“Jalisco is Mexico,” so goes this central Mexican state’s motto and just a quick visit here will reveal the truth behind it. Home to some of the country’s most famous cultural icons and traditions, Jalisco is also known for its agricultural heritage and enduring folk customs. Soak up the relaxed atmosphere in the capital city, Guadalajara, the second-largest city in the country and discover charms of the state’s beach towns and rural communities.
Despite its immense size, Guadalajara has retained its traditional atmosphere. Many of its historic neighborhoods can be explored on foot. Spend some time in Centro Histórico to see colonial-era architecture, such as the Guadalajara Cathedral (aka Metropolitan Cathedral) and its pretty surrounding plazas.
Discover local flavors and culinary specialties at Mercado Libertad. Enjoy a meal in one of the restaurants surrounding Plaza de los Mariachis where mariachi street performers serenade diners. The traditional towns of Tlaquepaque and Tonalá are incorporated into the capital city’s sprawl and are known for local handicrafts and artisans’ markets, while Zapopán has several shopping malls and cantinas.
Jalisco has a stunning stretch of Pacific coastline, with several beach towns overlooking its sheltered bays. Explore the laid-back beaches of Puerto Vallarta, the Costalegre and Yelapa and go surfing on the breaks alongside Barra de Navidad and San Patricio.
Head for Tequila and Los Altos to see where one of Mexico’s best-known exports is produced. Stop by a distillery for tastings and admire views of the beautiful countryside with its neat rows of agave plantations. Lake Chapala is a picturesque vacation spot with busy lakeside markets, while Guachimontones, home to the ancient and awe-inspiring Teuchitlán circular pyramids, is a must for history buffs. One of Mexico’s most famous Catholic pilgrimage sites can be found in San Juan de los Lagos.
To reach Jalisco, fly into airports in Guadalajara, Zapopán, Zapotiltic and Puerto Vallarta. Regional buses and taxis connect the urban centers. Stay in heritage hotels, modern hostels or spend a night in the countryside at a converted ranch. Visit in May for Guadalajara’s huge Cultural Festival or in September for the International Mariachi Festival.