Looking for a great day trip from Guadalajara?
There is no shortage of cool things to do in Guadalajara but sometimes you want to get out of the big city and see something different. Because of the favorable geography, there are lots of amazing day trips from Guadalajara.
The metropolitan region has grown enormously, the beach isn’t far, and there are tons of magical towns (pueblos mágicos), nature reserves, archaeological sites, and ex-haciendas, within a few hours of the capital. Everything on this list is less than three hours from Guadalajara, traffic permitting.
People in Guadalajara are very attached to the pueblos through family or friends. You can get glimpses of country culture in the city but the best way to really experience small-town Mexico is ‘puebleando‘ or traveling from pueblo to pueblo to see for yourself. Mexico is a diverse place and there are a lot of different people and cultures.
Day Trips From Guadalajara: Overview
There is a program run by the Mexican national secretary of tourism called Pueblos Mágicos or magic towns. They are promoting off-the-beaten-path destinations that have cool places to stay and interesting places to eat. A lot of them have significant contributions to the national identity because of historical events and maybe even a touch of mysticism.
Additionally, Mexico has 35 properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List which is more than any other country in the Americas. This part of Mexico has a couple of destinations on the prestigious list.
I know that I lot of these day trips from Guadalajara are well-known but I am trying to add some lesser-known destinations as well.
Are you ready to read about the best day trips to all the amazing pueblos near Guadalajara? Let’s do it, starting with the Tequila Valley in Mexico.
Day Trips and Weekend Getaways Map
Guadalajara is a major transportation hub in Western Mexico. There are excellent roads going in every direction. The City of Guadalajara is located between the lowlands and the highlands of Jalisco. There are lots of beaches close to Guadalajara, forests in nearly every direction, lots of volcanos, and very different experiences in close proximity.
Additionally, the state of Jalisco is very close to the states of Nayarit, Colima, and Michoacan, among others.
Best Day Trips from Guadalajara
Obviously, these choices are subjective but I think I’ve chosen some great options. And, my list keeps growing. My family is always up for a fun weekend adventure.
1. Tequila, Jalisco
The pueblo mágico of Tequila is located 65 km (40 miles) from downtown Guadalajara. There is an excellent toll road freeway and scenic free road highway connecting the two. It should take about an hour to get to Tequila as long as the traffic isn’t too bad leaving Guadalajara.
Planning on visiting the magic village of Tequila from Guadalajara? This is one of the most enjoyable day trips, and one of the best things to do in Guadalajara, which any visitor will want to see the birthplace of tequila while in Mexico.
The Tequila Valley has been settled for thousands of years but the town of Tequila was founded by Franciscan friars in 1530. The native people of the region had been cultivating the agave plant long before the Spanish arrived.
The agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006. This includes nearly 35,000 hectares from the base of the Tequila Volcano all the way to the Río Grande de Santiago. The blue agave fields are beautiful and the cultural significance of the plant can not be overstated.
Things to do in Tequila, Jalisco
Travelers could easily spend a week exploring the small towns in the Tequila Valley but most will opt for a one-day tequila tour from Guadalajara. They handle all the transportation and include a tequila distillery tour, agave harvesting demonstrations in the agave fields, and a guided tequila tasting.
There are both commercial and artisanal types of tequila. I recommend visiting one of the artisanal tequila distilleries like Tequila Fortaleza or Tequila Cascahuin. This is the best place in the world to buy a bottle of great tequila to take home. Look for something special that is hard to find back home.
The Centro Cultural Juan Beckmann Gallardo is one of the finest museums in Mexico. It was built by the
In addition to the city of Tequila, the Tequila Valley is full of amazing experiences. There is an archaeological site, ex-haciendas that have been converted into boutique hotels, and several impressive waterfalls.
Where to eat in Tequila
The nicest fine dining restaurant in Tequila is the Antigua Casona at José Cuervo’s Solar de las Animas Hotel. The food is very good but the ambiance is so beautiful it feels like a Disney experience. You will be blown away by their attention to detail.
The Cleofas Mota Market next to the church is really enjoyable. There are a dozen small restaurants selling local food in a casual atmosphere.
Avoid the tourist trap cantarito cocktails in the plaza and drive 5 minutes to Cantaritos el Guero on the highway to Amatitán. They are famous all over Mexico and delicious whether you order them with or without alcohol.
