Looking for the best things to do in Tequila, Jalisco?
Tequila is a small town and Pueblo Mágico in the state of Jalisco that is famous for its agave culture. One thing you will quickly realize is there are both tourist traps and culturally significant things to do in Tequila, Jalisco. I want to help you sift through the noise and find the hidden gems.
The magical town of Tequila is just the beginning of a spectacular ring of pueblos that circle the Tequila Volcano. There are pyramids built by the native people, Spanish-era haciendas, and hundreds of years of Mexican popular culture all in one place. You could spend weeks getting to know all the towns but try to spend just one extra day exploring the pueblos in the Tequila Valley.
With so much culture it is a shame that the tourist traps are what most international visitors end up experiencing. Excessive drinking of adulterated tequila is pretty common. It is up to each visitor to decide what type of experience they are interested in. You can find the best tequila in the world mixed with historic and cultural experiences. You can also get stuck on a cheap tour with a group of belligerently drunk people getting sick on the bus ride home. A little planning will go a long way in Tequila, Jalisco.
This is the complete guide to the Ruta del Tequila, the birthplace of tequila.
Things To Do In Tequila Jalisco: Overview
The word Tequila has a number of different meanings. Originally, it comes from the Nahuatl word, “Tekilan”: “place of the workers” or “place of tribute” depending on the interpretation.
Long before the drink, there was the Tequila Volcano, the Tequila Valley, and a large population of Native peoples.
The fertile soil around the volcano is one of the reasons that agriculture is so prevalent in this area. The volcano also left large deposits of obsidian that were used to make tools that were traded across the region.
The archeological site at the base of the Tequila Volcano documents a large settlement of people in the region for more than two thousand years.
The Tequila Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Tequila Valles Region, also known as the Ruta del Tequila, has 11 municipalities each with a unique touristic offering. The town of Santiago de Tequila was founded by Spanish missionaries in the 16th century. At the same time, large haciendas were being staked out by the new settlers.
The agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006 because of their natural beauty, history, and contributions to the national identity. The landscapes in tequila country are absolutely stunning.
This includes nearly 35,000 hectares from Guachimontones at the base of the Tequila Volcano all the way to the Río Grande de Santiago including El Arenal, Amatitan, and Santiago de Tequila.
There is an important archaeology site called Guachimontones in the town of Teuchitlán with unique conical-shaped pyramids. Close by are several historic, boutique hotel haciendas with lovely restaurants and perfectly manicured gardens.
Maru Toledo, a famous cultural anthropologist and cookbook author operates a ranch and cooking school where she gives talks on traditional cuisines.
In Magdalena, there are many jewelry stores selling locally mined opals. There are cult-favorite distilleries and restaurants sprinkled throughout El Arenal, Amatitan, and Tequila.
Santiago de Tequila, Jalisco Pueblo Mágico
Santiago de Tequila, more commonly referred to as just Tequila, is located at the base of the Tequila Volcano less than an hour outside of Guadalajara or four hours from Puerto Vallarta in the Mexican state of Jalisco.
While there have been settlements of native people in the Tequila Valley for thousands of years, the modern town of Tequila was settled by Spanish Franciscan monks as La Villa de Santiago de Tequila in 1530. The nearby city of Guadalajara wasn’t founded at its present location until 1542.
In 1560 Guadalajara became the capital of Nuevo Galicia when the Royal Audience and the Bishopric relocated to the area. Guadalajara would become an important market for the products made in Tequila.
In 2003 Tequila was named one of the first pueblos magicos in Jalisco by the Mexican Secretary of Tourism. The Pueblos Magicos program is meant to promote tourism to off-the-beaten-path destinations with good tourist infrastructure.
Tequila, Jalisco is the embodiment of this program with symbols, legends, and cultural identity. Many Pueblos Mágicos have been the scene of major historical events. They show parts of the national identity with an element of magic.
The region around the volcano is called the Valles Region and Tequila is just one of the 11 municipalities. The Ruta del Tequila, or Tequila Route, is a collection of small towns that circle the Tequila Volcano, each with unique tourist attractions and things to do.
Tequila the beverage
Tequila the beverage is an agave-based spirit. There are strict rules over who can use the name “Tequila” as a beverage because of intellectual property law. It is a class of mezcal that only uses Weber blue agave and has an appellation of origin.
Old tequila bottle labels called the beverage “vino de mezcal” and “mezcal de Tequila” in centuries past.
Tequila the spirit is the most financially lucrative product to come out of the Valley but the Webber blue agave has been cultivated and treasured by the native people for thousands of years.
