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Jan 27, 2010, 8:05 AM

Post #1 of 9 (9281 views)


Side trips out of Guadalajara

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Well, after nearly two years of corporate imprisonment on the dusty plains of north Texas, I have both a rather large amount of vacation time and a small amount of cash coinciding (never can seem to get the two together!), so I'm planning another trip south.

This time, I want to check out Guadalajara, as it's one of the larger cities that, somehow, I've never visited before. So I'm going to spend 3 days there, with maybe a fourth dedicated to a short run to either Chapala or Tequila.

Then I have another 3-4 days available where I'd like to rent a car and take a short trip to one of the interesting places within 3-4 hours driving time. So I'd like to get some recommendations from the collective wisdom here.

I like history, arts and crafts, hiking (though nothing too back-country as I have health issues I have to manage), FOOD, music - festivals and culture in general. I love checking out old cathedrals, forts, native American sites, etc. And did I mention that I love FOOD? ;-)

So I'm thinking about places like Tapalpa, Mazamitla, and the whole Lago de Pátzcuaro region (natch). But I wondered if I'm missing anything off the beaten path. Pátzcuaro is drawing me mightily, but I'm thinking I might need a full week just to do that area properly, so may save it for another trip.

So how about it? What else is within 3 hours of GDL that might be of interest? What would you check out first? And thanks as always for the great ideas, cautionary advice, humor and general cantankerousness that makes this site so special.

Ken in DFW


Jan 27, 2010, 8:45 AM

Post #2 of 9 (9265 views)


Re: [ken_in_dfw] Side trips out of Guadalajara

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Hello Ken-
We have lived in Guadalajara for ten years and frequently have visitors from the US.

Tapalpa and Mazamitla are interesting because of their altitude (cooler and the smell of pines),but there really isn't anything to do in either place. They have cute town squares but so do thousands of other small towns.

One place we have found our visitors to enjoy very much is Huachimontones, which is a pre-Columbian archeological site near the town of Teuchitlan,about 40 minutes west of Guadalajara (on the map you would go west toward Tequila and then left toward Ameca). It's a little-known excavation that has been underway for 30 or more years. There are usually guides there offering their services and if you are lucky you might find the archeologist who discovered the site many years ago. He is an American and fascinating to listen to. In the town of Teuchitlan there is a small museum which has a nice display and also shows a film about the project.

As to nearby towns, we like to take people to Guanajuato,which is a beautiful colonial place. It's about a four-hour drive from Guadalajara,so you might want to stay overnight. We've done it back and forth in one day but it's tiring. If you go into the central square there are many decent hotels and guides who can take you around. I would allow one full day or maybe two to see everything.

On the toll road between Guad and Guanajuato you would see exits to San Juan de los Lagos which is a destination of pilgrims and full of religious sites. Also, Lagos de Moreno has some interesting architecture. If your time is limited I would bypass those two in favor of Guanajuato.

Not far from Guanajuato,and farther out,is San Miguel de Allende. SMA is colonial and full of gringos. We prefer Guanajuato.

We also like Zacatecas,but that is about a 5-6 hour drive. We think Guanajuato has more charm.


Jan 27, 2010, 9:01 AM

Post #3 of 9 (9259 views)


Re: [ken_in_dfw] Side trips out of Guadalajara

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It was to provide a variety of such 3-4 days trips that caused me to write "Western Mexico, a Traveller's Treasury" many years ago. The book does not cover hotels, restaurants and tourist services, but discusses the historical, ecological, cultural and social background to the places chosen as worth visiting:
Mazamitla and Tamazula,
San Juan de los Lagos and Lagos de Moreno,
San Blas, Mexcaltitán,
Barra de Navidad and Melaque,
Tzintzuntzan and Pátzcuaro,
Uruapan and Tingambato,
Paricutín and Angahuan,
Monarch Butterfly reserves.
If you don't yet have a copy, visit or


Jan 27, 2010, 10:53 AM

Post #4 of 9 (9240 views)


Re: [ken_in_dfw] Side trips out of Guadalajara

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Well, I've been to all the places that Tony listed and a few more (with the exception of the Butterfly trip and you can do that when you visit the Patzcuaro area later) and I would head for Guanajuato, hands down! Beautiful Colonial city, vibrant, interesting, almost European feeling. University city w/good food, night-life and things to do.

And if you wanted to do so, you could take a side trip from there through Dolores Hidalgo (pottery heaven) to San Miguel de Allende and check out another gringo haven (although that 'may' stretch your timeframe).

P.S. I'd definitely check out Lake Chapala (instead of Tequila) if for no other reason than to see what it is like. It's only 45 minutes south of Guad and worth the time IMHO.