How to get to Tequila, Jalisco
The best way to get to Tequila is to drive. There are a lot of places to visit nearby and having a car gives you the freedom to stop and take pictures or get tacos.
Buses to Tequila leave from the Central Vieja near Downtown Guadalajara and from the Vallarta Plus/Tequila Plus bus station on Avenida Vallarta and Avenida Aviación in Zapopan. The buses leave all day long.
There is a tequila train operated by José Cuervo, a tequila tour bus operated by the Camara de Comercio, and dozens of independent tour operators. There is even a helicopter ride to Tequila but it doesn’t actually stop in Tequila but cruises the agave landscapes.
2. Lake Chapala
Lake Chapala is located 55 km (35 miles) south of Guadalajara. There is a good highway connecting the capital of Jalisco to the largest freshwater lake in Mexico. The area is famous for mild weather, beautiful sunsets, and English-speaking retirees from the United States and Canada.
More than a hundred years ago, President Porfirio Díaz enjoyed vacationing in the area. There are a number of historic old lakefront mansions that have been remodeled into restaurants and hotels.
The most popular destinations on Chapala Lake are on the north shore between Jocotepec and the small town of Chapala. This includes the magical town of Ajijic, San Antonio Tlayacapan, and San Juan Cosalá. In fact, there is a lovely bike path that runs all the way from Jocotepec to Chapala.
Things to do in Lake Chapala
The boardwalk in Chapala is full of vendors selling folk art and food. Eating an ice cream while walking the boardwalk is one of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday. Make sure to get a picture of the pier. There is something about the water that makes the sunsets magical. It is hard to take a bad picture out here.
Right next to the boardwalk is a pier with lots of small panga boats ready to take vacationers out on the lake to visit the Isla de los Alacranes or Isla Mezcala.
There are some excellent hiking trails in the Sierra de San Juan Cosalá above Ajijic. The El Tepalo trail leads to a nice waterfall.
The bike trail runs along the north shore of Lake Chapala from Jocotepec to Centro Chapala. Not only is it well-maintained, the locals love it and use it.
In 2023, the Jalisco state government inaugurated the Centro para la Cultura y las Artes de la Ribera de Chapala. It is a magnificent visual and performing arts center with some great events.
Where to eat in Lake Chapala
Ajijic has some excellent local restaurants like Teocintle Maíz which specialized in heirloom varietal corn dishes.
Taqueria Pillo is a hole-in-the-wall spot for what are widely considered to be the best tacos in Ajijic.
How to get to Lake Chapala
Driving is the best way to get to Lake Chapala. It is an easy drive of less than an hour as long as there is light traffic. The Guadalajara airport is on the highway to Lake Chapala which is maintained adequately.
The buses from Guadalajara to Lake Chapala leave from the Central Vieja in Las Conchas, near Downtown. It costs $70 pesos, takes one hour, and leaves every half hour.
There is a great full-day tour of Lake Chapala from Guadalajara that includes a tequila distillery tour and a short boat ride on the lake. It is a nice way to see a couple of the small towns on the largest lake in Mexico.
Located 90 minutes outside of Guadalajara at the base of the Tequila Volcano, the Teuchitlán Archeological Zone is one of the most important archeological sites in western Mexico. The area was home to a large population of pre-hispanic cultures of the Teuchitlán tradition. The Guachimontones are thought to be the ceremonial center of that ancient population.
It is estimated that at its peak, the population of the settlement was close to 40,000 people. The chinampa agricultural system of floating gardens was used in the nearby lake. And the volcano left major deposits of obsidian that the original people used to make tools and weapons. They used the agave plants for dozens of different purposes calling it the marvelous tree.
The conical-shaped pyramids are called Guachimontones. The name Guachimontones is believed to be a mixture of Spanish and Náhuatl for “mounds of huaxe trees.” Teutitlán is interpreted as a “place dedicated to divinity.”
American anthropologist Phil Weigland and his wife Arcelia García rediscovered the archeological site in 1970. There is still a large area that has not been explored with modern technology. The excellent museum is named after Weigand.
The best time to visit is in the fall after the rains have stopped but everything is still bright green. The pictures don’t come out as good in the spring when the landscape is brown.
Things to do in Guachimontones
Visit the Phil Weigand Interpretive Center and take a guided tour of the archeological site to get the most out of your visit.
Hike the hill to the pyramids. Unless you are an avid hiker, you will feel it in the legs.
