Guadalajara is a top tourist destination in Jalisco, a state in Western Mexico famous for its beautiful beaches and coastal town of Puerto Vallarta. However, staying in the inland capital doesn’t mean you’ll be short of beautiful sights or excellent activities, as we make clear in our guide to the top ten things to do in Guadalajara.
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Jalisco is the birthplace of tequila, the famous Mexican spirit made from the blue agave plant, and visiting Guadalajara without spending a day in Tequila is unthinkable. There are several tour companies that run trips to this small and vibrant town, including the Tequila Express. Although probably the most expensive option, everything is planned out for you and it includes travel, food, entertainment, and tastings. Booking in advance is recommended, although you can make the journey yourself, taking the bus to Tequila from the Central Vieja in Guadalajara. Simply sign up for a tour of the factory of your choice when you arrive. While there, you must try cantaritos (tequila and a mixture of fruit juices) whilst overlooking the small central plaza.
La Barranca de Huentitán
A jaw-droppingly picturesque natural park, La Barranca de Huentitán is a must visit for lovers of nature. Unlike some of the locals who use the steep, cobbled paths for running, take it at a more leisurely pace and amble down to the bottom of the valley before following the track along the river. Before you know it, you’ll be at the thermal baths for which this stunning location is also known. This is the perfect place to rest your tired muscles after all that walking, but there are no changing facilities, so come wearing your bathing suit and be prepared to make the return journey damp. To arrive, take the Macrobús toward Mirador and get off at the final stop.Address: Periférico Norte Manuel Gómez Morin, Tetlán Río Verde, 44720 Guadalajara, JAL, Mexico
The Yucatán peninsula, with the impressive Chichen-Itza, as well as Mexico City with Tenochitlán, hog all the archaeological attention in Mexico. Jalisco does however play host to some interesting ruins; Guachimontones is a lesser known archaeological site, located in the town of Teuchitlán. Around a two-hour bus journey from Guadalajara, this wonderful spot is worth paying a visit. The thing that sets it apart from other ruins is that the pyramids are made of concentric circles, a style not found anywhere else in Mexico. There is also a small but well-laid out and engaging museum which tells you about the people who inhabited the area hundreds of years ago. To get there, take a bus from the Central Vieja that heads towards Teuchitlán or Guachimontones. From there it’s a short and inexpensive taxi ride to the ruins.
Chapultepec’s Cultural Tianguis
Avenida Chapultepec is the main hub of Guadalajara’s night life, but it also plays host to a weekly cultural tianguis (street market). Every Saturday afternoon and evening, stall holders set up their wares down the central reservation of Chapu, Paseo Chapultepec. Due to its prime location, this is a hugely popular market with locals and tourists, so it can get crowded. With products been sold ranging from hand woven rucksacks to Huichol beaded jewelry to second hand books, this is a definite must visit for Guadalajara. The stalls are almost always interspersed with performances ranging from hula hooping to salsa dancing. Even if markets aren’t your thing, at least pop in for a look as you hop from bar to bar down Chapultepec.
Guadalajara’s historic center is well worth an afternoon of anyone’s time during a visit to Guadalajara, and perhaps even longer if you choose to dine at one of the best restaurants there. Flanked by four beautiful plazas, each with its own specific atmosphere, as well as some of the most architecturally delightful structures in the city, the Centro Histórico is a key point of attraction in Guadalajara. Bring a book and relax in La Rotonda de Los Jalicienses Ilustres or stroll down Plaza de la Liberación from the Cathedral to Teatro Degollado. Shop at San Juan, and in the evening, dance in El Sonidero and enjoy a few tequila shots at Chupitería La Favorita.
If you’re the type of holidaymaker who likes to exercise while on vacation, this is a really great spot to go for a run. Alternatively, non-exercisers will also enjoy the vast expanse of forest and paths that make up Parque Colomos in Guadalajara. Wander through the forest, stroll around the quaint Japanese gardens – you might even spot a quinceañera photoshoot – and feed the ducks, koi fish, and squirrels. There are bathroom facilities and snack points if you get peckish. If you visit as a group, CECA – the “Center of Education and Environmental Culture” – has activities such as educational camping. They also run historical walks for a minimum of 10 persons, and night walks, a private activity for groups of between 20 and 35 persons.
Ajijic & Chapala
Filed under one point on this definitive guide to Guadalajara, Ajijic and Chapala are a fifteen minute bus journey from one another, and just over an hour from Guadalajara itself. You could also comfortably visit both towns in a day. We recommend taking the bus from the Central Vieja in Guadalajara, first to Chapala. Stroll along the edge of the lake and enjoy coconut water straight from the fruit before heading to a cafe for brunch. Soak up the vibrant mosaics that can be found spotted all over this pueblo before hopping on the local bus to Ajijic. Popular with Canadian ex-pats, non-Spanish speakers will feel right at home here. This is the place to dine and admire the vivid, eye-catching street art that dominates almost every calle.
Tlaquepaque is a small village just outside of Guadalajara and is famous for its clay pottery, which can be purchased from vendors all across Mexico, including in central Guadalajara. What’s better than buying artesanías in the place from which they originate? As well as several stores that sell these pots, the center of the town is an intricate crisscross of streets, including several top quality restaurants and bars. Another famous Tlaquepaque venue that you must check out is El Parián. A cluster of restaurants circling a central bandstand that hosts nightly mariachi singers and bands, this is a cultural hotspot that is well worth a visit.
An unmissable three-floor market in the heart of the historic center, San Juan de Dios is a Guadalajara institution, a true experience, and the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs. Spread across the various levels there’s a huge produce section, leather products, clothing, electronics, and even animals. Leather goods and Mexican huaraches are our top purchase recommendations here. El Mercado de Santa Tere, on the other hand, is all about the food. Located in the Santa Teresita neighborhood, it is budget friendly and serves up absolutely mouth-watering Mexican dishes. Stop by for breakfast and try deep fried quesadillas or chiles rellenos.
This is admittedly one for the Spanish-speaking travelers among you, as the film that’s screened at the end of the bike ride is almost always in Spanish. The name is more or less self-explanatory, as Bicinema is a weekly event consisting of a group bike ride, followed by an open air film screening. Starting from Plaza Expiatorio, you follow the organizers through the streets of Guadalajara (you can use your own bike or rent one from the organizers when you arrive), working your way to the screening point which varies week to week. Once you arrive, the group settles down to watch a film – one that fits with that month’s theme – before riding back to Expiatorio. Make sure to bring snacks.
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