Guadalajara is an incredible destination for tequila lovers. It is situated in western Mexico in the heart of Tequila Country with readily accessible tequila culture all around. It is also a transportation hub with easy access to the best artisanal tequila distilleries, historic haciendas, and archaeological sites in the state of Jalisco.
Tequila is really hot right now. Market analysts are forecasting that tequila will soon pass vodka as the number 1 spirit in the United States. Many of the finest tequilas are increasingly hard to come by and many of the special editions don’t arrive at all.
Let’s put the cultural and historical aspects of tequila aside for a second and focus solely on the tasting experience. There is no better place to taste exceptional tequila than at the distillery. You know that tequila served at the distillery has been aged properly by professionals under the optimal conditions.
And then comes the cultural and historic context of tequila and the larger agave based spirits industry. The tequila volcano created unique soil conditions where the blue agave thrives. There were large settlements of Native peoples in the Tequila Valley using the agave plant in dozens of different ways.
Ranching culture and tequila culture are intrinsically linked in the Tequila Valley. The style of clothing, equestrian abilities, and music would grow into one of Mexico’s most recognizable characteristics.
Guadalajara is the best place in the world to learn about tequila and study the differences in regional terrior between the highlands and the lowlands. There is even a historic tequila train. One of the only three passenger trains in Mexico.
Where To Stay In Guadalajara
To do this trip right, you will move around a few times. Guadalajara is a base camp and has tons of tequila culture but you have to spend a couple of nights in the valley. The 16th-century ex-hacienda boutique hotels are filled with character and evoke rich history.
In Guadalajara, Demetria Bungalows and the Villa Ganz are beautiful boutique hotels with important architectural heritage. They are just a couple blocks away from each other in the Colonia Americana, the coolest neighborhood in the world according to Time Out Magazine in 2022.
The Colonia Americana is a very walkable neighborhood with great tequila bars two blocks away and a plethora of amazing restaurants and street food.
Many people come to Guadalajara specifically to ride the José Cuervo Express Tequila Train, which is an lovely experience. However, real tequila aficionados will want to spend at least a few days in the valley and visit a smaller, artisanal distillery.
Guadalajara Itinerary For Tequila Lovers
This itinerary is scheduled at a very relaxed pace. It is very easy to adapt this itinerary to meet your specific needs. Most of these tours are very flexible if you make reservations far enough in advance.
Day 1 | Arrival
The Guadalajara International Airport is located 30 minutes from the Colonia Americana under most traffic conditions. Airport transportation is readily available. A private taxi from the official taxis should cost $360 pesos.
If you get in early enough, it would be fun to take a walking tour of the neighborhood to appreciate the street art and architectural heritage. There are hundreds of places to eat and drink along the way.
For dinner, make reservations to eat at Alcalde Restaurant with Chef Francisco “Paco” Ruano, one of the best restaurants in Latin America and the world. There is a solid agave spirits program and a very refined cocktail bar.
After dinner, head over to the Gallo Altanero Tequila Bar. Ranked #21 on the list of the best bars in North America, El Gallo has one of the best tequila lists in the world and hosts events with all of the best distilleries in Mexico.
El Gallo is situated in a historic mansion with a nice airy terrace. More than just tequila, they promote country culture from the state of Jalisco.
Over the years, many famous bartenders from across the planet have guest bartended at El Gallo in exchange for an education on agave spirits. They are some of the foremost experts on distilled agave spirits and now have one of the most forward thinking bars in North America.
You have to add the Gallo Altanero to your Guadalajara itinerary for tequila lovers.
Day 2 | Centro Histórico and Puerta de Hierro
Guadalajara is a large cosmopolitan city with nearly 500 years of history. In order to really understand the city, it is important to see both the traditional and modern sides of the city. The morning will be spent touring the historic core of Downtown Guadalajara and in the evening will include dinner in the fancy Puerta de Hierro neighborhood.
There is no better way to enjoy Downtown Guadalajara than with a walking tour. Start with breakfast in the Plaza de las 9 Esquinas and follow the pedestrian streets to the Guadalajara Cathedral and the Hospicio Cabañas UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are dozens of museums, markets, and cantinas along the way.
The walk from the Plaza de las 9 Esquinas to the Guadalajara Cathedral and then to the Hospicio Cabañas is just over one mile and just under 2 kilometers. It is easy to accomplish in under 30 minutes but I suggest taking the time to visit at least one museum and cantina.
Downtown Guadalajara has more attractions that one can visit in just one day so pick a few that look interesting and save the rest for next time
Downtown Guadalajara Highlights
- Plaza de las 9 Esquinas
- Guadalajara Cathedral
- Palacio de Gobierno de Jalisco
- Cantina la Fuente
- Teatro Degollado
- Hospicio Cabañas
Plaza de las 9 Esquinas used to be a watering hole for mule drivers and their mules. The fountain used to be a large trough and all the plaza is surrounded by traditional restaurants and classic cantinas. Today, the plaza is famous for birria restaurants and historic architecture.