I like to combine a visit to the Guachiontones with lunch at one of the historic haciendas nearby. You have to make a reservation in advance but the properties are beautiful and the food is good.
Where to eat in Guachimontones
Right outside of the entrance to the park is La Choza Mayahuel which specializes in fermented prehispanic beverages and traditional dishes.
In Teuchitlan, Cenaduria Antojitos Rosa is a great choice for gorditas, enchiladas, and atole.
Just a few minutes away from Teuchitlan are two of the finest historic haciendas in Jalisco. I can’t say enough about how much I love Hacienda El Carmen. My parents fell in love with this place. Even if you don’t stay the night, make reservations to have lunch at the restaurant after visiting the pyramids.
How to get to Guachimontones
It is best to have a car when visiting because public transportation is time-consuming. Buses leave from the Central Vieja in Downtown Guadalajara for Teuchitlán, Jalisco. From Teuchitlán it is 2.5 km taxi ride uphill to the entrance to the park. I know that some people will choose to walk but it is a real hike.
Driving from Guadalajara, you will take Avenida Vallarta to the free road to Tala (70). Just past Tala, turn right on highway 4 to Guachimontones, Teuchitlan, Ahualulco, and Etzatlan. Everything is labeled for Guachimontones.
There are some great tours that combine Guachimontones and Tequila in one day.
4. Hacienda El Carmen
Five minutes down the road from Guachimontones is the incredible Hacienda El Carmen. The boutique hotel was opened in 2001 but the history of this property dates back to the mid-16th century. The once grand hacienda was essentially in ruins in the 20th century when the Serrano family acquired the property. They have undertaken what they call a respectful remodel and update.
The Hacienda El Carmen is one of the most beautiful hotels in Jalisco. They have a wonderful restaurant that is like a time capsule that transports you to another era.
I love combining a visit to Guachimontones with lunch at Hacienda El Carmen. It is a really enjoyable experience to live so much history about the state of Jalisco.
The historic hotel haciendas in Mexico are pretty spectacular.
Reservations are recommended.
Things to do at Hacienda El Carmen
Hacienda El Camen has some palatial grounds there are great to let the kids run wild. They have turkeys and peacocks running all over the place. There are stables with horseback riding tours of the area.
There is a distillery onsite and you can see how tequila is made. The restaurant operates a huge greenhouse that grows much of the food served in the restaurant.
My mom loved the spa treatments and my kids loved the pool.
Where to Eat at Hacienda El Carmen
There is a wonderful restaurant serving traditional Mexican food. There is also a historic cantina with a pool table and plenty of tequila.
How to get to Hacienda El Carmen
You will need a private vehicle to access Hacienda El Carmen. The property is a little ways off the highway and not convenient to take public transportation.
6. Tlaquepaque, Jalisco
Tlaquepaque is located within the Metropolitan Area so it is quick to get there from both Guadalajara and Zapopan. This could even be a half-day trip if you are in a hurry. There are a ton of fun things to do in Tlaquepaque that don’t require a lot of time.
The municipality of Tlaquepaque is very large but the downtown section is where most people will be spending their time. There are pedestrian streets flanked by colonial architecture, art galleries, and phenomenal local restaurants. Many of the restaurants have been decorated with pieces from local artists. This is the perfect place to find the best souvenirs from Mexico
The main plaza of Tlaquepaque is called the Jardín Hidalgo and has two lovely churches and plenty of street food for sale out front. Eating an ear of corn on the cob in the plaza is one of life’s great pleasures.
Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of Tequila at El Buho Tequilas. This is probably one of the best tequila stores in the world and they have an insane selection of open bottles they will let you taste.
Things to do in Tlaquepaque
Go shopping. Tlaquepaque is famous for ceramics but that is just the beginning. There are high-end galleries selling leather goods, blown glass, tequila, furniture, and so much more.
The name Tlaquepaque comes from the Náhuatl for “Place above knolls of clay” and there is a long history of ceramics. To this day you can find both traditional and modern styles of ceramics. Start with a tour of the Tlaquepaque Regional Ceramics Museum before browsing the galleries of Rodo Padilla, Paco Padilla, Cantú, and Avalos Ceramica. Tlaquepaque host a national ceramics contest every year and the winners can be seen in the Pantaléon Panduro Museum.
