The Best Side Trips from Guadalajara

There’s tons to do in Guadalajara but, if you have some time to spare, fantastic day and weekend trips are just a short—and cheap—bus, train, or car ride away. In fact, the state of Jalisco, of which Guadalajara is the capital, is home to Mexico’s largest number of pueblos mágicos (magic towns). From the country’s biggest lake, to the birthplace of tequila, to beautiful beaches and ruins, there’s plenty to see just outside the big city.

Carretera Estatal 604 Guadalajara-San Marcos, Gral. Lucio Blanco, 46762 Teuchitlán, Jal., Mexico
Right outside the town of Teuchitlán, Jalisco—about an hour west of Guadalajara—is one of western Mexico’s most impressive archeological sites. Discovered in 1969, Los Guachimontones includes a series of unusual conical pyramid structures, built around 2,000 years ago by the relatively unknown Teuchitlán people. The largest pyramid is nearly 60 feet high, with 52 steps to the top. You can visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site for free but the on-site museum charges a small fee.
Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico
Less than an hour from Guadalajara, Lake Chapala—Mexico’s largest lake—offers a relaxing respite from the big city. Visitors can enjoy drinks or a meal at one of the many restaurants on the pier, watch the sunset from a sandy beach, or rent a boat to the Island of Scorpions for a different view. There are plenty of boutique hotels around the lake should you be interested in an overnight stay.

To get to Lake Chapala, catch a direct bus—they leave every 30 minutes from Guadalajara’s Old Bus Central. The air-conditioned ride through the mountains of Jalisco takes somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on traffic, and costs approximately US$5 for a round-trip ticket. Once you arrive at the Chapala bus station, the lake is about a 10-minute walk away on the main street.
Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico
Guadalajara visitors craving an escape from the city should know that the ocean breeze isn’t far away. The bohemian beach town of Sayulita is about a four-hour drive, and even closer by plane. Popular in the 1960s among American and Canadian surfers, the sleepy fishing village has more recently become known for its laid-back vibe and impressive food scene. If you’re looking to get even farther off the grid, the surrounding area is filled with beautiful bays that are less trafficked by tourists than the main town.
Tapalpa, Jal., Mexico
Just 90 minutes south of Guadalajara, the colonial town of Tapalpa is an alpine refuge nestled in the Sierra Madre Mountains. A designated pueblo mágico (magic town), it’s home to a picturesque plaza, where artists often congregate to sell handmade wool and pine needle crafts. Spend the day discovering the restaurants, churches, and historic buildings around the plaza, or explore the lakes, streams, and forests in the surrounding countryside.
Doña Gabriela Pena Lozada 405, Hacienda San José del Refugio, 45380 Amatitán, Jal., Mexico
Visitors looking to tour Casa Herradura—the distillery that’s been making Tequila Herradura for more than 145 years—should hop aboard the new Tequila Herradura Express. The train leaves from Guadalajara and travels through Jalisco’s agave fields, stopping in Amatitán (the official birthplace of tequila) before arriving at Casa Herradura. Once at the distillery, guests enjoy tastings, lunch, and live music, then get back on the train, where they’re treated to bar service and entertainment all the way back to Guadalajara.
About 20 minutes from the center of Guadalajara is the tiny town of Tlaquepaque, whose name translates to “hills of clay.” Fittingly, it’s known for its beautiful pottery and other handicrafts. Wander around Independencia, a pedestrian-only street where the Mercado de Artesanías and several boutiques are concentrated. While in town, you should also pay a visit to the Regional Ceramic Museum, founded to promote indigenous ceramics from Jalisco.
Av. Tonaltecas, Tonalá Centro, 45400 Tonalá, Jal., Mexico
Home to Mexico’s largest concentration of artisans, Tonalá—just 10 minutes from Tlaquepaque—is known for its pottery, hand-blown glassware, textiles, miniatures, and more. On Thursdays and Sundays, the town hosts an open-air market, or tianguis, in its main plaza—and has since Prehispanic times—during which visitors can shop stalls from more than 400 craftspeople. If you can’t make it on market day, you’ll miss the hustle and bustle but can still visit the stores and family-run workshops where the artisans produce their unique wares.
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