The Guadalajara Cathedral is one of the most recognizable churches in Mexico. It originally dates back to the 16th century but the yellow, gothic bell towers were built in the 19th century to replace the originals that were damaged in an earthquake.
The Palacio de Gobierno in the Plaza de Armas on the south side of the Cathedral and has murals by one of the big three Mexican muralists, José Clemente Orozco, that are captivating.
Right across the Plaza de la Liberación from the Palacio de Gobierno de Jalisco is one of the oldest cantinas in Guadalajara. Cantina La Fuente is a great place to get something to drink before continuing on the walk.
If you have the time, the Degollado Theater is a great place to catch a show. There are presentations by the philoharmonic orchestra, the ballet, mariachi, or folkloric dancers. Check Ticketmaster for upcoming shows.
The Hospicio Cabañas Museum and Cultiral Center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with an interesting history and José Clemente Orozco’s masterpiece painted across 57 frescos. If you only visit one museum in Guadalajara, make it this one.
Puerta de Hierro
After spending the day exploring the oldest neighborhoods of Guadalajara, spend the evening in the newest neighborhoods. Puerta de Hierro is a wealthy, modern multiuse development. There are gated communities with million dollar houses and big yards. There are also luxury high rise towers with condos, office space, and a hospital. The most important attraction in this part of Mexico is the Plaza Andares mall.
The skyline is beautiful and the people watching is exceptional. People get dressed up to come to the mall.
There are actually two luxury malls right across the street for one another. I recommend eating at La Tequila Cocina de Mexico Restaurant in the smaller mall, The Landmark. However, walking restaurant row along Paseo Andares may convince you to eat somewhere else. There are a lot of great restaurants in this neighborhood.
Day 3 | The Greater Tequila Valley
There are a lot of different ways to access the Tequila Valley. Some people want to ride the José Cuervo Express Tequila Train while others will take the bus. I recommend renting a car and staying at least one night at a historic boutique hotel.
If you are going to rent a car and travel independently, it is important to schedule your tequila tours well in advance. It is not likely that you will be able to show up at the best distilleries without a reservation and get a tour and tasting.
The tours at Tequila Fortaleza and Tequila Cascahuin are coveted. Many people plan their trips around a tequila distillery reservation.
Guachimontones Archeological Site
Have a quick breakfast and check out of the hotel in Guadalajara. Make sure to be on the road around 8am. Driving slowly, it takes an hour to get to the Guachimontones in Teuchitlán, Jalisco.
There is usually a little traffic leaving Guadalajara in the morning and you want to arrive to the archeological site as early as posible. It is hot for much of the year and much more comfortable to tour the site when it is cool.
Guachimontones is a series of small conical shaped pyramids at the base of the Tequila Volcano. The ceremonial site is evidence of a significant native population dating back thousands of years.
The Tequila Volcano left a large deposit of obsidian that was shaped into tools and traded across the region.
Volcanic soil is perfect for the agaves that have grown in the area for thousands of years. The Native peoples called the agave the marvelous tree because of all the uses they had for it. Besides consuming the flowers, seeds, and cooked agave hearts, the Native people used the fibers to make ropes, baskets, bowstrings, and clothing.
The Phil Weigand Interpretave Center is a small museum next to the parking lot that is worth a visit. They play a short video (both in English and in Spanishl) that talks about the discovery of the site and the early excavation.
There is a significant hill that most people will walk to reach the pyramids and ball courts. If someone has a mobility issue the security guards will let you drive up to the top to drop them off cars must return return to the parking lot.
The archeological site is not large and most people will spend an hour or two exploring. When you finish walking back down the hill I guarantee you will be ready for something to eat and drink.
Hacienda El Carmen Boutique Hotel
Located just 15 minutes from the Guachimontones Archeological Site, Hacienda del Carmen is one of the finest boutique hotels in Jalisco.
Originally founded in the 16 century, Hacienda El Carmen was once a working sugarcane hacienda that was abandoned after the Mexican Revolution. The hotel was opened in the 1990s after a major renovation that conserved the historical details of the property.
There is a lovely restaurant and cantina with billard table. The property is very large and there are several hikes to explore everything. Kids will love seeing peacocks and turkeys roaming the grounds.
There is a stable with horses available for horseback riding tours, a luxury spa, greenhouses, and tequila distillery onsite.
Day 3 | The Pueblo Mágico of Tequila, Jalisco
The town of Tequila is 45 minute drive from Hacienda El Carmen through the agave fields. There are a couple of photogenic towns along the way like Etzatlán and Magdalena. Etzatlán is famous for the largest crochet canopy in the world and Magdalena has some opal mines and jewelry stores.
Again, try to get an early start because the tequila tour at Tequila Fortaleza starts at 10 a.m.