The Parian de Tlaquepaque is the best place to watch mariachi music in the area. The building was a 19th-century marketplace that evolved into a series of cantinas and restaurants surrounding a central bandstand. There is live music every day of the week.
Where to eat in Tlaquepaque
My favorite foodie experience in Tlaquepaque is the esquite cup of corn on the street. Fill that cup up with corn, veggies, cream, cheese, and plenty of chile. They are amazing.
The Parian is famous for cantinas but the food is just ok.
My favorite restaurant in Tlaquepaque is El Abajeño. I’ve been visiting with my friends on the weekends for close to 15 years not. The patio is an enjoyable place to hang out on the weekend.
Casa Luna is the most beautifully decorated restaurant in town. There are boutiques in the front rooms. The food and bar at Casa Luna will leave everybody happy. It is one of my go-to restaurants for chile enogada during the season.
TlaquePasta has a cult following and some of the best reviews in the area.
If you want something simple, the Benito Juarez market has a great birria on the bottom floor.
How to get to Tlaquepaque
Tlaquepaque is in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area and Downtown Tlaquepaque is just a few miles from Downtown Guadalajara.
The easiest way to get to Tlaquepaque is to drive. I recommend parking in the off-street lots, especially after dark.
Line 3 of the Guadalajara Metro connects Downtown Zapopan, Downtown Guadalajara, Downtown Tlaquepaque, and the Central Nueva Bus Terminal.
Zapopan is another municipality that is a part of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area. It is actually larger than Guadalajara in terms of population and geography.
Downtown Zapopan is a historic neighborhood set around the 17th century Basílisca de Zapopan. And just a few blocks away are the fantastic Seattle and Tepeyac neighborhoods.
The Basílica de Zapopan is one of the most important churches in Guadalajara attracting millions of visitors every year. The pilgrimage of the Virgen de Zapopan is a major event where the faithful walk from the Guadalajara Cathedral to the Basílica with an image of the Virgen de Zapopan.
On the other side of the plaza, the Zapopan Art Museum is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. There a a number of pedestrian streets with cafes and bars set up in the street. Drinking a beer and watching the sunset in the shadow of the Zapopan arches is one of the funnest things to do in Zapopan.
Very close to Downtown Zapopan is the baseball stadium where the Charros and the Mariachis play their games.
The same park where the baseball stadium is located has a huge playground, a skatepark with legit bowls, and a outdoor theater. There are events going on all the time.
Avenida Aurelio Ortega is one of the most beautiful streets in the metro area with a park running down the middle. There are huge shade trees and the community really takes advantage walking and running before getting something to eat.
Where to eat in Zapopan
Fonda Doña Gabina Escolástica is one of the most popular restaurants in Zapopan for traditional food.
Salón Candela is my favorite bar in the area because of the live music and great tacos. They have one of the best selections of artisanal tequila around.
On Avenida Aurelio Ortego, Enora is a beautiful coffee shop by some of the top minds in coffee in Guadalajara, and the world. They are baristas and coffee roasters that have won a lot of international recognition.
There are a ton of great street food in Downtown Zapopan like Tacos de Birria El Chino, Tacos Pablo, and Mariscos Don Gau. For seafood, head to the Mercado del Mar which on the other side of Avenida Laureles/Avedina Juan Pablo II.
How to get to Zapopan
Parking is tight in Downtown Zapopan. The parking garage underneath the plaza closes early and the private lots are small.
There is a large transit center at the intersection of Avenida Americas and Avenida Aurelio Ortega with tons of bus routes and connection of the Metro Line 3.
Line 3 of the Metro will take you from Downtown Zapopan to Downtown Guadalajara, Downtown Tlaquepaque and all the way to the Central Nueva bus station on the border of Tonalá.
8. Tonalá, Jalisco
Tonalá is an underappreciated part of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area. It is located only 30 minutes from Guadalajara on the east-side freeway leading to Zapotlanejo.
While Downtown Tlaquepaque has grown into a more upscale neighborhood with expensive galleries, Tonalá still has a lot of workshops. There is a major open-air market, called a tianguis, held twice a week on Thursdays and Sundays. It is one of the largest markets for folk art in all of Latin America.
Things to do in Tonalá
The number 1 most popular thing to do in Tonalá is the Tianguis Artesenal. This place is famous for handicrafts and people come here from all over the country to go shopping. In addition to all the brick-and-mortar shops, there is an open-air tianguis with around 4,000 vendors that sets up on Thursday and Sunday.
