Mexico: places to visit around Guadalajara – Tequila & the Archaeological site of Guachimontones

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I’ve spent a bit of time in Guadalajara since meeting my wife there some years ago (she obviously wasn’t my wife when we first met, that probably goes without saying). While there’s plenty to do in Guadalajara itself there’s also a plenty of places in the Guadalajara area which are worth a visit. One of the areas is Tequila (with a capital T because it’s the name of a town), which is about an hour from Guadalajara according to Google (although my wife and I both feel it’s more like 1.5 to 2 hours away). The town of Tequila, one would think, is not in the least bit surprisingly famous for producing delicious tequila alcohol from the sweet (perhaps not in the literal sense of being actually sweet) and succulent blue agave of the region – as pictured above behind the cute little doggo. Even though I find it surprising, I have found people in my travels who are surprised there is a place called Tequila where they make tequila. By the way there’s also a region called Champagne in France where they make sparkling wine – go figure! Before going too far I should also point out the clever double meaning above where I use the word ‘succulent’, as in tender, juicy, tasty, or super deliciousness, to refer to blue agave when it’s turned into tequila. But also I use succulent in the botanical sense of blue agave being a succulent type of plant.

Another area I like around Guadalajara is Guachimontones (pronounced something like watchy-mon-toe-nayz), an archaeological site which my wife agrees is really about an hour out of Guadalajara. Guachimontones, in the age of mass tourism (assuming there’s no ‘pandemic’ stopping people from travelling at the moment) is close to what you might describe as a ‘hidden gem’. If, by unlikely chance, there is a global pandemic going on, it could very well be a forgotten gem, so go visit! But more on Guachimontones a bit further along, first a tour of tequila country! Arriba, arriba, ándale, ándale.

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The very first night I stayed in Guadalajara I had the misfortune of staying at a hotel in centro which also had a group of gringos, who had just returned from a tour of Tequila, staying. I tried to go to sleep around 11.30 pm after having travelled from LA, and still rather jetlagged. I was just starting to get into the slumber zone, writing a few last chats on my phone as my eyelids heavied, and then putting the phone on the charger beside the bed. Almost at exactly the same time, the gringos started their drunken, and somewhat obnoxious, chatter and annoying partying which ran to around 3 am. This combined with a weird mechanical noise in the wall left me dazed and weary the next day when we walked across the square to stay at a quieter and nicer hotel called Morales.

This first exposure to a tequila tour of Tequila didn’t leave me chomping at the bit to go on one myself. But, on a subsequent visit, when my wife to be was at work, I got curious and I signed myself up for a day trip to try the succulent delights of the region.

First, in terms of logistics, getting yourself on a tequila tour from Guadalajara won’t be too difficult, all the hotels will offer them – at rather inflated prices. Or you can be a more savvy, penny pinching traveller like myself and wander into centro and haggle a little with the senoritas at the little tourist information stand and get yourself on a tour visiting tequila distilleries, blue agave fields, and the town of Tequila itself, for something between 175 to 200 pesos – tequila tastings and real live mariachi band included. Hopefully the stupid gringos who woke me on my first night in Guadalajara paid 100 USD for the same experience and that they also had huge hangovers.

I think I started my tour in centro on a little minibus, then transferred to a larger bus somewhere in a bus depot around Guadalajara. Buses are not usually the highlight of a tour, just know that transportation will be a necessary part of the tour. The tour was mainly conducted in Spanish, but there was a bit of English for the small group of Australians (we’re also considered gringos by the way, but I hope not exactly like the gringo gringos) on board, which include myself and two young couples I met on the bus who were probably from Melbourne or somewhere like that (if you recognise yourself below, drop me a line you young Aussies). As my Mexican father-in-law tells me, I am also young – but the reality is I’m more young at heart than body nowadays.

The drive out to the tequila distilleries is nothing spectacular, it’s a fairly deserty part of the country especially in April when I was there on that occasions, but hopefully you have a few people to chat to and become travel buddies with and you’ll soon find yourself sampling the liquid gold/ fire.

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Above is the moment captured for eternity of me trying my first tequila in the Tequila region. Something of a life’s fulfilled ambition, only equalled by the time I wore my doge meme t-shirt to the Doge’s palace in Venice, but of course not in the same universe as marrying a woman from Guadalajara, where they have the most beautiful women in all of Mexico.

