Why This Mexican City – Far From The Beach – Should Be Your Next Vacation Destination

Savvy travelers are finally catching on to the fact that some of the best places to visit in Mexico are far from the country’s pristine beaches. In the heart of the country, cities filled with gorgeous historic architecture and richly layered cultures and traditions are the new destinations for experience-minded travelers looking for the best Mexico has to offer. Among them is Guadalajara, a one-of-a-kind destination with some of the best in Mexican food, culture, music, and tradition, creating a travel experience that visitors can’t forget.

Welcome to Guadalajara

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

Located in the heart of Mexico, several hours west of Mexico City, Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico. It is by no means purely hustle and bustle; Guadalajara is, in many ways, considered the country’s cultural epicenter and the birthplace of some of Mexico’s most cherished culinary, musical, and cultural traditions.

Cultural Capital

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

The city of Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco, a rich and varied state in Mexico perhaps best known for its spirits production. The diverse region stretches across mountain ranges and arid landscapes to the country’s Pacific Coast and is home to everything from untouched beaches to the built-up resort town of Puerto Vallarta, which is about four hours west of Guadalajara.

Historic Gems

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

Jalisco celebrated its bicentennial in 2023, though Guadalajara was founded 482 years ago and started its rich history as an important center during colonial times. Visitors can still appreciate Guadalajara’s numerous historic gems like the Guadalajara Cathedral and other landmarks like Hospicio Cabañas, one of the oldest hospitals in the Americas and filled with impressive murals that speak to one of the most identifiable Mexican art forms.

More to See

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

Guadalajara’s historic monuments are impressive, but even more memorable for visitors tend to be the ways to experience the city’s rich cultural heritage first hand.

Mariachi

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

One of Guadalajara’s most recognizable traditions is mariachi music, in many ways birthed from the traditions of charrería, a culture birthed from the equestrian and livestock herding traditions used in the region’s old haciendas. The people of Guadalajara, known as tapatíos, take tremendous pride in preserving and celebrating the music’s heritage.

Feel the Music

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

Guadalajara celebrates the tradition every year in the annual International Mariachi and Charrería Festival, which spans 10 days and features more than 500 Mariachi bands alongside spirited parades, art exhibits, charro demonstrations, and more. The yearly event is attended by thousands of visitors and brings together the world’s best and most famous mariachi bands

Culinary Capital

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

Guadalajara is also home to a rich Mexican culinary tradition that goes way beyond just tacos. This is the place to try the increasingly famous birria you’ve been hearing so much about, but even more emblematic of the city are tortas ahogadas. Translating literally to “drowned sandwiches,” these delights are made with marinated pork on crisp French rolls called bolillos and doused in spicy tomato-based salsa.

Mexican Classics

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Guadalajara is also home to numerous other incredible dishes, including a pozole stew unique to the region for its red sauce, which takes its flavor from the three different types of chiles used to make its base.

World Class Spirits

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

Guadalajara is also known as the hub and heart of Mexican spirits production. Fields of blue agaves coat the hillsides and mark the landscape outside the city and throughout the region of Jalisco, long revered as the home of spirits like tequila, mezcal, sotol, and numerous other types of local liquors.

Welcome to Tequila

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

Guadalajara sits just over an hour from the small town of Tequila, home to the production of its world-famous eponymous liquor. Travelers can visit multiple distilleries in the area to see how the liquor is produced and, of course, sample as they go. It’s one of the most popular things to do as a day trip from Guadalajara.

World’s Best

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Guadalajara proper is also home to a rich cocktail culture, with the local El Gallo Altanero recently awarded the #14 spot on the list of the best bars in North America by World’s 50 Best.

Artisanal Hub

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

Guadalajara is also one of the top artisanal hubs in Mexico, with local craftsmen producing some of the country’s finest glassware, leather products, silver, and regional textiles. The city’s San Juan De Dios market is one of the largest in Latin America and a must-visit destination for travelers.

Magical Towns

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

In addition to exploring the heart of Guadalajara and visiting nearby agave farms, there’s much more to see in the surrounding areas as well. Guadalajara is surrounded by six so-called pueblos mágicos, or “magical towns” designated as such by the Mexican government for their important cultural and historical characteristics. Within a two-hour radius of the city are Tequila, Tlaquepaque, Lagos de Moreno, Mazamitla, San Sebastián del Oeste, and Tapalpa, all worth a visit.

Lake Chapala

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

Another magical spot outside of Guadalajara is Lake Chapala. Located just an hour from the city, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake is a perfect day trip destination, though overnights at lakeside hotels are a highlight of a trip to Jalisco.

Visit Guadalajara

Image Credit: Guadalajara Tourism.

It’s easier to reach Guadalajara than ever via the Miguel Hidalgo International Airport, located 24 miles outside of the city and reached by non-stop daily flights from major markets across the United States, Canada, and the rest of Mexico. Between 2024 – 2028, Guadalajara anticipates welcoming over 20 new hotels and 2,700 guestrooms, with the new Origen 438 Luxury Boutique Hotel and Hilton Garden Inn Guadalajara having already debuted this year.

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.