The National Ceramics Museum is definitely worth a visit as is the Cerro de Reina viewpoint.
On a personal note, the Centro de Validación Tonalá is one of only two validation centers in the state of Jalisco. If you buy a car that is registered in another state you will need to have it validated in order to get Jalisco license plates. It is a massive pain in the butt and I had to make several trips out this way to get my license plates. Birria El Primo Memīn around the corner made the experience a lot more enjoyable.
Where to eat in Tonalá
Birria El Primo Memin was my staple while I was getting my vehicle registration. I made a bunch of trips out here and always stopped at this place because it is good, cheap, and next door to the validation center.
La Calle del Taco is a few minutes away from Downtown Tomalá but an awesome street food center.
Mariscos Bloom is a huge, country-style seafood restaurant with mariachi, cantaritos, and a rustic feel. It is just a few blocks off of the tianguis and the main plaza in Tonalá.
How to get to Tonalá
The traffic in Tonalá can be a little chaotic on the days when the open-air market is held. If you would like to visit, I recommend getting a tour guide to show you around. There is so much to see it can be a little overwhelming. A good local guide knows where all the best shops are and most importantly, where to find safe parking.
9. Bosque de La Primavera
The Bosque de la Primavera is considered to be the lungs of Guadalajara. It is a massive 30,000-hectare forest on the northwestern side of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area. The mighty Ameca River that empties into the Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta starts as a small creek in the Bosque de la Primavera.
Things to do in the Bosque de la Primavera
The Bosque de la Primavera is where the city kids come to learn about nature. There are lots of classes and programs where people of all ages can learn about conservation and the flora and fauna of the area.
The trails are incredibly popular. Mountain bikers have one area and hikers have another.
There are multiple campsites. The main attraction, at least in my opinion, is the hot springs. The water is not deep but a small river flows through the forest and people create little pools with some rocks.
Where to eat in the Bosque de la Primavera
The best way to enjoy the Primavera is to pack a lunch and have a picnic. There are tons of great places to set up camp.
Additionally, on Avenida Vallarta in front of La Venta del Astillero turnoff for Nextipac there are a bunch of traditional restaurants serving grilled chicken, birria, and borrego al pastor.
How to get to Bosque de la Primavera
It is accessible by both Avenida Mariano Otero and Avenida Vallarta but the Vallarta entrance has more services.
10. Rancho el Teuchiteco & Ahualulco de Mercado, Jalisco
On the outskirts of the municipality of Ahualulco de Mercado, cookbook author Maru Toledo operates a ranch called Rancho el Teuchiteco with a group called las Mujeres del Maíz. More than an author, Maru Toledo is a cultural anthropologist who documents the oral traditions of rural communities of Jalisco. Her most recent book is about the food of Ameca, Jalisco and one before that was about Sayula, Jalisco. She has written dozens of books.
Las Mujeres del Maíz plans events to show people what the food in the country is like. They grow all their own ingredients on the ranch and use antique kitchen equipment. Food tastes differently when it is grown in a traditional fashion.
Watching a corn tortilla inflate like a pillow on a wood-burning comal gives me goosebumps. It is one of the most enduring legacies of the Mexican kitchen that modern processed food can not equal. More than just food, it is an experience.
This is NOT a restaurant. Do NOT drive out here unless you have RSVP’d and paid for in advance one of her events. They do not happen every weekend and they almost always sell out. Follow her Facebook page for more information on upcoming events.
Etzatlán is a small town in the Valles Region of Jalisco not far from the Guachimontones archeological site and the Tequila Volcano. It is famous for a world record crochet canopy that was put up in 2019.
The town is authentic Mexico. There are cowboys riding horses in the street and little kids practicing their rope skills in the street.
Things to do in Etzatlán
Kick back and relax. Time moves slower in the Pueblos.
Walk the plaza and enjoy the shade of the crochet canopy as you take pictures of the historic buildings.
The Etzatlán train station has been closed and turned into a small museum. The old train tracks have been converted into a bike path that connects to Tala and Ameca. It is a really beautiful place to go for a ride.
The Guamichil water park is just a few minutes outside of town and a lovely place to enjoy the hot spring weather.
Where to eat in Etzatlán
Eating an ice cream in the plaza was a highlight of our trip.