Now, a tequila tour of Tequila is not necessarily for teetotallers, unless you’re fascinated by the science behind turning blue agave into succulent tequila, which I remember being fascinating, but not to the point where I remembered anything much about the process apart from the tequila being too toxic and ethanolly to drink when it first comes out. If you want to try that stuff they sell it for a few dollars per four litres at the side of the road. You will actually go blind if you drink it. Actually blind, that’s not some of euphemism or anything, your vision will literally leave you. You have been warned.

I did learn that there are a range of tequilas from blancos (whites) to repasados – well basically they are the two types if you don’t count the stuff in the four litre plastic containers at the side of the road (notice I use the word plastic container as opposed to bottle or anything safe sounding) – and you should start drinking the blanco ones first so you can still taste the repasados, which are darker brown ones. I didn’t want to be crudo (hungover) the next day so I tried like 50% of the tequilas on offer, and saved myself for the more expensive ones. If I hadn’t had some self-constraint I reckon I probably could have had about 15 to 20 sample-sized shots of tequila at the two distilleries we stopped at. One was Tres Mujeres, can’t remember the name of the other one, and now I feel I’ve just made up the second one and that we only went to one distillery, it felt like two though. Maybe I had one too many tequilas.

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You can’t just drink tequila all day, sometimes you just have to relax. Here’s me chilling out with my some of my Aussie day tour buddies in a chapel where they’ve used tequila barrels for seats to keep within the tequila theme. I think we’d had 5-6 tequila tastings by then, sung some short tequila drinking songs, looked at fields and fields of blue agave, and other fields on fire waiting to be planted out with blue agave. From memory it takes about 7-8 years for the agave to mature and then they cut the piña from the agave, which is Spanish for pineapple because the agave piña looks like a piña, and is just as sweet and succulent, and juicy and sexy. There you go, I did learn something on the tequila tour!

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Tequila, and indeed Guadalajara, and indeed a bunch of other places from central Mexico, through to the Pacific coast town of Puerta Vallarta – famous for being one of the locations where Herbie Goes Bananas (film starring a VW beetle, if you are young) was filmed, and also for being very gay, in both the sense of being happy and also the gay, gay sense – are towns in the state of Jalisco. And Jalisco is home to mariachi! So you will never be allowed to go on a tequila tour and stop off in a blue agave field without having mariachi with their guitars and trumpets, and signature mariachi shouts, serenading you with wonderful mariachi tunes as you drink more tequila. It just won’t happen. I love mariachi. In September there’s a huge free (yes FREE) mariachi concert in centro in Guadalajara with all the most famous mariachi. I highly recommend it, just bring a hat and an umbrella because you’ll have to sit for hours in the sun waiting for the concert to start, and being September, you might have the concert ending with a downpour from an ex-cyclone drifting in from Puerta Vallarta way.

Apart from drinking tequila, you’ll stop off at a Mexican restaurant on route to the town of Tequila, where you can sit and watching majestic vultures riding the hot termal currents overhead as you eat fajitas and try micheladas, the Mexican beer cocktail with lime, clam juice, tomato juice (clamato – which actually has the dried clam powder in it, so clams aren’t necessarily a separate ingerdient) and a little of spices. I’m surprised I don’t have a photo of the fajitas and michelada, I don’t think I’ve eaten something at a restaurant without taking a photo of my meal, especially when travelling, since about 2013. I think I probably took a photo of Mitch, one of the Aussie guys, drinking his michelada, because you know, Mitch, michelada, it’s the reason I got him to buy one in the first place. Micheladas are an acquired taste, but you acquire the taste very quickly and then you’re addicted for life and you’ll be searching out markets to get your own clamato tomato juice to add to your carona, dos equis or pacifico.

At the end of the tequila tour you will end up with a few hours exploring the actual town of Tequila, where you can get a large cup of americano coffee to freshen you up for the trip back to Guadalajara. Tequila is a nice enough town, but very typical of other small Mexican towns in the region and not somewhere you’d likely want to spend more than a few hours. If you want awesome mid-sized town experiences in central Mexico try Queretaro, not far from some decent wine regions, or Morelia, home to some cool rooftop bars, which is in the cool sounding state of Michoacán.

