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Guadalajara: Mexico’s “Pearl of the West”

Guadalajara is a land of contrasts, where tradition and innovation live in harmony. As the birthplace of mariachis and charros, the maker and bearer of tequila, the capital of Jalisco has contributed to much of Mexico’s national identity. Not willing to rest on its laurels, Guadalajara is internationally recognized for its role in the software industry. It has become the most important technological cluster in Mexico, earning the nickname of “Mexican Silicon Valley.” Grounded in tradition as it looks to the future, Guadalajara is a city of modern wonder you have to see for yourself. Start planning your getaway to Mexico’s own “Pearl of the West.”


01 Rotonda de Los Jaliscienses Ilustres

Beautiful view of Jalisciences and Guadalajara Cathedral

The Rotonda de Los Jaliscienses Ilustres honors notable people from Jalisco, whose contributions to the arts, sciences, education, and human rights pushed Mexico forward. When you arrive at the monument of the seventeen columns, admire its exquisite neoclassical design and pay your respects. Surrounding the rotunda is a plaza that features green space and a paved trail. Take a leisure walk to spot the twenty-four bronze statues of these historic Jaliscienses men and women, and admire the busyness of the ever-moving city from the inside of this tranquil landmark. 


02 La Minerva

Guadalajara, Jalisco Mexico

Resting among one of the largest fountains in the city, the Roman goddess of wisdom watches over Guadalajara. The 26-foot bronze statue wasn't an instant hit with people. Still, La Minerva has stood proud on the fountain since it was inaugurated in 1956 until it became a much-beloved icon of Guadalajara. The stone base she rests on bears a caption that reads: “Justice, wisdom, and strength watch over the loyal city.” Nowadays, you may find groups of futbol fans celebrating their team’s win by the spectacular fountains. Her abode has become a reunion point where people get together to commemorate victories. 


03 Barranca de Huentitán National Park

Barranca de Huentitán, Guadalajara. Zamzara / Getty Images

Far from the bustling crowds and magnificent landmarks, you will find peace and fresh air in this green, natural paradise. Barranca de Huentitán National Park is home to La Barranca de Huentitan, a majestic canyon carved by Rio Santiago, one of the longest rivers in the country. This geological fault stood witness to great turning points in Mexico’s history, such as the Conquest, the Cristero War, and the Mexican Revolution. Today, you can explore this natural wonder by taking advantage of the park’s picnic spots and hiking trails, which lead you to rivers, falls, and an ancient bridge. 


04 Explore the gastronomy scene

Traditional birria de res, a Jalisco style beef soup typical from Mexico. Close-up of the stew with a spoon

Foodies take note, you couldn’t be anywhere better to get a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine. Guadalajara is not only home to tequila but also to some of the best national foods in Mexico. Any street market or high-end restaurant will have torta ahogada—a sandwich filled with pork and submerged in a salsa made of chile de arbol. Another great option is birria, a stew made with goat’s meat, blended chiles, and garnished with cilantro and lime. This delicious Jalisco staple is best eaten with handmade tortillas fresh out of a comal. Wash it all down with the best tequila in the country; if you don’t imbibe, you can opt for a refreshing tejuino. 


05 Guadalajara International Film Festival

2019 Guadalajara International Film Festival Pedro González Castillo / Getty Images

Whether you’re a film fanatic or not, if you’re in Guadalajara in March, you can’t miss FICG. The Guadalajara International Film Festival is the most prestigious cultural phenomenon in Mexico and Latin America, showcasing the best talent from Iberoamerican filmmakers. For the past 33 years, the film festival has taken place over one week and welcomes participants from more than 45 countries worldwide. Everyone is welcome to attend—the festival was designed for the audience to immerse themselves in stories and meet filmmakers from the region and the rest of the world. Check out their schedule online, get some tickets, and enjoy the show. 


06 Spring never leaves Bosque de la Primavera

Guadalajara y su bosque de la eterna primavera Alejandro Hernández Osuna / Getty Images

Considered the lung of Guadalajara’s metropolitan zone, this luscious forest is one of the state’s most famous natural reserves. The site is only half an hour from the city, and the best spot to visit between December and April when the weather is drier and temperate. Bosque de la Primavera is the perfect place to explore all that nature has to offer; enjoy its biking and hiking trails, caves, camping sites and lodges, and many hot springs. The park also offers annual recreational and educational programs for families and big groups. Plan ahead if you’d like to schedule any activities or reserve a spot to stay overnight!


07 Tequila

Lanscape tequila guadalajara

Lift your spirits at this Pueblo Magico, the birthplace of one of the most popular beverages in the world. Located 60 miles from Guadalajara, Tequila is surrounded by seemingly endless fields of blue agave. In 2006, UNESCO designated the region as a World Heritage Site for the importance of its natural landscape and the centennial impact agave culture has had in the country’s national identity. Visit one of the many tequila manufactures to learn the history behind the drink and sample their distinctive libations. The adventurous can choose to tour the agave fields on their own, either by train or horse. 


08 Tonalá

talavera pottery, Mexico marcviln / Getty Images

Known as the cradle of pottery, Tonalá is where you’ll find the best handicrafts in the country—possibly the world. The town is home to the largest concentration of craftspeople in Mexico, and among their specialties are blown glass, paper mache, pottery, and forged iron. Walk through the open markets for a showcase of all these wonders, and drop by the artists’ workshops and warehouses, where you’ll often find the best deals. Tonala is an hour’s drive from Guadalajara, so be sure to secure transport, as there are not many taxis available.


09 Tlaquepaque

Tlaquepaque MattGush / Getty Images

Take a break from the buzz of the city, and visit this town of rest and recreation. Though Tlaquepaque lies on the edge of the metropolitan zone of Guadalajara, it preserves the charm of colonial Mexico. When your stomach starts to grumble, make sure to check out the world’s biggest cantina. The Parian is a colorful cluster of restaurants; mariachis play in the middle of the plaza, and you have a plethora of dining options. To make the most of a relaxing trip, walk to the center of town, to Jardin Hidalgo. Take a rejuvenating walk around the kiosk, where you’ll spot families and street vendors enjoying another day in Tlaquepaque. 


10 Hospicio Cabañas

Hospicio cabañas facade jucarran / Getty Images

One of the oldest hospital complexes in Latin America and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hospicio Cabañas attended and provided shelter for the disadvantaged in the 19th century. The exquisite architecture and antiquity of the old hospice are not the only things that make it a worthwhile destination. Hospicio Cabañas houses the work of one of the greatest Mexican muralists of the 20th century, Jose Clemente Orozco. Behold his crowning jewel, “The Man on Fire,” standing guard inside the dome of the old chapel. From music workshops, art exhibits to its prestigious film library, you will never run out of entertaining, educational opportunities at this rich complex. 


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