El Zaguan Restaurant has excellent moles typical of the region including an almond mole that I had not seen before.
Restaurante Borrego El Grande is a humble establishment with dirt floors and delicous BBQ lamb.
Casa Romero is an old mansion that was converted into a restaurant. They set up tables on the street and serve carne asada.
Helados Piwy has amazing popcicles. It is a concept out of Ameca with ice cream shops throughout the valley. They are really delicious.
How to get to Etzatlán
The easiest way to get to Etzatlán is to drive.
The town is connected to the Vías Verdes so some people like to ride their bike in from Tala or Ameca.
Buses to Etzatlán leave from the Central Vieja in Las Conchas, near Downtown Guadalalajara.
12. Tepatitlán de Morelos
Tepatitlán de Morelos is a classic town in the highlands of Jalisco (Los Altos de Jalisco) famous for its beautiful people and small-town life. The name, Tepatitlán comes from the Náhuatl for place between stones.
This part of the highlands of Jalisco has a long history of farming. The hacienda system went back hundreds of years and modern cattle farming, chicken farming, and agave farming bring in lots of money.
The region is charactierized as conservative Catholic. It was a home to many of the Cristero rebels in the early 20th century.
Things to do in Tepatitlán
Like in Tepatitlán centers on the plaza. It is a great place to get something to eat and meet people.
The fair runs from the end of May to early June and is well worth a visit.
There are a number of tequila distilleries in the area. Tequila San Matias is the largest that offers tours. They are located on the free road on the way into town from Guadalajara.
Where to eat in Tepatitlán
Birrieria Daviche is one of the best birrias that I have tried anywhere. I highly recommend stopping here anytime you happen to be passing through the area.
How to get to Tepatitlán
Tepatitlán is located about an hour from Guadalajara with private transportation. It is one of the easiest day trips from Guadalajara to see traditional Jalisco culture.
Buses to Tepatitlán leave from the Central Viaje in Las Conchas, Guadalajara.
13. Vías Verdes
The Vías Verdes are a system of bike paths for non-motorized traffic that connect a number of town in the Valles Region of Jalisco.
Around 1995 the train that connected the small towns in the Tequila Valley ceased to operate. The train lines and train stations were mostly abandoned.
Someone came up with the bright idea to refurbish the train lines as a bike path to connect the small towns. Bicycles are an important form of transportation in Mexico.
The Vías Verdes run from Tala to Ameca and from La Vega to Etzatlán. It is not a loop but a T-shape. La Vega is about half way between Tala and Ameca.
Things to do in Vías Verdes
Go for a bike ride and visit the towns on the route. I see guys riding horses out here all the time but I don’t know where you can find a guide but I suspect you can ask around.
Where to eat in Vías Verdes
Everywhere. Every one of the little towns along the way if full of traditional food. Maru Toledo is a cultural anthropologist that has spent her career documenting the oral traditions of the cooks in this region. Of course, you can find your vitamen T (tacos, tamales, and tortas) but there are also moles, birrias, and so much more.
Make an effort to stop at the humble, family run restaurants in the region.
How to get to Vías Verdes
There are no bike rentals out this way. You are going to need a car in order to transport your bike.
There are lots of buses leaving from the Central Vieja in Las Conchas, near Downtown Guadalajara. You can hook up with the Vías Verdes in Tala, Ameca, and Etzatlán.
Weekend Trips From Guadalajara
14. Tapalpa, Jalisco
Tapalpa is not what most people think of when Mexico is talked about. It is a high altitude, alpine forest where wealthy Tapatíos go to ride horses and spend time in nature.
As long as the traffic getting in and out of Guadalajara is mild, the drive is less than two hours and pretty easy. There are some curves as you wind your way up the hill. If you happen to be traveling in the springtime make sure to stop in Amacueca, Jalisco to buy a bag of pitaya cactus fruit. You will see the cactus orchards as you exit the freeway and start up the hill. They are one of my favorite Mexican foods.
Tapalpa is designated a pueblo mágico in Jalisco and there is a lot of charm to the town. The historic downtown is full of adobe cabins that are all whitewashed with a distinctive red stripe at the base of the building.
Ranching culture is an important part of the local identity. Everybody knows how to ride a horse and they are all over the place.