Known as Tequila Los Abuelos in Mexico, the Fortaleza Distillery has one of the most coveted tequila tours in Mexico. Besides making one of the most delicious, small-batch tequilas on the market, the property has a multi-generational connection to the region.
Guillermo Erickson Sauza is an old school tequila maker. His family, Los Sauza, have been making tequila for 5 generations and were influential in establishing the Tequila Regulatory Coucil (CRT).
The Fortaleza Distillery is located on the Sauza family estate in the oldest part of town near the water well. They have one of the most beautiful views of the Tequila Valley from a lookout point in their agave gardens.
Sauza Tequila was sold to a multinational conglomerate in the 1970s when Guillermo was just a kid. His dream of working for the family business was crushed. He moved back to Tequila in the 1990s and started tinkering with the antique family distillery making tequila that he wanted to drink.
Fortaleza uses very old tequila making techniques. The agaves are cooked for days in a brick steam oven. Sugars are extracted from the agaves with a two-ton stone wheel called a tahona. Fermentation takes place in oak casks and distillation uses a traditional copper pot still. It is a slow process but you can taste the difference.
The last stop of the tequila tour is the tasting cave. Like I said earlier, drinking tequila at the distillery is the best way to learn about the subtle notes of a fine tequila.
Fortaleza has created a memorable tasting experience. Walking through dimly lit tunnels of an elegantly decorated bar is something you will be talking about for years to come. The tequila is delicious but the story they tell about Mexican history and culture is the memorable part.
At Tequila Fortaleza there is a dedication to quality at every step of the process. They are making tequila that they want to drink and it has won them a cult following. As of May 2023, Tequila Los Abuelos is the highest rated tequila distillery on Tequila Matchmater based on over 250,000 ratings. Come to the distillery to see why.
Hotel Solar de las Ánimas
Once you arrive in Tequila, Jalisco, everything is within walking distance. The Fortaleza Distillery is just a five minute walk from the main plaza and the luxury José Cuervo Hotel, Solar de las Ánimas.
José Cuervo has a major footprint in Tequila. The Juan Bechmann Gallardo Cultural Center is one of the finest museums in Mexico. The Rojeña Distilery has a number of private event spaces that approach the level of detail that you would expect from a Disney theme park. The hotels are no exception.
Hotel Solar de las Ánimas and Hotel Villa Tequila are both enchanting. The restaurants and bars in the Mundo Cuervo hotels will leave a lasting impression. Both the food and the decoration evoke the feel of old Mexico.
Make sure to take the guided tour at the Juan Beckmann Gallardo Cultural Center. The Beckmann family owns José Cuervo and they are the custodians of one of the largest fortunes in Mexico. They spent $30 million dollars building a world-class museum to celebrate the cultures of Mexico. It is more than you can fully appreciate in just one visit.
All of the major landmarks in Tequila, the church, the market, and the main plaza are located within a few blocks of the hotel.
Day 4 | Back to Guadalajara
If you wake up early enough, there is a great hike to the Los Azules waterfalls. It is a 7km round trip hike that is mostly flat but has a steep decent into the waterfalls at the end. A stroll through the agave fields is quite enjoyable.
Try to get on the road before 2 p.m. The midday traffic entering Guadalajara is much more relaxed than the afternoon traffic.
Punto Sao Paulo
Punto Sao Paulo is a shopping mall in between the Providencia and Country Club neighborhoods. It is a smaller financial district with excellent restaurants and hotels.
The Grand Fiesta Americana Guadalajara Country Club is a great option. The view from the top floor gym is worth the stay alone. The hotel is just one block away from three of the best restaurants in the city.
La Docena Oyster Bar is rated as one of the best restaurants in Latin America. Restaurante Allium is a farm-to-table concept that recently moved into a larger and more elegant space. Campomar is a Nayarit-style seafood restaurant that has become very popular on a national scale.
Just a few minutes away from Punto Sao Paulo is Downtown Zapopan with the 17th century Basilica and Musuem of Art. The whole area is pedestrian friendly and there are plenty of small restaurants selling traditional foods. Avenida Aurelia Ortega is one of the most beautiful streets in the metropolitan region.
It would be easy to spend another week or two in Guadalajara. This article barely scratches the surface of all the great things to do in the region. With the World Cup heading to Guadalajara in 2026 more and more people are going to be planning their trips.
Tlaquepaque has one of the oldest cantinas in Mexico with non-stop mariachi and folkloric dance performances. Plus, the tequila shops have a staggering number of tequila brands.
Lake Chapala has become one of the most popular communities for English speaking expats in Mexico because of the mild weather and beautiful sunsets.
The Jalisco Highlands are home another concentration of excellent tequila distilleries.
Guadalajara is a great place to learn about tequila. Beyond the beverage, there is a lot of culture that goes into every bottle.
Even though Guadalajara is one of the largest metropolitan regions in Mexico, many people say it is a big pueblo at heart. After visiting the Tequila Valley, you can understand why the people around here value the small town traditions.