The Best Things To Do In Tequila Jalisco
The town of Tequila, Jalisco has done an excellent job of creating a tourist destination. From the UNESCO World Heritage program to the Mexican Pueblo Mágico program, the community knows how to promote the region as a major tourist destination. There are some really special experiences with deep cultural roots if you can sift through the excess.
Tequila may be a victim of its own success. Many of the experiences are expensive. It seems that everyone is trying to jump on the bandwagon without actually contributing anything.
Before you go to Tequila make a plan. Don’t let some barker push you into a tour or some restaurant that just doesn’t care. There is exceptional living history to experience with the right recommendations.
1. La Fortaleza Tequila Distillery Tour
In past editions of this article, I started with the general recommendation to visit a tequila distillery. Now that I have visited lots of distilleries, both big and small, I can safely say that Fortaleza is the best distillery to visit in Tequila, Jalisco, without a doubt. They make some of the most delicious tequilas in Mexico while celebrating a multigenerational connection to the region.
Taking a distillery tour will be one of the top things to do in Tequila, Jalisco. The estate is beautiful but the making of tequila is the highlight of the experience.
There is a big difference between making a commodity tequila and an artisanal product. Fortaleza is an artisanal product from start to finish.
The agaves on the Fortaleza property are some of the most beautiful plants you will see in Tequila. They are slowly cooked in traditional brick steam ovens, which the Sauza family helped to popularize for the making of mezcal de Tequila in the 19th century.
The cooked agave is crushed with a tahona traditional grinding stone. This is how tequila was made 100 years ago. There are very few tequila makers using these techniques which is evident in the taste of the final product.
Tequila the beverage and Tequila the town both have a lot of history. You get to live that history at the Fortaleza distillery and see how it was done in the old days.
Commercial tequila tastes differently today than it did a hundred years ago. The owner of Fortaleza is at the forefront of a movement to make tequila in an old-school style. They have slowed down the process to focus on quality at every step of the process.
Most importantly, you can taste the difference. My 74-year-old mother, who has never been one to drink straight liquor, tasted Tequila Fortaleza for the first time and immediately replied, “That is delicious, it tastes just like the cooked agave.”
In order to tour the Fortaleza distillery you must make reservations in advance. Send them a message on their website contact form to see if they have something available.
There are dozens of other distilleries that give tours in Tequila, Jalisco. If you have the time, it would be eye-opening to see one of the big corporate tequila companies after visiting Fortaleza so you can contrast the different styles.
Other Tequila Distillery Tours in Valles Region of Jalisco
If you are short on time or don’t feel like driving, have a look at my article on the best tequila tours from Guadalajara. There are a lot of options and I recommend visiting something artisanal.
- Tequila Cascahuin (El Arenal)
- Tequila Arette (Tequila)
- Tequila el Tequileño (Tequila)
- Tequila Herradura (Amatitan)
- Tequila José Cuervo (Tequila)
- Tequila Sauza (Tequila)
2. Visit the agave fields and watch the harvest
The blue agave fields are one of the quintessential landscapes in all of Mexico. They were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for good reason.
Tequila is an agricultural product and excellent tequila starts with mature and high-quality agaves.
The process of harvesting an agave is called La Jima. The person who harvests agaves is called a Jimador. He works the field deciding what agaves are ready to harvest.
A sample of agaves is sent for testing to verify the sugar but a good Jimador knows which agaves are ready to make tequila.
The jimador uses a coa to cut the agave leaves, pencas, from the agave heart, the piña. Quality tequila removes the cogollo or cluster of shorter leaves buried inside the piña because the leaves are bitter.
The Jimador cleans and prepares the agaves for the cooking process. Depending on the distillery, the agaves may be halved or quartered before they go into the oven.
The price of good quality agaves has skyrocketed in the last few years. It takes seven or eight years for a Webber blue agave to mature and develop the required level of sugar content.
Good tequila takes time to grow the agaves, cook and cool the agaves, grind the agaves, naturally ferment the juices, and distill the alcohol. There are a lot of ways to speed up the process but you can taste the difference in the final product.
3. Centro Cultural Juan Beckmann Gallardo
This is by far the most beautiful museum in Tequila and one of the most impressive museums in Mexico. I have visited lots of museums in Guadalajara and the only one that comes close is the Hospicio Cabañas which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Juan Beckmann Gallardo Cultural Center is easily one of the best things to do in Tequila, Jalisco.
Juan Beckmann Vidal is the 11th-generation steward of the Jose Cuervo fortune. He built this magnificent museum in 2014 to honor his father, Juan Beckmann Gallardo. The Beckmann family is preserving not just the history of Jalisco but the history of all of Mexico within this museum. There are exhibits on loan from the National Institute of Anthropology and Banamex. You really need more than one visit to take it all in.