Tapalpa is the perfect place to try a pajarete for the first time. The pajarete is raw cow’s milk shot straight out of the udder into a clay cup and often prepared with chocolate, coffee, sugar, and high-proof alcohol. You can go your whole life knowing that milk comes from a cow but never actually tasting milk directly from the animal. It is rich and tasty, and something that reminds me of being in the country.
There are dozens of nice places to stay in Tapalpa but I love the Hípico Diamante property. It is really set up for kids to learn how to ride horses. The kids have lots of space to run around, excellent instructors, and there are lots of nice kids from other parts of the state. They have a bonfire in the evening with marshmallows and hot chocolate. It really is a magical place to be a kid.
One of the highlights of Tapalpa is the hike to the Cascada el Salto del Nogal waterfall. The water is too cold to swim in for most of the year but the panoramic view is spectacular. These are the highest falls in the state of Jalisco and a worthy day trip from Guadalajara.
If you are in Guadalajara for any length of time then Tapalpa is well worth visiting.
15. Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco
Ironically, there are no lakes in Lagos de Moreno. The pueblo mágico is one of the most iconic towns in the Altos de Jalisco region and the Bajío Region. During the Spanish era, this was a stop along the Camino Real or Royal Highway that connected Mexico City to the numerous silver mines in the region. The Spanish authority did its best to develop the area in order to make travel safe for the convoys sending silver back to the capital and later to Spain.
The Lagos de Moreno city center is a wealth of colonial architecture and very well-restored colonial buildings. The Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción dates back to the mid-18th century and is a much larger church than one would expect to see in a small town. The Churrigueresque style is an elaborate interpretation of Spanish Baroque architecture.
The real highlight of Lagos de Moreno is the boutique hotel, Hacienda Sepulveda. The property dates back to the 17th century when the Royal Audience of Nuevo Galicia granted 171 hectares to Don Juan de Sepúlveda. The property has changed hands often since then but in the late 20th century it was restored as a boutique hotel and working ranch. The hacienda grounds are immense and manicured like a botanical garden. This is a working ranch and one of the highlights is a horseback riding tour of the region.
Families with small children will enjoy the Hacienda Sepulveda pool while adults will enjoy the spa.
16. Colima Volcanos
This might be a little bit of a misnomer. There are two volcanos right on the border of Colima and Jalisco. Colima gets all the credit even though only one of those volcanos partially falls into the state of Colima.
The Volcán de Colima is one of the most active volcanos in the world. The Nevado de Colima is dormant and one of the best places for camping and hiking in the state of Jalisco. As the name would suggest it does snow up there occasionally during the winter time so plan accordingly.
The volcano region was made famous by Juan Rulfo’s iconic book Pedro Páramo. The book is said to take place in Comala but has references to rural areas at the base of the volcanos.
Comala is the only Pueblo Mágico in the state of Colima and a lovely place to explore. My favorite place to visit in the area is further up the hill. El Jacal de San Antonio is a hidden gem with a panoramic view of the volcano and typical Colimota (from the state of Colima) food.
The village of San Antonio also hosts a 5-star exclusive Hacienda de San Antonio hotel that costs upwards of US$800 a night. Check out the photos. They are next-level beautiful. The area is also famous for camping and there are numerous well-maintained campgrounds to choose from.
17. El Manto Balneario
There are lots of waterfalls and swimming holes in Western Mexico but I think that El Manto is one of the nicer ones. El Rosario, Nayarit is a part of tequila country even though it is just over the border with Jalisco. The road is narrow and there are a lot of potholes but the landscapes are beautiful. There are agaves as far as the eye can see and the towns of Amatlán de Cañas and El Rosario have a number of beautifully maintained historic buildings.
El Manto is a natural canyon with a river running through the middle and a 7-meter tall waterfall. It has been made into a recreation center with pools of different sizes that wind their way through the canyon. Some of the pools are deep and have slides and diving platforms. Other pools are shallow and great for little kids. There is a simple snack bar but most families bring in their own food and drinks.
The hot months of spring are a great time to visit El Manto because the water is cool if not cold.
There is a significant staircase to climb down to reach the river and it is NOT wheelchair accessible.
The proprietors have built lovely villas, cabins, and a camping area. Try to get here early because there are a number of tour buses arriving and the place gets busy on the weekend.
18. Cuyutlán, Colima
Cuyutlán is a dusty little town on the old railroad lines from Manzanillo to Guadalajara. This is old Mexico. There are no fancy resorts just simple enremada restaurants selling beers and the fresh catch of the day.
