Guadalajara, state of Jalisco
Guadalajara; the name in itself is already great. Tell others that you went to Guadalajara, and you will hear your friends having fun trying to pronounce that name.
Guadalajara is the second largest city of Mexico. It’s located in the state of Jalisco, northwest of Mexico City (DF). With 4 million inhabitants, Guadalajara is smaller than DF, and has very little in common with the capital. Often forsaken by the tourists who are mostly satisfied with always making the same loop (Mexico City, Oaxaca, Las Chiapas, and Yucatan), I find it a shame because Guadalajara allows you to get a good idea of the local Mexican culture.
I admit, Guadalajara is not the most charming mexican city. Some neighborhoods are cute and enjoyable to visit. But overall, it’s a little anarchic, with lots of traffic and buildings built without any logical structure. In a way, this creates a certain charm. Among the touristic spots not to be missed are the historic center with the Assumption Cathedral, the Government Palace, Liberation Square, etc.
It is a very European architecture that stems from the colonization period. From here, you can easily walk to the central market, where you will almost exclusively find clothes to buy, so this is more a place to walk around than to go shopping. It is among the streets of the market that you can find churros stuffed with dulce de leche.
An absolute Must-See: the districts of Tlaquepaque and Tonala. Both are lovely.
Go for a walk, have fun entering all the little shops, and let yourself be charmed. If you want to buy souvenirs or craft pieces, this is where you need to do it. Have a coffee on a terrace, or have lunch surrounded by mariachis.
For church lovers, consider visiting the Basilica of Zapopan.
Finally, if you want to dine in the hipster quarter, I recommend you go for a walk on the side of Chatepultec and dine at Mercado Mexico. It’s brand new, very beautiful, and very good.
In order to get a complete Mexican experience in Guadalajara, try couchsurfing, or an Airbnb in a shared apartment. Because in the end, you come here more for the local experience than for the landscape. In my case, I am lucky to have a Mexican friend who lives there. This allowed me to have great experiences, especially as the Mexicans have a real sense of hospitality and celebration. If you can spend a Christmas or some other important national event at a Mexican home, you will keep a magical memory (but your liver a little less). For Christmas, plan in 3 days of celebration …
From Guadalajara you can take buses to the surrounding villages. There is also the airport for long distance trips. It will cost you about 150 pesos (7.50 euros) to get from the old bus terminal to the airport by cab. There are cabs with the meter running and others without. If you take a cab without a meter, it is better to speak Spanish well to be able to negotiate.
– Bus Guadalajara-Mexico City: between 500 and 800 pesos (25-40 euros) for a 1st class bus. Duration is roughly 7 hours. Night bus is recommended.
– Bus Guadalajara-Tapalpa: about 140 pesos (7 euros). Duration is about 3 hours. There are departures every hour from 5am to 6pm.
Tequila, Pueblo Magico
If you spend a few days in Guadalajara, then you should definitely make a small stop by the village of Tequila. We all did tequila slammers when we were younger, so a trip down memory lane is essential! After all, it is in the village of Tequila that this famous drink is made.
To reach it, you have to cross kilometers of dry and blue-green fields because of the agave that is cultivated there. And yes, tequila is an alcohol obtained from the distillation of this plant. There are almost a dozen distilleries in the village, which allows you to discover the manufacturing process. At the end of the visit, there is the obligatory tequila tasting.
While you’re there, buy a bottle or two, as it will be cheaper and better than at the duty-free shops at the airport. They say that if the tequila is good, you don’t have a headache the day after. Also taste the agave honey, a delight!
Lago of Chapala
Lake Chapala is about a 2-hour drive from Guadalajara. Mexicans spend the day or weekend there to relax and stroll around the lake.
The food is great. Mostly shrimp. With all the sauces! I remember spending a day with a family of Mexican women, about twenty people. We had a large table, and ordered a dozen different shrimp dishes. It looked a bit like the scene from Forrest Gump. It is no surprise that the dishes are ordered in family size. If you are still hungry, you can enjoy corn or ice cream around the lake.
Tapalpa, Pueblo Magico
The village of Tapalpa is about a 3-hour drive from Guadalajara, and it is one of my best memories in Mexico. After crossing desert landscapes, you arrive in a village of pine forests. The Mexicans usually rent a cottage outside the village and spend a few days there.
The village itself is really charming. You will want to stop time and stay there. I ate the best tacos of my life. This village is so quiet, that the bus ticket salesman has set up his “office” in the street. The good man has neither a table nor a chair. He sits down quietly under a tree every day while waiting for customers (here the picture of his “office”). I found this situation great, and it perfectly sums up the state of mind of this magical place.
I did not go but…:
– Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco. This is a seaside resort a few hours from Guadalajara. It is very popular with Americans and Canadians who have direct flights to this city. You have to see the villages in the vicinity, especially Yelapa which is only accessible by boat.
To discover my mexican trip, click here.
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