There are exhibitions on 19th-century horse-drawn carriage transportation, pre-Hispanic culture, modern art, popular art, Charrería (local cowboys), the history of Tequila, abstract art, and surrealist art. It is hard to say what my favorite was because they all left me daydreaming for more than a week after my visit.
Besides the exhibitions, the museum building is beautiful and there are palatial gardens outback. I would not skip this museum. It really is a national treasure.
Try to take a guided tour so you have access to the sculpture gardens. There are pieces by Leonora Carrington and Segio Bustamonte, two of Mexico’s most iconic surrealist sculptors. The self-guided tour does not get access to the gardens.
4. The Plaza Principal de Tequila
One of the quintessential things to do in Tequila is to walk the cobblestone streets and main square around the 17th-century church.
The Plaza Principal is where the Tequila letters, the kiosk, and the high-flying Voladores de Papantla are located and probably the most Instagrammed location in the region.
Visiting the historic center of small-town Mexico is a great time. It is legal to drink in the street so you will find bars on the plazas. Vendors sell cantarito cocktails in traditional clay cups around the Plaza de Armas.
The cantarito cocktails sold in the plaza are some of the worst that I have tried. They are expensive and have zero fruit juice. I recommend visiting Cantaritos el Guero in Amatitan for an authentic cantarito cocktail.
Calle Jose Cuervo is a great place to take pictures of the parish church from a picturesque vantage point.
5. Templo La Purisima, Parroquia Santiago Apostol de Tequila
The first thing that I notice when looking at the Parroquia Santiago Apostol is the reddish-brown volcanic stone that covers the exterior of the church. The bell towers and domes are only an afterthought. The materials are locally sourced from a nearby volcano.
The church dates back to the 17th century.
Cristero martyr Santo Toribio Romo is laid to rest in the temple and there is a statue dedicated to him out front. Father Torbio Romo was originally from Jalostotitlán, Jalisco in the highlands. He attended the seminary in San Juan de los Lagos before being ordained in Guadalajara. He preached the led a ministry in Sayula, Tuxpan, Yahualica and Cuquío, Jalisco before being transferred to Tequila.
In the 1920s atheist president, Plutarco Elias Calles instigated a religious war with the catholic population in Mexico. The Calles Laws were a draconian crackdown on the Catholic church and the people practicing the Catholic religion. The rural parts of Jalisco were the center of a popular revolt against the Calles Laws.
Father Torbio Romo continued to celebrate mass and perform the sacraments for which he was ultimately killed by federal forces on February 25th, 1928 in the tequila distillery of Sr. Leon Aguirre.
In 1992, Father Torbio Romo was beatified by Pope John Paul II. It was a really big deal when the Pope came to Jalisco and recognized a local martyr as a saint.
Today, Saint Toribio is the patron Saint of the migrants. Luis Alberto Urrea’s book The Devil’s Highway talks about miracles that are attributed to him and why the migrants need him. The Cristero Wars sparked a large-scale wave of migration from Mexico to the US in the 1920s.
6. National Museum of Tequila
The National Tequila Museum is a small space that looks at the agave plant and the evolution of a multi-billion dollar business. It is best for people who are already familiar with how tequila is made and can recognize some of the big names in the industry. There are English language descriptions on only some of the exhibits.
From a personal perspective, I thought the exhibits about art and tequila in popular culture were the best. The exhibit on television, movie, radio, and music starts from the 20th century and creates a lot of nostalgia even though I didn’t grow up in Mexico. It was a golden era of entertainment.
The admission costs MX$20 pesos per person which is the best deal in Tequila, Jalisco.
7. Palacio Municipal (Town Hall)
The local government administrative building is located right on the plaza and houses one of the coolest murals you will find in the State of Jalisco about the mythology of tequila. You have to come in here and get a picture of the mural. It is one of the most Instagram-able spots in the valley.
8. Museo de los Abuelos
Tequila Sauza has become one of the largest and most recognizable brands of tequila under the direction of large multinational beverage conglomerates.
However, for three generations, dating back to 1873 this was a family-run company. The museum is housed in the 19th-century Sauza family home and houses a number of family heirlooms related to the historic production of tequila and how this family built one of the most recognizable brands on the planet.
It is best to make reservations in advance
9. Los Lavaderos and the Watering Well
This is a very old part of Tequila. One of the things that differentiate tequila from the highlands of Jalisco from the Tequila Valles Region is the abundance of water. A channel of the Atizcua River feeds the city from this point.
Modern plumbing didn’t exist until the 1950s and people had to come here to retrieve water for their houses. This is where all of the historic distilleries were located back in the 19th century because there was access to clean, volcanic spring water.