The waves at Cuyutlán get really big during the summer months. There is a phenomenon called the green wave, La Ola Verde when a large breaking wave is backlit by the sunset creating a green hue. There are almost always some surfers and bodyboarders out in the morning but it doesn’t get as crowded at Boca de Pascuales, a way down the beach. The waves is hollow like Pascuales but tends to close out. Bodyboarders love the place.
There is a small sea turtle sanctuary a mile down the beach from the town with a lovely estuary tour. There is a lot of wildlife in the area and the birdwatching is particularly good. Make sure to eat some tacos in the main square next to the Benito Juares bust and try the locally made sea salt. There is a museums dedicated to the ancient craft where you can buy a bag of gourmet Colima sea salt.
19. Morelia, Michoacan
Morelia is the capital of Michoacan State and a the downtown area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old city was originally called Valladolid in the Spanish era but was renamed after the hometown hero of Independence José María Morelos.
Michoacan in general is regarded as being a great place to eat. The carnitas are legendary but that is just the beginning.
20. Pátzcuaro, Michoacán
Pátzcuaro, Michoacan is located about three and a half hours east of Guadalajara, Jalisco and less than one hour west of Morelia, Michoacan. It was the original capital of the state of Michoacan during the Spanish era but subsequently moved to Valladolid (today Morelia).
This part of Michoacan is called the Purépecha zone and the language is often heard around town.
Pátzcuaro has become a popular destination for wealthy folks from Morelia and Mexico City. There are high-end boutique shops selling local folk art. The restaurant scene is varied and exciting. I recently saw a news report on the outrageously expensive price of street enchiladas in the plaza chica. They are good and a lot of people want to eat them so they can charge what they like.
Personally, I love my locally-made coffee mug. There are some excellent galleries in town.
21. Las Islitas de San Blas, Nayarit
Las Islitas is one of the most beautiful beaches in Nayarit and one of the closest beaches to Guadalajara. It is 250 kilometers and about three hours from Guadalajara to San Blas along an excellent toll freeway.
The town of San Blas is situated in the middle of an estuary and has a reputation for bugs that bite. Las Islitas de San Blas are to the south of that estuary and on the northern end of the Matenchen Bay. The famous Stoner’s surf spot is situated at the very tip of Las Islitas.
The bug situation has been markedly mild in the last few years.
There is a lot of great local food like grilled fish and oysters served in simple restaurants. The waves are always small and it is a great beach for taking the kids.
Las Islitas de San Blas is a great day trip from Guadalajara because it is the closest beach to the city.
Guadalajara Day Trips FAQ
These are the most common questions that I see in the expat forums and that I get emailed about.
Is Guadalajara Safe for travelers?
Guadalajara has both safe and unsafe areas. It is easy to travel to Guadalajara safely by taking some basic precautions.
Jalisco also has safe and unsafe regions. Everything that I have listed in this article is located in safe parts of the state. The rural highways between Jalisco and Michoacan are known to be dangerous and don’t have much to offer the general tourist.
I think it is important to plan a route before getting in the car. It is much harder to use Google Maps and find a destination while driving.
Renting a car in Jalisco is generally safe. The most important lesson that drivers should remember is to slow down. Unforseen hazards in the road can be avoided much more easily at a lower rate of speed.
How to Get to the Best Day Trips from Guadalajara
I recommend renting a car or hiring a driver. Having a car offers a level of freedom that public transportation can’t match. The best example is traveling to Tequila. The best views of the agave landscapes (a UNESCO World Heritage site) are not on the main roads. Taking the back roads is one of the best things to do in Tequila and a car makes that possible.
If you don’t want to rent a car that is fine. Many people do not like driving in a new country. There is plenty of public transportation from Guadalajara to just about every point in Mexico. However, there are several different bus stations in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Region. Have a look at the full article on the bus stations in Guadalajara to figure out which bus station you need to access each day trip from Guadalajara.
Final Thoughts: The Best Day Trips From Guadalajara
This list is a work in process. There are still ten or more day trips from Guadalajara that I want to add. I hope to see Santa María del Oro soon. I have been looking into some campsites near Huaxtla. Even the historic core of Zacatecas is calling my name.
Guadalajara is a great town but there is a lot to do in the near vicinity. I hope you found something interesting and new on this list. Now, get out there and see something new.