Rancho Xotolar (show-toe-lar) is an authentic, family-owned, working ranch just 18 kilometers from the center of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This 1250-acre ranch is set amid pristine rolling pastures and dramatic canyons – all adjacent to the newly opened pre-Columbian archaeological site of Cañada de la Virgen. The Morín family has lived and farmed Rancho Xotolar for six generations and now welcomes guests to experience ranch life that is untouched by modernization.
Thomás Morín picked us up at our vacation rental in San Miguel. As we drove to the ranch, Thomás told us a little about himself, his family, and the history of the ranch. He’s full of fascinating facts and stories. When we reached Rancho Xotolar, we were given a tour of their home and introduced to the family, including the 91-year-old matriarch, who was in the kitchen making tortillas.
After being fitted with cowboy hats, we were shown around the barnyard where we saw pigs, sheep, bulls, and cows. We each tried our hand at milking a cow, which took way more skill than we expected, but Thomás and his brother Felix were happy to lend some advice and guidance – and maybe a little bit of good-natured laughter at our expense…a small price to pay.
Next, we were taken to meet the horses and the trail dogs. Each rider was paired with a horse that suited our experience and temperament. I was a little skeptical when my then 7-year-old son, who’d never ridden before, was given a small horse named Tornado and told they used to “race” him. But, of course, it was a perfect choice.
Before setting off on our adventure, Thomás provided a riding tutorial/refresher and another guide joined us. Now, there was one life-long caballero to each member of our family. We were comforted to see how attentive and protective they were to our son. Their expertise with horses, experience teaching their own kids to ride, and intimate knowledge of the terrain ensuring that all was under control. They also did a great job evaluating my son’s comfort level and ability throughout the 2.5-hour ride, which ensured that he had an opportunity to challenge himself without putting himself at risk.
We took our ride during the rainy season, so the semi-arid highlands were wonderfully verdant, the air was cool and fresh, and the countryside was blanketed with wildflowers and blooming desert plants.
Thomás offered to take photos of our excursion using our camera. It was so nice not to have to worry about capturing it all or balancing a camera while on horseback – we simply relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. He did a great job, too. He took most of the photos you see within this post.
After riding through the gently rolling hills for a bit, we began to zig-zag down a series of switchbacks toward the canyon. At one point we stopped to bounce echoes off the canyon walls before continuing our descent to the river below. We stopped to water our horses for a bit and then galloped through the water, while the majestic canyon walls embraced us – we couldn’t have asked for a better, more picturesque scene.
Every so often, our escorts would whistle melodically, burst into song, or share fascinating facts and stories. Thomás would cut the fruit from cacti along our route and offer it to us. It was interesting to test the various flavors and it was a refreshingly sweet treat as well. As we were ending our 2.5-hour ride and approaching the barn, Thomás joked with my son that there were only 2 more hours of riding before lunch. I think he expected my son to be anxious for the ride to end and to get something to eat, but instead he cheered at the prospect of continuing. If that’s not a two-thumbs-up endorsement, I’m not sure what is.
Upon returning to the ranch, we were treated to an authentic and truly delicious comida (luncheon) prepared and served with care by female family members and from ingredients grown on the ranch. A true farm-to-table experience. The “Queso de Ranchero” was made fresh from the milk we’d collected earlier that morning; the corn, beans, and squash was grown in their fields; the nopales salad was from cacti paddles harvested on their land, the salsa containing tuna (cactus fruit), fresh handmade tortillas and rice. All of the food was truly delicious and, combined with the experience, the setting and the hospitality, it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had in San Miguel, if not anywhere, and an unforgettable day. For more information contact Tomas and Felix Morin at Rancho Xotolar.
Phone: (from outside Mexico) 011-521-415-514-6275.
Thomás’ cell: 011-044-415-105-2622.