The channel also feeds the public laundry space. Long before the age of Facebook, the original social network in Tequila, Jalisco was the neighborhood laundry facility.
The Lavaderos became one of the most important meeting places for the people of Tequila to trade information and gossip. It was such an important part of daily life that legends and ghost stories soon came to be.
There is a cool bridge above the creek that leads through the ruins of ancient tequila distilleries. It starts with the modern Orandain facility but is right next door to a massive brick building that is falling apart and has huge trees growing out of the walls. The bridge leads to the El Tequileño distillery (Jorge Salles Cuervo) that goes way back.
This hidden corner of Tequila, Jalisco is one of the coolest parts of Tequila to visit for history buffs.
10. Los Azules Waterfalls
Less than two miles from the main plaza in Tequila, Jalisco is a secluded series of waterfalls called Los Azules. The last part of the hike is a little sketchy because the trail is steep and slippery with loose soil. The waterfalls are dope. The hike through the agave fields is a quintessential Tequila Country activity.
The last time I went to the Los Azules Waterfalls it was on a three-day weekend and there were a lot of people there including some cholos with pitbulls smoking weed on the trail. It is the country around these parts.
I highly recommend hiring a guide if you have not been before. Once you start the descent into the falls the path is not 100% obvious. The trail is steep and slippery in some parts. Wear good shoes, bring water and go early because it can get hot during the spring.
11. Tequila Volcano
Check out the route on AllTrails.com
The Tequila Volcano is a popular outdoor recreation area for nature lovers of all sorts. The summit of the dormant volcano is about 12 miles from the town of Tequila but there is a dirt road that gets you close to the summit by car.
There is a gate as you approach the top of the volcano that limits vehicle access but bikes and hikers are welcome to make it all the way to the top.
12. Balneario La Toma
This is a historic swimming hole with a nice waterfall that is a little easier to access than the Azules Waterfalls. This one is more family-oriented.
13. Paraiso Azul Swings
On a hill overlooking the Tequila Valley just a little way outside of town is the Paraiso Azul complex. They have one of the most beautiful viewpoints where they have set up a series of large swings.
The whole setup is very Instagram friendly with agave fields, swings, and glass vista points.
The Akamba music festival is held at the base of their property every year. They know how to throw a good party on the weekends.
Best Restaurants in Tequila, Jalisco
I think it goes without saying that the culinary arts in Tequila are a big part of the draw to the Valles Region. Besides the distilled agave spirits, there is a culture of ranch-style food that you have to experience.
14. Mercado Municipal and the Mercado de Comidas “Cleofas Mota”
I always think it is a good idea to visit the public market when you visit a new town. The Cleofas Mota Food Market is dedicated more to tourism than the public markets in Guadalajara. The market is small and it is filled with small restaurants rather than food stalls. There is usually a mariachi playing in the middle of the market around the fountain.
15. Cantina La Capilla
The oldest drinking establishment in Tequila, Jalisco has some stories to tell. The name, La Capilla or the chapel is a reference to those who drink so much tequila they can no longer stand and drop to their knees like they were praying. They make a signature cocktail called the Batanga which is tequila with lime and coke in a salt-rimmed glass.
16. Birrieria La Mezcalera
Rustic, ranch-style birria cooked in adobe, wood-burning ovens.
17. La Cueva de Don Chenobio
This is the high-end, chef-driven dining experience on the Casa Sauza property. Considering that Sauza is one of the largest and longest-running tequila makers in the world, you can expect that there has been a lot of thought put into the restaurant. Mexican fare and lots of tequila are served daily from 1 pm to 6 pm.
18. La Antigua Casona
Jose Cuervo’s high-end restaurant inside the swanky Hotel Solar de las Animas is beautiful and has very good food. The baroque details are over the top and your Instagram account will be a lot more interesting after having lunch here. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner with some excellent examples of local traditional foods.
19. Patio Mayahua
This breakfast/menudo place only opens on the weekend but they serve a really good breakfast. If you are new to Mexico you may not have had the opportunity to try menudo just yet. Some people have an aversion to trying new cuts of meat like tripe and stomach cuts. If that is the case, order just a bowl of broth. You will love it and probably order a mixed bowl next time.
They also have good chilaquiles and birria but I think you should try the menudo.
20. El Palomar
El Palomar is situated in an old building on the little plaza in front of Parroquia Santiago Apostol Church. The food is good but the view from the two upstairs tables in the window/patio is fantastic.
Things To Do In The Tequila Valley
The State of Jalisco uses the hashtag #JaliscoesMexico and there is a lot of culture to take in. The pre-Hispanic population was prosperous. The Spanish colonial legacy is seen in the haciendas and churches.
