Mexico’s second city, Guadalajara, has an impressive array of historical sites, culture and nightlife. While it is much more relaxed than Mexico City, it still offers all the big city attractions. Guadalajara is a colonial city and it is the kind of place that you can walk around at a relaxed pace and take in the atmosphere. The most famous and visible landmark is Guadalajara Cathedral, which was consecrated in 1618, but there are a huge number of other wonderful buildings in the historic centre. The tequila region in Mexico is only 50 kilometres away, and tours can be easily arranged to visit the distilleries. Mariachi music was invented in Guadalajara, making it a fine place to take advantage of the inexhaustible number of plazas, imbibe the local beverage and possibly be serenaded.
Guadalajara has plenty of green spaces with many parks, plazas with public art and historical buildings. The Guadalajara Cathedral, with twin pointed towers and a central dome, is surrounded by four unique plazas, with a central fountain depicting two lions with their paws resting on the trunk of a tree which is the city's coat of arms, an art nouveau bandstand and matching lampposts, Government Palace with a lovely baroque facade and a spectacular mural in the interior main staircase, painted by Jose Clemente Orozco and other delights. Nearby is Plaza de la Liberacion, Teatro Degollado, where Guadalajara's Ballet Folclorico performs; and Plaza Tapatio which stretches over half a mile to the Hospicio Cabanas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearby, See the Minerva Fountain, University of Guadalajara and Gothic Expiratory Church. Explore the city by foot, double decker bus or calandria (horse-drwan carriage). On another note you can attend a live wrestling match and watch big men in tights and masks do their thing; the locals love it!
Get out of Town
A more mellow suburb, Tlaquepaque, has more of an artisan village feel, with traditional arts and crafts, plenty of restaurants and bars and a vibrant atmosphere. Tonalá is are a folk-art shopper’s dream. Zapopan has some interesting colonial sites. Mexico's largest freshwater lake, Lake Chapala, is located only an hour from Guadalajara. The lake is surrounded by mountains and offers and charming and peaceful escape from the city. Migrating birds, indigenous plants and interesting marine life can be found here and the lake has two islands you can visit. Hire a boat and explore. For swimming head to the Agua Caliente waterpark that is fed by hot springs, has waterslides and swimming pools.
Santiago de Tequila is a town located about 60km outside of Guadalajara, and is the birthplace of Mexico’s infamous liquor. Greenish blue fields of agave stretch out mile after mile over the rugged, hilly terrain and all of the tequila in the world, some 60 million gallons a year, is produced in this region. Visit the towns 18th century church, the National Museum of Tequila and tour a distillery to learn about the tequila-making process and sample different varieties. In Mexico, many of lifes good times are celebrated with tequila. It is an excellent appetizer and is served in many forms from shots with salt and lemon, taboasco and worsteshire sauce to cocktails like margaritas and tequila sunrise. There is no better place to find your favourity version.
Mariachi mucis is known throughout the world as a symbol of Mexico. It forms part of courtship, weddings, birthdays, baptisms and funerals throughout Mexico and mariachi bands can be found playing at restaurants, bars and plazas. Traditionally a mariachi band was a smaller group of 4 to 5 musicians playing only string instruments, these days a troupe can be up to 20 musicians with the inclusion of trumpets. The suit worn by modern mariachi musicians has evolved from the costume worn by traditional equestrian riders, including a waist length jacket, fitted pants with silver buttons down each side, ankle boots, embroidered belt, large bow tie and sombrero. The best place to find mariachi bands in Guadalajara is in the Plaza de los Mariachis. A birthday song to request would be Las Mananitas, for a more upbeat tune try Jarabe Tapatio or for something romantic La Malaguena or Serenata Huasteca. The International Mariachi Festival is held in Guadajara over 10 days and is a colourful celebration of the mariachi music, band and tradition.
Charreria is the national sport of Mexico, representing Mexican culture, tradition and history. It involves equestrian competitions like horse riding, roping and cattle handling. It was originally developed on the haciendas where workers would try to outdo each with with their horse riding and roping skills, turning it into an art form. Workers from different haciendas would then compete against one another at gatherings and formal competitions, called charreadas eventually began. Mariachi music and charreria go hand in hand and the two traditions developed around the same time in the west of Mexico. Mariachis, dressed like charros (horse riders) but brighter, performed the traditional music at charreadas. Visitors can experience these competitions and the best display is at the Mexican National Charro Championship which is part of the International Mariachi and Charreria Festival held in Guadalajara each September.
The Mercado Libertad deserves its own mention. Located close to the Plaza de los Mariachis it is a vast emporium distributed over three floors selling everything from fresh produce, meat, flowers, handicrafts, cowboy hats and boots to electronic gadgets and appliances. Best of all to keep your energy levels up for all the browsing and bargaining, visit the second floor for sustenance. This is where you'll find many fondas (small family-run restaurants) to indulge in some local authentic comida jalisciense (food of Jalisco state). Tortas ahogadas, the signature dish of Guadalajara, are dense rolls stuffed with pork and spicy salsa. Try a bowl of pozole, corn hominy soup made with either pork or chicken. Choose red pozole for hot and spicy, or stick with the white option. Another Jalisco specialty is birria, a spicy Mexican meat stew made with either goat or lamb. It comes with a side of minced onions, cilantro and limes. Buen provecho (Bon appetit)! This market is the best place to begin your shopping and gastronomical exploration of Guadalajara.
The Infinity Experience
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