So, when you sober up from your tequila tours, and hopefully you haven’t been a gringo dickhead and woken other guests at the hotel up – why don’t you just pass out in a pool of your own vomit quietly like a responsible citizen – you might want to go for a change of pace and visit an archeological site. And there’s no better place around Guadalajara than Guachimontones.

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Now I’ve been to a few archeological sites around Mexico, it’s probably the most archaeologically rich country on Earth outside of Egypt. I’ve been to Templo Mayor, the ruins of the Mexica’s (pronounced mee-shee-ka who were better known as Aztecs) main temple in Mexico City; Teotihuacan, the pre-Aztec (but, not at all Aztec, except they were really impressed by the place) home to the great towering pyramids of the sun and moon and the Avenue of the Dead; Palenque and Calakmul, two Mayan cities set in jungles. But Guachimontones is nothing like these places, except it’s also pre-Hispanic and in Mexico. Not to get too technical, but for a start all the main ‘pyramids’ are round, they’re designed in concentric circles, and they don’t have the elaborate artwork on display that I’ve seen on monuments at the other sites mentioned. It’s a chilled understated place that takes you back into Mexico’s early civilisations – pre Aztec and I think even Teotihuacan, and perhaps the Mayan.

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Guachimontones doesn’t have the throngs of tourists clambering over everything, that other sites have, with the exception of Calakmul, which is a bit out of the way, in fact practically in the middle of nowhere, and down a long dirt road near the border of Guatemala – read about it here. Guachimontones is also a place where a very peaceful culture with no sign of warfare, which I also haven’t come across in any other archeological site in Mexico, where human sacrifice and warfare were common. What it does have in common with every other archaeological site I’ve visited in Mexico though is a ball court. Mexicans love their football – though they weren’t allowed to use their feet when playing the ancient sport. The ball court may, or may not, be pictured below. I’m guessing the tour guide was explaining what it was, but it was in Spanish and my wife says if I want to understand I should start speaking Spanish.

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Well you can wiki more of Guachimontones’ history if you want, and there’s a small but nice museum and the entrance where you can find out more – you really need a guided tour of the place, which is included in your ticket price, you just need to tip the tour guides. But basically it’s a chilled civilisation that sat up on this hill, the people were slightly wary of travellers but seemingly not needing to worry that much about whether they were going to be taken away by their enemies and sacrificed to Huitzilopochtli at Templo Mayor. The people of Guachimontones sang and danced and ate fish from the nearby lake and made art, but not as bold as the Mayan, Mexica and the people of Teotihuacan. They also performed the amazing pole-flying ceremony that you still see performed around Mexico today, where men fly around a pole in the air as eagles to rhythmic drumming and chanting. The main pole was placed on top of one of the main pyramids of the site so would have been especially spectacular, that much closer to the heavens.

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Here my wife and I stand in front of one of Guachimontones’ pyramids. I am impressed by how blue my sneakers were back then, I think I’d just bought them the day before at Plaza del Sol in Guadalajara. Oh by the way Guachimontones can be extremely hot and dry, bring a hat and around 35 litres of water. It’s also very dusty at times so I imagine this is the last image I ever had with my shoes looking as blue as they were. It’s also a place you have to walk around, there’s no golf buggies, all leg powered effort and hills around here.

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And here my wife and I, and some other’s on our guided tour of the site, learn about  Guachimontones musical instruments and culture. We even had a go at blowing the old conch horn and beating the drums. But my musical abilities mostly shone when I was on the old seed pod shaker – cha, cha, cha.

All up you’ll probably spend around 3 hours at the site, if you want to have a good look around the museum it only takes about 30 minutes. As it’s not a really touristy spot you don’t get many food options around so you might also want to bring yourself a lonche or torta.

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And that’s it for days trips around Guadalajara for now. I think the Tequila and Guachimontones combo over a few days is a pretty good option when you’re visiting. Perhaps with a day chillin in Guadalajara in between visiting the sites of centre.

If you want to know more about Mexican travel, I have plenty more pages to choose from. There’s a link somewhere around the page or on you phone. You can also drop me a line on twitter, or via facebook – I think one of the links below or above or somewhere takes you there. Or you can email me at

Enjoy your travels, Juanito.