I think my favorite part of Tequila, Jalisco is the ranching culture. The agave plant has been very good to the people here. This is an agricultural community and the people around here have a strong culinary sense of identity.
The best way to visit the Ruta Del Tequila is by renting a car (I recommend Discover Cars) and visiting the pueblos at your own pace.
Some of the best landscapes are little ways outside of the towns and having the ability to stop at the lookout points will give you way better photos. I also like the ability to pull over when I see a busy taco stand.
With the exception of some wayward livestock, the roads are safe and well-traveled. Just make sure to designate a driver.
21. Teuchitlan & Guachimontones
Teuchitlán is a little pueblo on the other side of the volcano from Tequila, Jalisco. Right above the town of Teuchitlán is the archeological site of Guachimontones. Teuchitlán is located right next to a lake that was an important part of the agricultural system that supported a large population. Guachimontones was a significant pre-Hispanic community that is estimated to have had around 40,000 occupants. The conical-shaped pyramids are unique from all the other archeological sites that I have visited in Mexico and Central America.
Many people are familiar with the chinampa agricultural system of Mexico City’s Xochimilco. It is less well known that the same chinampa agriculture system sustained the population here. The Tequila Volcano is long extinct but it left a large reserve of obsidian. That glass-like rock was made into all sorts of cutting tools and spear tips that were traded far and wide. Between agriculture and industry, this pre-Hispanic community must have been a sight to see back in the day.
22. Hacienda El Carmen
23. Hacienda Labor de Rivera
Km. 55 Carreteara Guadalajara-Etzatlán, Teuchitlán, Jalisco // Instagram
Hotel Telephone: 33 3616 9198
Review prices on Expedia.com
Less than ten minutes down the road from the Guachimontones archaeological site there is an amazing 17th-century ex-hacienda that has been turned into a hotel and restaurant. There is a movement to restore and maintain these old houses as quasi-museums. It is fascinating to see how the wealthy lived in centuries past. The Hacienda del Carmen hotel is not cheap but it is the best place to relax in the area. This is old-world charm at its best.
To keep the cost down a little you can make reservations at the restaurant and still get a chance to experience this living history.
24. El Arenal
The first stop on the Ruta Del Tequila as you are heading out of Guadalajara is Arenal. As you approach the town you will start to see small agave farms on both sides of the highway. I recommend skipping breakfast in Guadalajara and getting some tacos in Arenal before your first distillery tour.
If you didn’t remember to bring a hat you should stop and pick one up on your way into town. Don’t worry, you will see the roadside stand as you hit the first speed bumps. If you plan on spending any time at all in the agave fields I can’t recommend a good hat enough. You will thank me later.
Carnitas La Fuente
There are a number of great, home-style eateries in El Arenal but I really liked Carnitas La Fuente. More than a few whole pigs are fried up each day and you pick out the cuts that you like and pay by the kilo.
The owner of the place lives out back and will probably walk up and offer you a piece of jicama or an orange. There is a playground for the kids and a very enjoyable space to eat.
Tequila Cascahuin is the under-the-radar, cult favorite distillery of serious agave enthusiasts in the Jalisco area. I’m talking about bartenders at agave-centric establishments and the guys who write books about Mexico’s agave culture.
While they make a number of different brands of Tequila here, everything is certified additive free. They use both brick, steam ovens and produce a special type of tequila for one client that uses a mezcal-style pit oven.
There are both roller mills and a stone tahona to crush the agaves. Only the more expensive labels use the tahona. More tequila makers are installing tahona in the distilleries but it is still a novelty.
One of the coolest things about Cascahuin is that they continue to experiment with different techniques in the process of fermentation, distillation, and cooking the agaves. If you see a special edition bottle of Cascahuin you know the collectors will go crazy for it.
The Cascahuin Distillery is open to tours Monday thru Saturday. Reservations are recommended. A general tour costs MX$100. A tour and tasting starts at MX$300 per person for the blanco, reposado, and añejo. The tour plus premium tasting costs MX$420 and is the cheapest tasting of ultra-premium tequilas you can find the Valles Region. They recommend booking a tour 10 days in advance. Send them an email at info (@) tequilacascahuin.com
What I love about Amatitan is its authenticity. These are real cowboys and real farmers in the heart of Mexico. While the city of Tequila can feel like a tourist trap Amatitan is down-home Mexico. The Herradura Hacienda is located in Amatitan and so is Cantaritos El Guero; two excellent pit stops along the road to Tequila, Jalisco.
26. Cantaritos El Guero
People don’t drink a lot of margaritas in these parts. What they do drink are cantaritos. A cantarito is a mixture of tequila with grapefruit soda (Freska or Squirt), orange juice, grapefruit juice, lime, salt, and a huge clay mug. Even if you don’t drink alcohol the fresh fruit juice mixed with Squirt is absolutely delicious.
