I had the pleasure of taking a weekend visit to Guadalajara last weekend and I must say that every time I visit, the city steals a little piece of my heart. Being from Philadelphia, I appreciate Guadalajara’s “big but not the biggest” feel – it’s central area is easy to navigate but big enough to contain obviously distinct areas, each with their own vibe and charm.
My travel mates and I stayed in the Zona Rosa, which is an absolutely beautiful part of the city located around one of its most lovely avenues Chapultepec, which is lined with little restaurants, colorful trees, and squares with fountains and statues. The nightlife in this area is buzzing with bars and food stands on every block. On Sundays, several streets get shut down so that thousands of bikers, joggers, rollerbladers, skateboarders, and dogs can cruise the town. I’ll definitely be taking my bike with me the next time I visit.
One of the nicest attributes of Guadalajara is its proximity to other areas of interest such as Lake Chapala and the town of Tequila. A friend of ours lives on the lake, so we drove down to Chapala on Saturday for a visit (which was about an hour drive). Reigning as the largest freshwater lake in Mexico, Chapala is breathtaking in size and color. Apparently in recent years, the lake had been drying up due to the fact that Guadalajara was using it to supply the city with water. Realizing what was happening, however, changes were made and the lake is again thriving.
It was interesting to learn that a little island on the lake, Mezcala, is famed for a series of battles in which Mexican natives held off several surges of Spanish troops. Although the natives eventually agreed to surrender the island in exchange for the right to keep their lands and cattle, Mezcala is known to be the only piece of Mexico never concurred by the Spanish. On the island is a pristine fort that remains much as it did during the time of battle, which visitors can tour.
Leaving the lake, we enjoyed a night out in Zona Rosa then decided to stop in the town of Tequila on our way back to Puerto Vallarta. I’d not yet been to Tequila but have always been fascinated by the fact that like the use of the term champagne, you cannot put the term Tequila on a bottle unless its contents were distilled in the region and under approved conditions. There are four main distilleries in town (and about 50 smaller “local” distilleries), but we only had time to visit one so we went with Jose Cuervo.
When we began the tour I was surprised to realize that we had joined a group being led by Journey Mexico guide Tomas Ebert! We had a blast catching up and Tomas added some great insight during the tour. The Cuervo factory is remarkable. Its colonial architecture makes it grand in nature and the details that catch your eye as you walk the distillery are amazing. The site is cleaner than you can imagine and the colorful walls shine through the ivy that covers much of the buildings. The tour was really educational, included several tastings, and ended with the tastiest margaritas I’ve ever had. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Tequila.
If you’re interested in visiting Mexico’s Colonial Heartland, I strongly encourage you to have Journey Mexico build you a little weekend getaway to Guadalajara with day trips to Lake Chapala and Tequila. Trying to do all of this by bus in one weekend would have been a logistical nightmare, so I’d definitely suggest touring the region with a private driver/guide.