Guadalajara Jalisco Mexico: The Definitive Travel Guide for 2022

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By: Author Paul

Guadalajara is quite possibly the most under-the-radar travel destination in Mexico. Puerto Vallarta is well known internationally but pales in comparison when it comes to culture and things to do. I’ve been here since 2009 and written a Guadalajara travel guide since 2017 but I’m barely scratching the surface of all that the region has to offer.

The Definitive Guadalajara Travel Guide for 2022

Jalisco and specifically the Metropolitan region are a place of contrasts. Conservative and liberal, rich and poor, traditional and modern are all on display at every turn. It is hard to believe that all those pueblos grew into the second largest metropolitan region in Mexico. It feels much smaller than Mexico City while being big on culture at the same time. 

In addition to the capital, the State is Jalisco has a wonderful amount of natural beauty and tourist infrastructure for all budgets. Mexican luxury resorts are some of the finest in the world. 


Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

Guadalajara Travel Guide: Know Before You Go

Airport: Aeropuerto Internacional de Guadalajara Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (IATA airport code: GDL)

Currency: $Mexican Peso 1 USD to MXN on Google Finance 

Language: Spanish with some English and native languages like Wixárika, Náhuatl, and Purépecha.

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

Horse drawn carriage in Downtown Guadalajara
Downtown Guadalajara
Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

A Brief History of Guadalajara

Guadalajara was founded at its current location in 1542 by the merciless Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, a one-time political rival of Hernán Cortes. The original settlers moved around from what are today Nochistlán, Tonalá, and Tlacotán to finally put down roots at a defensible location with a reliable source of water.

The name Guadalajara was chosen for Guzmán’s hometown in Spain. Interestingly, the name Guadalajara comes from the Arabic-Andalacian phrase wadi al hijaraI which translates to ‘river that flows between stones,’ ‘valley of stones,’ or ‘valley of fortresses.’ Even if the city was named after a town in Spain it is still a fitting description because the San Juan River carved the city’s geography. The river was paved over by the Calzada de la Independencia avenue but the area still floods like crazy during the rainy season.

In the late 16th century Pope Paulo III seated the bishopric of Nueva Galicia in Guadalajara and the Spaish royal audience soon followed. Nueva Galicia quickly grew into a wealthy and influential region of New Spain because of the silver mines and Asian trade routes.

The wealth of the colonial period can be seen in the ornate churches that have survived centuries through independence, revolution, and religious war. Downtown Guadalajara has a spectacular collection of colonial buildings and many of them are open to the public. The catholic church amassed great wealth during the colonial period and set the stage for conflict in the post-colonial period.

Guadalajara was an important theater during the war of independence. Father Miguel Hidalgo decreed the end of slavery from Guadalajara and there are a number of murals and statues to commemorate the event. Guadalajara was even the capital of Mexico for several months during the Reform Wars while President Benito Juarez was exiled from Mexico City by conservative forces opposed to the new constitution.

The unusually long presidency (or dictatorship) of Porfirio Diaz ushered in a period of stability and development. In addition to the trains, the legacy of Porfirio Diaz can be seen in the European style, neo-gothic cathedral, and the mansions that still line Avenida Vallarta. The Porfirian era is marked by a hodgepodge of European-style architecture known as regionalism. The Colonia Americana and Lafayette neighborhoods have some of the most enjoyable tree-lined streets to stroll through and appreciate the architecture of the Porfiriato.

The Mexican revolution was a prolonged and bloody affair that led to an aggressive secularization and religious conflict called the Cristero War. As the revolutionary governments of Plutarco Elias Calles’ Maximato (Name given to the three presidents to succeed Calles) seized church assets and persecuted the faithful, tempers flared and the countryside around Guadalajara was lit on fire. The Cristero War precipitated the first large-scale emigration of Mexicans to the United States. It is somewhat ironic that Calles was also exiled to the United States after the new President, Lázaro Cárdenas took office and clashed with the old guard.

Fountain in the middle of Avenida Chapultepec
Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

Where is Guadalajara?

Guadalajara is located in the Atemajac Valley of Central Jalisco state. The city of Guadalajara is located in the middle of the metropolitan region but it is difficult to tell where Zapopan begins and Tlaquepaque ends. 

As the crow flies, Guadalajara is 200 km east of Puerto Vallarta and 500 km west of Mexico City. It is a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Tijuana, four hours from San Francisco, and less than six hours from Seattle. 

Guadalajara Travel Guide Map

How Big is Guadalajara?

The city of Guadalajara has a population of 1.5 million but the metropolitan region includes 10 independent municipalities and has a population of almost 5 million.

Birrieria Apatzingan in the Central de Abastos neighborhood.
Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

Guadalajara Weather

People from cold weather climates make fun of me for saying this but I love the seasons in Guadalajara. They are mostly mild but there is a difference between summer and winter. 

Winter is mild and short. December and January may see temperatures reach freezing at night in the suburbs of Guadalajara at a little higher elevation. Daytime temperatures are lovely often in the seventies Fahrenheit with clear skies. 