The name comes from the clay vessel, cántaro, that people used to keep drinking water fresh in the home. The cantaritos range in size from large to stupidly huge. There are some funny videos on YouTube of people getting stupid. Don’t drink and drive.
Pro Tip: Don’t buy a cantarito in the main plaza in Tequila. They are overpriced, have only commodity tequila, and don’t use any juice. The cantaritos that I have bought in the main plaza were all soda. That isn’t a real cantarito. A real cantarito is made with freshly squeezed juice and topped off with grapefruit soda.
At Cantaritos El Guero you can see the barbacks feverishly squeezing huge volumes of fresh juice. It is the difference between a tourist trap and an authentic experience.
Magdalena is a small town just 20 km down the road from Tequila that is famous for fire opals. There are a number of opal mines and jewelry stores that make an afternoon visit enjoyable.
Across the street from the main plaza there is a small museum dedicated to the agave landscape and the mining industry.
28. Maru Toledo and Ahualulco de Mercado
Maru Toledo is one of the preeminent voices of Jalisco documenting oral tradition and writing cookbooks. She hosts some amazing culinary experiences highlighting ranch-style food. Her recipes and cooking techniques are centuries old. They cook on a wood-fired comal and make cheese and vinegar in the old school way.
Maru hosts events every few weeks. Make sure to follow her facebook page to get up-to-date notifications about her upcoming events. There is talk of opening up the ranch to do breakfasts on the weekends but they haven’t started that just yet.
Etzatlán is one of the best places to get to know authentic ranching culture in the Tequila Valley. Downtown Etzatlán is picturesque with a beautiful tree-lined plaza and gazebo. Cowboys ride their horses through the streets and little kids practice swinging a lasso. It feels like something out of a storybook.
The town is famous for the largest crocheted canopy which won a Guinness World Record in 2019.
The Hotel Centenario is a historic mansion that was converted into a boutique hotel. It is a time capsule with a historic cantina and restaurant in front.
I suspect that Etzatlán is in the running to be named one of the new Pueblos Mágicos in Jalisco. The town is really enjoyable and a great day trip from Guadalajara.
30. Vías Verdes Bike Trails
The Vías Verdes bike trail system is an excellent way to see the Tequila Valley in a local and non-touristy way.
For almost a hundred years there was a train line that connected the small towns in the Tequila Valley with Guadalajara and the coast. In 1995, the last train line shut down and the train tracks were abandoned.
Luckily, those train tracks were refashioned into a bike path connecting the towns of Tala, Ameca, and Etzatlán. There are more than 80 km of well-maintained and beautiful bike trails running through the Tequila Valley.
Many of the old train stations have been converted into train museums. There are nice rest stops along the way but not too much shade. It can get hot during the summer months.
31. El Manto Balneario in El Rosario, Nayarit
El Manton Balneario is by far one of the coolest (figuratively and literally) places to visit on the Ruta del Tequila. A small river flows through a canyon creating a series of pools and waterfalls. The water is crystal clear and cool. We visited in May when the temperature driving in was over 100 degrees. Walking down the stairs under heavy foliage the temperature dropped 20 degrees and the water felt wonderful on a hot day.
The town of El Rosario is not in the state of Jalisco but in the neighboring state of Nayarit. The municipality of Amatlán de Cañas is one of the eight municipalities in Nayarit that are approved to make Tequila. This is still the Ruta del Tequila as apparent by the agave fields as far as the eye can see.
This place is incredible and needs to be on your list of things to do along the Ruta del Tequila.
There are nice cabins and a campground on site. In the towns of El Rosario and Amatlán de Cañas, there are more accommodations and excellent country-style food. The road isn’t great when you cross from Jalisco into Nayarit. It becomes narrower with sections of big potholes and some overgrowth creaping in the road. The towns themselves are very well maintained with beautiful historic downtown with a church, market, and hotels. The tequila industry brings in a lot of money to the rural economy.
How To Get To Tequila, Jalisco
Most people will pass through Guadalajara on their way to Tequila. It is an easy and quick 60 km drive to Tequila from Guadalajara along a modern toll freeway.
There is also a slower yet more scenic free country highway that runs through the blue agave fields and pueblos along the way.
Additionally, there are public buses to Tequila, private tour buses, a tequila train, and even helicopter rides.
I think the best way to visit Tequila, Jalisco is to have a private vehicle. If it were my first trip, I would spend a few days in the valley hopping from pueblo to pueblo. The combination of distilleries, pyramids, ex-haciendas, and outdoor activities makes for a memorable experience.
