We’ve been lucky enough to have the adventure of a lifetime, living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for 3 months. We are halfway through our stay and have gone on a couple adventures outside of town – the first being a trip to Guadalajara, about 5 hours west of us. Upon arriving, we couldn’t help but feel both over and underwhelmed. Among old cathedrals and beautiful government buildings, were strip malls of Sbarro’s, Starbucks and shoe stores, catering to tourists and locals alike. It was also loud and gritty. We were totally thrown off because San Miguel is so picturesque and clean. But we had only one choice – to make the most of it. And we did! Over the next 2 days, we ventured around the city sightseeing and spent a magical afternoon in a small town outside of the city – Tlaquepaque. Read on for ideas on how to spend your 48 hours in Guadalajara.
This is a smaller town outside of Guadalajara proper, but still considered part of the Guadalajara region. It is charming, beautiful, known for its ceramics, and the tourists were few and far between. While we were here, we got an education in Tequila, saw an unbelievable all-female Mariachi troupe, watched men fly through the sky with only a rope tied from their waists, explored an abandoned artists’ refuge and ate the best meal we’d had since arriving in Mexico. Tlaquepaque is NOT to be missed.
- LOS VOLADORES – Imagine our shock at one of the first things we saw – four men climbing a 100 foot pole with no harnesses while a fifth walked around the park square playing a very loud flute, signalling that something major was about to happen. Next thing we know, he’s climbed to the top of the pole while his comrades have tied ropes around their waists. They leaned back and gracefully flew through the air while the pole spun around and eventually deposited them gently onto the ground. The fifth man stayed on top of the pole playing the flute holding on only with his feet tucked behind two ropes. It was peaceful and beautiful – and terrifying. Here’s a link to an article here and here explaining the ritual.
- EL BUHO TEQUILA TASTING: We’d found a recommendation on an old travel blog to stop into this tequila store – El Buho – to meet Emilio and to learn more about Mexico’s signature spirit. He did not disappoint! After a friendly lesson on the origins of tequila-making and several tastings later, we found two bottles we wanted to purchase. Then we needed food to take the edge of our buzz off, pronto! Emilio recommended that our next stop for lunch should be Casa Luna.
- CASA LUNA – This was a splurge meal for us, but it was 100% worth it. The beautiful garden patio was covered in ceramics and hanging lanterns and was simply magical – like we’d stepped into another world. The squash blossom soup in a bread bowl was definitely the highlight, and we also enjoyed some live music while I sipped on a coco margarita with a gummy bear garnish (!).
- MARIACHI – Mariachi began in the Guadalajara region – some attribute it’s exact start to Tlaquepaque, so it was a must-see while we were there. Lucky us, though – we stumbled upon these women at a bar called El Patio. They blew us away. Many tourist guides will recommend you head to El Parian to hear mariachi, but the locals we asked told us it was cheesy. We were going to do it anyway, but then we found these beautiful ladies and ditched that plan! Wouldn’t you?!
- EL REFUGIO – Emilio also told us not to miss El Refugio. From what we could discern, El Refugio is a culture and arts center that in some capacity supports artists and displays their work. But the strangest thing happened when we visited that day – it was practically abandoned, as if all of the artists made a mad dash for the exits without having time to clean up their work. We snuck a few pictures of the leftover items behind locked glass doors (including these piñatas), but I had an odd tourist moment where a woman yelled at me for using my camera and told me I needed a permit in order to use it there. No one had explained this to me, so I was pretty surprised by how upset she was, and I couldn’t help but feel like a jerky American. Lesson learned – make sure you ask if photography is permitted wherever you go.
Now back to Guadalajara proper where we spent a couple hours sightseeing before retiring for the evening.
HOSPICIO CABAÑAS – This UNESCO world heritage site is the famous orphanage and hospital in Guadalajara that is covered in murals by José Clemente Orozco. They are beautiful and terrifying all at the same time, and the most famous would be this one at the top of the building’s dome called Hombre de Fuego. It costs $20 pesos to enter and is a 15 minute walk from Centro. To use a fancy camera, you’ll need to pay extra but it is free to take pictures with your phone. Currently, Hospicio Cabañas serves as a cultural institute where galleries and beautiful courtyards abound!
- CENTRO SIGHTSEEING – There are several beautiful municipal buildings and jardins in Centro, and I highly recommend wandering with your camera and an open mind. As I mentioned, the city is gritty but that came to grow on me over the course of the time we spent there. From centuries-old cathedrals to street performers dressed as Frida Kahlo and Bumblebee the Transformer, Guadalajara ended up being deeply enchanting to us.
- HOTEL MORALES HISTORICAL – We stayed here based off of a recommendation from friends, and it was a very convenient location. The price was right – about $50USD per night – and the courtyards were beautiful inside the building. The staff was friendly and spoke English if you needed them to. This is considered one of the nicest hotels in Guadalajara, and it was very lovely. But, if you are someone who prefers truly luxury accommodations – this is not your place. Try a name-brand hotel for that!
For more pictures of the trip, you can skim through the below gallery – there are a lot of them, but it’s worth a peek!
Thank you as always for reading, and I’m so looking forward to sharing more of our Mexican adventures with you! Still to come…a trip to Puerto Vallarta, a weekend in Guanajuato and of course, everything about San Miguel de Allende!