Spring is the hottest and driest time of year with the poorest air quality. There are often fires in the forest surrounding Guadalajara and little wind. The daytime temperatures in May regularly pass 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Summer is the rainy season. It is hot and humid during the day but can get chilly at night. It rains most days, usually in the afternoon but sometimes in the morning. When it rains really heavily, big hail is possible if not regular. The first rain of the season is marvelous. There is a famous song about the smell of the damp earth, Guadalajara, Guadalajara. After months of heat, the rains are much appreciated.

Hurricane season runs from the end of summer into the beginning of fall. Hurricanes don’t hit Guadalajara directly but they pass by the Pacific coast close enough to send a couple of days of heavy rain. 

Fall is my favorite time of year in Guadalajara because of the mild weather and the high number of cultural events. The rains usually come to an end by late September. The daytime temperatures are in the 80s but the nighttime temperatures are lower and don’t require air conditioning. 

Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

The Best Time to Visit Guadalajara

Fall (late September, October, and early November) is the best time to visit Guadalajara because of the weather and the events.

The Glorieta Minerva during a night time bicycle ride through Guadalajara
Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

The Best Neighborhoods in Guadalajara

I have written extensively about the best neighborhoods in Guadalajara to visit and the best neighborhoods to live in. These are of my favorite parts of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Region to explore. 

Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

The Best Hotels in Guadalajara

The AC Hotels Marriot is one of the best hotels in Guadalajara

Once you get an idea about what part of the city you want to stay in, then comes the hotel. There are hotels for every budget and style of travel. Over the last decade, My family and I have stayed at a lot of hotels in Guadalajara. These are my favorites.

The full list of the best hotels in Guadalajara.

The best Boutique Hotel in Guadalajara 

Best Deal in Guadalajara 

Best Hotel in Tlaquepaque 

Best Modern Business Hotel

Best Budget Hotel with safe parking 

Best Boutique Hotel in Ajijic

Best Hacienda in the Country

Strolling Downtown Tlaquepaque on a Sunday afternoon is one of the coolest things to do in Guadalajara
Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

The Best Things to Do in Guadalajara

This is another topic that I have written extensively on. The full article is close to 10,000 words and has a ton of the coolest things to do in Guadalajara

These are six of my favorites:

  • Walk Downtown Guadalajara and visit the museums, churches, cantinas, government buildings, and theaters. You can see as little or as much as you have time and interest in visiting.
  • Go Shopping in Tlaquepaque. Tlaquepaque is one of Mexico’s most important centers for folk art. There are more galleries than you will be able to visit in one day. 
  • Party in the Colonia Americana. There is a high concentration of hip restaurants and drinking establishments set in old mansions.
  • Find the best murals in the city. There are historic murals hidden in government buildings and there is a huge amount of street art. Guadalajara has a ton of art all over the place!
  • Rent a bike or walk the Via Recreactiva on Sunday from the Glorieta Minerva to Downtown Guadalajara along Avenida Vallarta. It is one of the most enjoyable ways to appreciate the historic architcture.
  • Get out of town and see the countryside. There are so many options nearby it is staggering. From day trips to Tequila and Lake Chapala to long weekends in Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita.
Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

Food & Beverage Guide to Guadalajara

The ultimate Guadalajara Travel guide for foodies

I think that the food and drink industry is one of the best reasons to live and travel to Guadalajara. There is a combination of very formal and very casual eating establishments that serve a lot of different styles of food. The following articles represent some of my favorite culinary experiences in the world and they just happen to be located in Guadalajara.

Lengua en salsa verde at Xokol restaurant in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Tacos de tripa in Colonia Santa Tere, Guadalajara, Mexico
Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

Guadalajara Transportation Guide

Guadalajara is a major metropolitan area with a significant amount of complexity. That also means that there are many options when planning a trip.

Guadalajara Transportation Guide

How to Get to Guadalajara

Guadalajara is an important destination in terms of transportation infrastructure. Originally it was the train but today it is the freeways and the airport that make it easy to move around.

Flights

The Guadalajara International Airport, also known as the Aeropuerto Internacional de Guadalajara Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (GDL), is the third most important airport in Mexico after Mexico City and Cancun. It is located 30 minutes (no traffic) from Guadalajara proper in the municipality of Tlajomulco on the freeway to Lake Chapala.

The airport is constantly under construction but it functions relatively well. It is not nearly as complex as the Mexico City airport but during high travel times like Christmas and Semana Santa, it can surpass its capacity.

The best way to get to and from the airport is an official taxi paying at the booth inside the terminal. Uber does exist but it is hard to use and I have had problems with drivers showing up in cars different from that which was registered on the platform. I prefer the official taxi.

Chapala Plus operates a route from the Central Vieja in Downtown Guadalajara to Chapala that stops at the airport along the way.

Additionally, there is a shuttle from the Glorieta Minerva to the Airport.

Guadalajara long term bus station Central Nueva

Buses

The Metropolitan Region is big and there are long-distance bus terminals at several of the entrances to the city. The largest bus terminal is the Central Nueva in Tlaquepaque (right on the Tonalá border).