Here is a SF Chronical 'story' about it from several years ago...

(This post was edited by RickS on Jan 27, 2010, 11:05 AM)


Jan 27, 2010, 12:05 PM

Post #5 of 9 (9225 views)


Re: [ken_in_dfw] Side trips out of Guadalajara

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Go to Patzcuaro immediately--serious "gringo-ization" is under way and the real Patzcuaro won't last long!


Jan 27, 2010, 12:42 PM

Post #6 of 9 (9217 views)


Re: [ken_in_dfw] Side trips out of Guadalajara

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As two people, who have been guilty of trying to cram too many planned activities into too short of a time period, I would submit that there are a number of fine suggestions within these posts. My recommendation is as follows:

1) Take the entire first 4 days in Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque and Tonala and forget Chapala and/or Tequila. Even allocating 4 days in the greater Guadalajara area, you should come away feeling that there is so much more to see and experience. Even though we have a great deal of experience around the north side of the Lake and numerous friends there, we keep reducing the amount of time spent there each trip since it has become too "gringofied" and really isn't a true Mexico experience.

2) We began our discovery of the State of Michoacan in August of 08 and made subsequent trips there in October, 08 and August, 09 and it has really become a favorite of ours. We have used Patzcuaro as a central location for our explorations. You should be able to experience a worthwhile representation of what Michoacan has to offer with good planning and a clear direction of what you wish to accomplish. You might visit the following web site to get some decent info on the State and the various cities/towns/villages:
Even a full week in Michoacan would only allow you to skim the surface of all there is to see!

3) Guanajuato is another excellent suggestion should you decide against the Patzcuaro. Last August, we made our first trip there and only allocated one day. After getting an overview, we plan on another visit for at least three days and probably still be wishing for more time.

Keep in mind that all of the areas mentioned are at altitudes appreciably higher than DFW and you will notice it when walking/hiking around these cities.

For some additional info on our exploration in Michoacan, you might want to wander over to:
I have reported on a number of our experiences in various towns and cities within the individual States and have included some rather amateurish slideshows.
Albuquerque, NM

(This post was edited by chinagringo on Jan 27, 2010, 12:51 PM)


Jan 28, 2010, 9:45 AM

Post #7 of 9 (9149 views)


Re: [ken_in_dfw] Side trips out of Guadalajara

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It's tempting to suggest, as others have, that you use the GDL airport as your gateway to Michoacan, or even Guanajuato. I spent 2 or 3 nights in Guadalajara on one trip, and then headed directly to Morelia which is only about 3 1/2 hours by bus. Then on to Patzcuaro, etc., before returning to GDL for my flight home.

But I'm going to take your question at face value. Personally, I prefer Tapalpa to Mazamitla. It's fun on weekends when the Tapatios are in town livening things up. If you were to rent a car in Guadalajara, you could easily drive to Chapala so see the lake and towns, then go on to Tapalpa. (Spend a night at the lake.....or not. Tapalpa is only about 1 1/2 - 2 hours from Chapala depending upon how well you navigate.) From Tapalpa you can easily drop down to Colima/Comala for a few nights before returning to GDL. That would be a nice mix.

Or just go to Michoacan. Based on your list of likes, you need to get there sooner rather than later. 8-)


Jan 30, 2010, 10:33 PM

Post #8 of 9 (9059 views)


Re: [ken_in_dfw] Side trips out of Guadalajara

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Thanks all for the wonderful suggestions. I knew that this forum would not let me down.

lostinmex, I really appreciate the tip on Huachimontones. I grew up near the Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois, which are advertised as the largest native American pyramids outside of Tenochtitlán, so I have a special affinity for archeological sites like this. As I really want to tour some of the tequila distilleries, I could probably combine the two into one full day.

Tony, thanks for the tip on your book. I knew you were an author - just didn't know the wealth of publications in your portfolio. I've already ordered a copy.

Thanks to everyone who suggested Guanajuato. I've been there twice. Last time I was in México, I was fortunate enough to attend the Cervantino Festival, which was fantastic. I love Guanajuato and will return, but not on this trip.

So that leaves me with a tough choice of spending more time in GDL and maybe just a short excursion around the lake and down to Tapalpa - or keeping it to no more than 4 days and heading east to Michoacán. Decisions, decisions.

That's the problem with México - too many choices! I'll let you all know how it turns out.

But, as always, estoy en sus deudas. Gracias.

Ken in DFW


Jan 31, 2010, 9:03 AM

Post #9 of 9 (9033 views)


Re: [ken_in_dfw] Side trips out of Guadalajara

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Four days in Michoacán wins hands down if that's the choice! Tony
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