Nature lovers are sure to enjoy an outing to El Charco del Ingenio, just a few minutes from San Miguel de Allende's city center. This 300-acre nature reserve is home to a canyon and reservoir, a botanical garden, and vestiges of a colonial-era waterworks system. To get to El Charco, take a taxi from the center of town. You could walk, but it is a steep climb; better save your energy for walking once there. At the entrance to the reserve you'll find a small open air cafe and a gift shop selling organic goods, plants, handicrafts, as well as books and pamphlets about the area.
There are three distinct ecosystems represented within El Charco del Ingenio: canyon, dry scrubland and wetlands. Each of these provides homes to a wide variety of plants and animals. The botanical garden boasts one of the largest collections of succulents in Mexico.
As you wander the many paths throughout the reserve you'll come across the ruins of a 19th century aqueduct, a windmill, and two water mills near the spring-fed pool. These were in use in the colonial period, when San Miguel’s textile industry was booming. Legends abound about this area: there are tales of a headless horseman being spotted on nights when the moon is full, and locals talk about a mysterious creature that dwells in the depths of the reservoir.
Guided walks are offered two mornings a week. Take your binoculars to spot the colorful birds. Hike the paths along the canyon bordered by giant agaves and nopal cactus among interesting rock formations. Cultural and educational events are held here on a regular basis including an evening ceremony held every month on the full moon, and a temazcal, a traditional herbal steam bath ritual.