Driving

Guadalajara is not the easiest place to learn how to drive in Mexico. While it is much smaller than Mexico City, the traffic is still heavy and infrastructure is not always labeled properly. While in many cases there is an offical established rule, when first learning to drive along the back streets is can be hard to discern who has the right of way.

I keep pretty close to my house during the week but on the weekends I want to get out and see the region. That includes finding a new birria place in Tlaquepaque or road tripping to new beach in Michoacan. Having a car is amazing.

Getting Around Guadalajara

Walking

I suggest planning some walking days when you are visiting Guadalajara. There is no better way to appreciate the architecture than walking. It is the best way to experience Downtown Guadalajara, the Colonia Americana, Downtown Tlaquepaque, Downtown Zapopan, Downtown Tonalá, and many more neighborhoods. Sunday is the best day to walk because of the car-free Via Recreactiva.

Bicycle in front of the Templo Expiatorio in the Guadalajara travel guide.

Bicycle

Guadalajara has built a solid infrastructure for bicycles including autonomous bike rental stations, bike lanes, and a culture of cycling. Experienced cyclists should have no problem covering large swaths of the city on a bicycle rented from the city Mi Bici Program.

With a credit card, you can rent a bike from a hundred different docking stations, use the bike for a few hours, and return it to a different docking station for a very reasonable price.

Uber/Taxi

Taxis and Ubers are ubiquitous in Guadalajara. While it is common to flag down taxis on the street it is advisable to use a service to call for a taxi from a reputable source like a neighborhood taxi station. Ask the restaurant to call you a taxi from their trusted source.

Be prepared for some major surge pricing in the rainy season. Nobody wants to be on the road in a downpour.

Driving

The biggest challenge to driving around Guadalajara is the roundabout, also known as the glorieta. The Glorieta Minerva is a five-lane roundabout with a reputation for crashes because drivers do not anticipate moving to the exit lanes until the last minute and then swerving across five lanes of traffic can easily cause a crash.

Make sure not to leave anything in the car when it is parked on the street. Leaving a car out on the street in a rough neighborhood overnight is a good way to lose some car parts. The informal car part markets along Calle 5 de Febrero has a reputation for selling stolen parts. Buying stolen parts is bad for the karma.

Metro

Guadalajara recently inaugurated Line 3 of the metro. Line 3 runs from the Periferico near Tesistán to Downtown Zapopan, Downtown Guadalajara, Downtown Tlaquepaque, and all the way to the long-distance bus terminal. It is awesome and cheap at $9.5 pesos per ride. Line 1 and 2 don’t connect touristy areas unless you need to get to the ITESO University or the surrounding business park (HP and Jose Cuervo campuses).

Local Buses

For a big city, the local buses function pretty well. They are not comfortable at rush hour but they are way faster than the buses I grew up riding in Southern California.

Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

Travel to Guadalajara Frequently Asked Questions

Is Guadalajara Safe?

There are both safe and unsafe activities in Guadalajara. I think it is worthwhile to familiarize oneself with the most common risky activities because small changes in behavior can minimize exposure to that risk.

Is Guadalajara Expensive?

Guadalajara is a huge place with both expensive and inexpensive activities. It is possible to have a lovely, budget trip eating in the markets and at inexpensive restaurants. The museums are affordable and one of the most enjoyable activities in Guadalajara is just walking the streets to see the historic architecture. That being said, Guadalajara is a wealthy area. There are plenty of high-end restaurants, bars, and entertainment options with expensive price tags.

Should I tip?

Yes. Tipping at restaurants is between 10-15%. Tip more when the check total is low. Tip the lady making the tortillas 5 to 10 pesos. Tip the Uber Eats delivery driver but not the Uber Taxi driver. Tip the guy pumping your gas 10 pesos if he washes the windows of your car and offers to check the tire pressure. If he doesn’t, I don’t tip him. Tip the housekeeper in the hotel about 20 pesos a day. Remember, tips grease the wheels in Mexico. If you want special favors, tip well. Tips look a lot like kickbacks and you will see them all over the place

Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

Day Trips and Long Weekends from Guadalajara

It is kind of subjective what people call a day trip from Guadalajara. I surf and will occasionally drive to the beach, surf all day, and drive home in one day. It is a really long day and a lot of miles but is totally worth it for some tasty waves.

Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide

Some Final Thoughts on Travel to Guadalajara

I love this town and I hope that came through in these articles. Writing the blog started off as a very personal endeavor because I wanted to document what I was seeing for my own personal enjoyment. It turns out that my friends liked seeing the photos and hearing the stories as well. I hope you find something new to do in my Guadalajara Travel Guide.

Paul Hudson is food, travel and surf enthusiast who writes about Mexico in English and California in Spanish. He is originally from San Diego, went to school in Santa Cruz, and has been in Guadalajara since 2009. He loves to explore the coast, read about Mexico, and find exotic culinary experiences.

Source: playasyplazas.com

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