Jalisco is the most Mexican of places in Mexico. Much of what people internationally associate with Mexico originates in Jalisco. Tequila, mariachi, birria, Luis Barragán, José Clemente Orozco, Chivas, Puerto Vallarta, and folkloric cowboys are all proudly from this part of Mexico. There are nine pueblos mágicos and tons of amazing things to do in the state of Jalisco.
This is my Jalisco, Mexico travel guide. It is as much a road map as it is a travel diary. I want to see every corner of this state and I am just scratching the surface.
A Brief History of Jalisco, Mexico
There is evidence of human presence in Jalisco going back 15,000 years. Over the last 2,000 years the presence of significant populations have been documented across the state from the coastal lowlands to the highlands. To this day, native communities are an important part of the identity of Jalisco and multiple native languages can be heard in the state.
The Spanish arrived in the early 16th century to expropriate mineral wealth back to Europe to support the Hapsburg empire. Guadalajara was founded in 1541 at its third and current location. In 1560 King Felipe II and Pope Paulo III chose Guadalajara as the capital of Nuevo Galicia when they agreed to move the Royal Audience and the Archdiocese there. The construction of the Guadalajara Cathedral would help develop the metropolitan region for centuries afterward.
In 1564 the last leg of the Spanish route to Asia was launched from the coast of Nueva Galicia.
The Habsburg empire would come to an end in 1700 and be replaced with a Bourbon empire. In the early 19th century Napoleon Bonapart was ravaging Europe when he deposed the Spanish King only to replace him with a French one. A French king on the Spanish thrown created an identity crisis for the Spanish territories precipitating Independence in much of the Americas.
Jalisco was an important theater of the Mexican War of Independence. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declared the end of slavers from Guadalajara, killed plenty of Spanish people, and subsequently lost the Battle of Puente Calderón which would ultimately lead to his own demise.
In 1888, President Porfirio Díaz brought the railroad to Guadalajara connecting the region to Mexico City and the United states. The old dictator would spend a lot of time in Jalisco developing ranching interests near Lake Chapala.
The Mexican Revolution and the Cristero Wars would tear society apart. The highlands of Jalisco would be a bastion of Catholic rebellion against anti-secular laws. The violence of the Cristero Wars sent the first large-scale wave of Mexican migration to the United States.
Migration to the United States would continue through World War II under the Bracero labor program. Many small communities in Jalisco have generational ties to the United States. There are farming communities in Central Valley California that are full of people from Jalisco.
Today, Jalisco is known for its technology. There are many multinational technology companies that have been developing talent for decades. IBM, HP, Oracle, and Intel are just a few of the many companies that love the business environment in Jalisco.
Jalisco has a lot of style. The combination of a long history and a major cosmopolitan city lets the locals blend and layer their style. There is always a cool backdrop to shoot some video, go to a restaurant, or create some art.
Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide
Jalisco Travel Guide: Know Before You Go
Airport: Aeropuerto Internacional de Guadalajara Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (IATA airport code: GDL) and the Aeropuerto Internacional de Puerto Vallarta Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz (IATA airport code: PVR)
Currency: $Mexican Peso 1 USD to MXN on Google Finance
Languages: Spanish and native languages like Wixárika, Náhuatl, and Purépecha. Some English.
Time Zone: Central Time Current Local Time in Guadalajara, Jalisco, México
Visa: A visa is not required for visitors from more than 60 countries. A Multiple Migratory Form (FMM) is issued upon arrival to a port of entry and must be signed, stamped, and held onto until departure.
Electrical Outlets: Mexico operates on 127V supporting Type-A and Type-B plugs like the ones in the United States. The electrical current may not be stable in all areas and regulators are recommended for expensive electronics and appliances, especially during the rainy season. Outlets with a third-pin grounding plug may not be available at all locations either.
Local Tip: Many of the best museums are closed on Monday so plan accordingly.
Recommended Reading: Mexico: A Novel by James Michener
Where is the state of Jalisco located?
Jalisco is on the Pacific Coast of Central Mexico. The capital of Jalisco, Guadalajara, is located in the middle of the state connecting the lowlands and the highlands. The northern part of the state, to about Guadalajara, is considered to be a part of the Bajío Region. The Bajío Region is a bastion of traditional Mexican culture and Jalisco is a big part of that culture.
Jalisco was connected to Mexico City in the Spanish era by the Camino Real royal highway. The trains came in the 19th century and the freeway come in the 20th.
The largest metropolitan regions in Jalisco are Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Lagos de Moreno. Tequila is a small town with one of the best tours in the country.
How to Get to Jalisco
Jalisco is well connected to the rest of Mexico and internationally through modern highways and airports.
Driving to Jalisco
The most common route to drive to Jalisco is by the 15D toll freeway from Nogales, Arizona. The 15D continues on to Michoacan and Mexico State. At Atlacomulco the road forks and drivers must decide if they wish to enter Mexico City from the north or the south. The Mexico City metropolitan region is enormous and driving from Tepozotlan to Santa Fe at rush hour could take all day.
Those entering Mexico from Texas will most likely take the 57 from Piedras Negras to Saltillo. From Saltillo the 54D to Zacatecas, the 45D to Aguascalientes, and finally the 80D in the highlands of Jalisco.
Driving from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta takes about 5 hours but there is a new freeway almost finished that will cut the time by over an hour.
The Airports in Jalisco
There are two major international airports in Jalisco: Guadalajara (GDL) and Puerto Vallarta (PVR). The Guadalajara Airport (GDL) is a major national hub for both passengers and cargo. The Puerto Vallarta airport is an important international tourist hub for both Jalisco and Nayarit.
The Most Important Cities in Jalisco
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Guadalajara Guadalajara, La Perla Tapatía, The City of Roses…
Guadalajara is one of the most beautiful cities in Latin America that will host soccer matches in the 2026 World Cup.
The juxtaposition of tradition and cosmopolitan life, excellent food, and luxury accomodations are reason enough to visit the capital of Jalisco.