Private Transportation to Tequila
I like to drive when I go to Tequila. The drive to Tequila from Guadalajara is beautiful. There are lots of places to stop and take pictures along the way. The town of Tequila is just one stop along the Ruta del Tequila.
Discover Cars is the best website to rent a car in Guadalajara, or in Mexico. They are an aggregator site that searches both local and international companies for the best deals. However, they use a different vendor for their insurance policies. Full coverage usually costs around US$10.
Having a private car will allow you to travel at your own pace and see more of the region. You need transportation to access the best attractions in a reasonable amount of time.
The towns along the Ruta del Tequila are small enough that once you are there it is easy to walk everywhere.
Tequila Tours from Guadalajara
There are a lot of options for Tequila tours from Guadalajara. Some people really want to see how artisanal tequila is made while others just want a picture in front of a pretty building. My favorite tour of the Tequila Valley combines the Guachimontones archeological site with a distillery tour and Downtown Tequila.
The Mickey Marantes tour goes to two of the best artisanal tequila distilleries in the region and includes lunch at a hidden-gem restaurant in Amatitán, Jalisco. It is a luxury experience.
The best tequila distillery tours require making reservations in advance. There are a lot of different types of tequila out there and I recommend visiting an artisanal distillery over a commercial one. Skip the bad tequila and focus on the exceptional stuff that doesn’t need artificial flavorings or celebrity influencers.
Tequila Tour Bus from Guadalajara
On Saturdays, there is a Tequila Express tour bus that will take you to Tequila and back. Buses leave Guadalajara from the Rotonda de los Jalisciences Ilustres at 9 am and the Camara de Comercio at 9:30 am. They return by 6 pm. Make sure to make reservations in advance. The itineraries change from time to time but they are currently touring the Sauza property.
Public Bus to Tequila from Guadalajara and Zapopan
Guadalajara has several bus stations. To go to Tequila you will leave from the Tequila Plus bus station in Zapopan (at the western entrance to the city) OR the Central Vieja in Downtown Guadalajara. Tickets cost MX$112 (US$5.50) one way or MX$207 (US$10) round trip.
Buses leave for Tequila every half hour and take a little more than an hour to get to Tequila with no traffic.
The Central Vieja is located in an area with lots of traffic. It takes a little bit longer to get out of the city on a bus. The Terminal Zapopan is on the way out of town. If you are staying in the western part of the metropolitan region it may be faster to take a shuttle or an uber to the Zapopan Terminal rather than driving into the downtown area only to backtrack through traffic. If you are staying downtown, then the Central Vieja is a great option.
The Tequila Plus bus station has a free shuttle that runs from The Glorieta Minerva to the Terminal Zapopan every hour from 6 am to 9 pm. The shuttle leaves from the Vallarta Plus tickets sales office in the Minerva, between the Telcel and the Flor de Cordoba coffee shop, on the Av Agustín Yañez side of the Glorieta.
Where to Stay in Tequila, Jalisco
There are some really iconic places to stay in Tequila. The magical town has developed a lot of tourist infrastructure in the last decade. Some of the most romantic options are not in Tequila itself but in the neighboring haciendas of the Tequila Valley.
Hotel Villa Tequila (Mundo Cuervo)
⭐️ Rating: 8.8 /10 | Neighborhood: Downtown Tequila | View on Expedia.com
⭐️ Rating: 9.4 /10 | Neighborhood: Tequila | View on Expedia.com
⭐️ Rating: 8.6 /10 | Neighborhood: Tequila Suburbs | View on Expedia.com
Hotel Solar de las Animas Tequila (Mundo Cuervo)
⭐️ Rating: 9.6 /10 | Neighborhood: Tequila | View on Expedia.com
Hotel Solar de las Animas is part of what makes Tequila, Jalisco such an important touristic destination. The Jose Cuervo group has built what I consider to be one of the premier touristic products in the whole country.
The hotel is a testament to the wealthy ranching culture of the hacienda era. The rooms are adequate but you will not be spending much time there. The restaurants, bars, pools, distilleries, event spaces, waterfalls, and agave fields are ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. There is so much to see and do in this part of Mexico that drinking tequila might actually get in the way of all the other activities like hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
The Hotel Solar de las Animas is an expensive yet worthwhile hotel experience.
⭐️ Rating: 9.6 /10 | Neighborhood: Ahualulco de Mercado | View on Expedia.com
I have been watching the Netflix series Monarca about a wealthy Mexican family that is partially set in Tequila. They filmed a number of scenes at the Hacienda El Carmen. This is a special place.
Hacienda El Carmen is not in Guadalajara. It is located an hour outside of the city at the base of the Tequila Volcano, very close to the Guachimontones pyramids. Jalisco is famous for country culture. It would be a great experience to see both the big city and the nearby ranches.
