of the Alfonso Ortiz Tirado Festival, a 10-day affair that begins Jan. 20 and brings live orchestral, piano, choir and dance performances to town in honor of the late tenor and Álamos native, Dr. Alfonso Ortiz Tirado.
Álamos, an architectural treasure, had 188 of its structures declared National Historic Monuments in 2000. In July it was named one of Mexico’s handful of Pueblos Mágicos, placing it in good company with 13 others, including Taxco and San Miguel de Allende. Founded by Spaniards in 1681, Álamos has a long history of playing host to missionaries, explorers and miners, and was once the world’s leading producer of silver. Today it has a population of 12,000 (including more than 350 foreigners), and draws visitors with its mellow vibe, majestic architecture, plazas shaded by cottonwood trees and sprawling haciendas shrouded in red bougainvillea blossoms. Nestled at the foothills of the Sierra Madre, the town is near several great hiking and birding destinations. But mainly, you should prepare to relax upon arrival, as the big activity here is, blessedly, dar la vuelta (to go for a stroll). ”In Álamos,” said Emiliano Grajeda, a local tour guide and historian, ”you do as little as you can.”
WHERE TO STAY — The most luxurious accommodations in town are at the Hacienda de los Santos, Calle Molina 8, (52-647) 428-0222, www.haciendadelossantos.com. It is a breathtaking collection of three colonial mansions connected by stone pathways, brick tunnels and Moroccan-style arches. The 25 rooms, all individually designed, have antiques, fireplaces, original artwork and tile floors topped with thick carpets, and they all front courtyards lush with fountains, small swimming pools and leafy guanacaste trees. A spa on the premises offers treatments from massages to body wraps, and its restaurant serves tasty Mexican classics in a romantic, candlelit ambience. A Sonoran spiced breast of chicken is $16, while a cheese-stuffed poblano chile is $14; four-course specials, which recently featured filet mignon with ancho-chile sauce, are $28. While service at the hacienda is a bit unpolished, the luxurious surroundings more than make up for it. Rooms start at $225, plus 17 percent tax, and include an excellent seated breakfast with options ranging from eggs Benedict and huevos rancheros to granola with yogurt. Like many businesses in Álamos, the hacienda accepts payment in United States dollars.
The town’s newest option is the Hotel Colonial, Calle Obregón 8, (52-647) 428-1371, www.alamoshotelcolonial.com, which was opened in late October by an expatriate couple from Louisiana. Housed in a grand mansion just a block from the main plaza, the five (soon to be eight) rooms feature sleigh beds, brightly tiled bathrooms and, in some, flat-screen televisions. The early American décor, unfortunately, does not incorporate much local colonial flavor. But rooms, which range from $125 to $150 a night, including tax, are large and immaculate.