Known as the birthplace of the mariachi and famed for its impressive colonial architecture, the Mexican city of Guadalajara should be on every tourist’s bucket list. But visitors to the so-called “Pearl of the West,” should also make space for the numerous nearby attractions. Here’s a guide to the very best weekend trips from Mexico’s second-largest city.
A small town an hour from Guadalajara, Tequila is best known as the birthplace of the drink that shares its name. The surrounding hills are carpeted with row after row of iris blue agave plants, and the town has a rustic, laid-back charm. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town boasts numerous historic distilleries, most of which offer tours with tequila tastings.
Still relatively unknown internationally, Mazamitla is commonly referred to as the “Switzerland of Mexico,” because of its surrounding pine forests and picturesque charm. With its quiet, quaint center and relatively chilly climate, the town is a very popular getaway from the bustle of Guadalajara. Rent a wood cabin with a group of friends, walk in the woods and dine at one of the town’s cozy restaurants.
A little over two hour’s drive from Guadalajara, the town of Tapalpa is famed for its picturesque charm and elegant historic buildings. Like the towns already mentioned on this list, Tequila and Mazamitla, Tapalpa has been officially designated a pueblo mágico, or magic town, one of 111 destinations across Mexico that the country’s tourist board is enthusiastically promoting. An excellent destination for a quiet weekend for groups of friends or couples.
Once a sleepy fishing village, Puerto Vallarta became a top vacation spot in the mid-1960s, when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton visited the area and put the town on the international tourist map. Since then, tourists have flooded in for the white sandy beaches, pretty colonial center and forest-clad mountains.
The secret is not yet out internationally on Sayulita, a cool, bohemian town to the west of Guadalajara. Long known to Mexican surfers as a great place for waves, the town is also defined by its friendly vibe, trendy bars and coffee shops. The area surrounding Sayulita still boasts gorgeous, secluded bays that rarely see tourists.
With year-round great weather, the town of Ajijic has become a favorite destination for expat retirees. The excellent climate is the result of the town’s geographical placement. On the same latitude as Mumbai, Ajijic is protected from its extremes because of its elevation at 5,000 feet (1,525 meters) above sea level. Nestling the shores of the country’s largest lake, Lake Chapala, the area is also defined by its great restaurants and first-rate hotels.