The hacienda boutique hotel is spectcular. Try to make the time to get out of the city to see this area.
⭐️ Rating: 8.6 /10 | Neighborhood: Teuchitlán | View on Expedia.com
Hacienda Labor de Rivera is an old hacienda that has been refurbished as a boutique hotel 40 minutes outside of Guadalajara in Tequila Country. The hotel happens to be 10 minutes away from the Guachimontones pyramids archeological site.
The 21 rooms are decorated in a historic yet comfortable fashion. There is a working ranch on site and lots of room for the kids to run around.
This is an excellent base camp to experience the Ruta del Tequila.
Tequila, Jalisco Travel FAQ
These are the most common questions that I see in the Facebook groups and that I get on social media.
Is Tequila, Jalisco Worth Visiting?
Yes, Tequila is worth visiting. While the uneducated visitor may see Tequila as a huge tourist trap, there are plenty of cultural and historic activities hidden behind the excesses. Read my article. I think that I have done a pretty good job of calling out the toursit traps and directing visitors to the best things to do in Tequila, Jalisco.
Is Tequila, Jalisco Safe?
When tourists ask me if a place in Mexico is safe they are not referring to the drinking water or the air quality. They want to know about violent crime, kidnapping, and drug trafficking. Tequila, Jalisco is very safe. The biggest problems with Tequila are the tourists who have too much to drink.
Is Tequila, Jalisco Expensive?
Visiting Tequila, Jalisco is not particularly cheap or expensive. There are activities for all budgets. There are both boutique tours and public buses. There are hostels and expensive hotels. While there are plenty of overpriced tourist traps, with a little research it is easy to find the soul of Tequila.
When is the Best Time to Visit Tequila, Jalisco?
Much like the rest of Jalisco, my favorite time of year is the fall. September is the end of the rainy season and the agave landscapes will be vivid green.
Spring is the hottest and driest time of year. It is uncomfortable to be outside in the middle of the day but the evenings are lovely.
Summertime is the rainy season. It rains most days but not all day long. It usually rains in the afternoon, evening, or early morning. The storm clouds and lightning storms make dramatic photos.
Wintertime is dry and chilly. It doesn’t get too cold around here but a jacket or heavy sweatshirt will be needed at night. The daytime temperatures will probably be in the high 70s f during the day.
Is English Spoken In Tequila, Jalisco
Yes, English is widely spoken in Tequila, Jalisco. All of the major tour operators, all of the top distilleries, and all of the hotels will have a solid level of English. Food servers and bartenders may not speak perfect English but the most important services will speak English.
Where is the Tequila swing?
The swing you saw in an Instagram reel is on the Paraiso Azul complex just out side of town. Click here for directions.
The Legend of Tequila
A long time ago some Indians were strolling through the agave fields when surprised by a thunderstorm. The Indians took shelter in a cave to wait out the rain and watch the lightning in the distance.
Next to the cave where they were waiting out the storm, there was a pit full of agave piñas. In the early days, the Indians used just about every part of the agave except for the fibrous center of the agave called a piña. The agave piñas were thrown into a ditch with other scraps of wood and debris.
Not long after the Indians had taken shelter in the cave the lightning began to get closer and closer. The lightning struck the pit full of agave piñas starting a fire and cooking the discarded piñas. The delectable smell of cooked agave got the attention of the Indians who tasted it for the first time.
The Indians divided up the sweetened pieces of cooked agave between themselves and soon went on their way. One of the Indians left his share of the cooked agave in the cave only to return a few days later. When he returned to pick up the agave a magical transformation had taken place. The cooked agave sugars were starting to ferment into alcohol. Drinking the fermented agave juice gave him a mild buzz and a new industry was born.
Final Thoughts On The Best Things To Do In Tequila Jalisco
I hope you have an amazing time in Tequila and get a chance to see some more of the valley. There is a lot of authentic Mexican culture mixed in with a lot of tourist traps. Coming up with a plan ahead of time will help you steer clear of the bad margaritas so that you can focus on the good stuff.
While the big-name distilleries have created world-class tourist products, some of the smaller distilleries are making excellent tequila the old-fashioned way. This is where tequila comes from and you can’t find many of these tequilas in the international marketplace. Make it a point to try some of the smaller brands that you can’t find back home. Those are the bottles that make the best gifts for your friends.
As I mentioned earlier when you visit you should see a couple of the smaller pueblos. I like to see a big distillery and a small distillery to see the differences. I really love this part of Mexico and think that you will too.
Thanks for reading. I hope that you have found something interesting or just enjoyed the pictures. I really love this part of Mexico and think that you will too.