Only about an hour outside of Guadalajara is the town of Tequila. It’s not a very large town and if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve definitely heard of its major product. Yes, the sleepy town of Tequila produces the stuff of Spring Break legend – and has been for decades. Not super close, but in the same general area there’s a point of ancient mesoamerican cultural interest. The Guachimontones archaeological site is what remains of the center of society and religion for the Teuchitlán people who lived in the area as early as 300 BCE! There’s a museum (closed on Mondays – the day we went, of course) and several structures still intact including ball courts, temples and several round, stepped pyramids. From the top of the hill where the site is located you’ll have an impressive view of the valley below including the tiny town of Teuchitlán and the lake beyond it.
If you are looking for a day trip from Guadalajara that includes history, culture and free tequila: I’ve got you covered.
There are tours that you can book to take you to Tequila, but the only way I know to get to Guachimontones is to drive. While I was surprised to find Uber in Guadalajara, and you could probably find an Uber driver or even a Taxi that would be willing to take you, you might not be able to find one to get home. There are rental cars joints like Enterprise in the city, we rented a car to drive to Lake Chapala, and the rental for a day is comparable to that in the States.
Another option, if you are comfortable, is to hire a driver. Everyone is a entrepreneur in Mexico. When my parents were in the shuttle from the airport to the hotel my dad and the shuttle driver talked about what we planned on doing during our trip to Guadalajara. My dad mentioned that they wanted to go to Tequila but were unsure of how to go about it. The driver, Ivan, volunteered to drive us out there and take us on a tour of the sites near by. This really worked out wonderfully, because, 1) we didn’t have to worry about how to get where we were going, and 2) he really knew his stuff about the area. Again, this might not be something you are comfortable with, and by no means am I suggesting you pick up a stranger who is not vetted to drive you around all day.
Stop #1 – Pyramids
The round pyramids of Los Guachimontones are unique to the region, none like them have been found – so far – in any other part of the world. The site here in Teuchitlán is really special because of how much is still intact, and still more have yet to be excavated.
When you park at the base of the hill, take a look at the museum if you’re interested in learning more about the site. Because the whole region, including the town of Tequila, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site there are a few signs at the site in English. At the parking lot there is a large sign with an overview of the Teuchitlan people and how they lived that is in both English and Spanish then at the site there are small panels on the ground pointing out what you are looking at.
Stop #2 – Lunch in Teuchitlan
Teuchitlán is a tiny little town that is traditionally Mexican. Rows of adobe houses painted with bright colors, cobblestone and dirt streets and a central square, which happened to be having a market when we stopped for lunch. Ivan said he knew the best place to get lunch, and it was right across from the plaza. An open, covered eating area flanked by little stalls selling all kinds of stuff, tortas, tacos, papusas, etc. I opted for a torta, thinking it was going to be like the kind I was used to getting in Los Angeles.
Nope! Apparently the state of Jalisco has it’s own version called torta ahogada. It’s chopped meat stuffed in a crusty roll and covered with sliced raw onions and a spicy salsa that is almost like a soup. After lunch we grabbed a couple fresh fruit cups from a stand at the market. Mango and watermelon sliced up with a machete, a couple of limes squeezed on top and a sprinkle of Tajìn. The perfect road trip snack.
Stop #3 – Tequila!
You know what time it is! Tequila time! Just as Champagne, France is both a city and a distinction, so is the town of Tequila and the product of the same name.
Tequila is made from distilling the juice of the blue agave plant and for it to be labeled as Tequila, it has to be produced there. There are a ton of distilleries in Tequila, some that have been in business for generations. Casa Sauza, Jose Cuervo, and Casa Herradura all have distilleries and offer tours and tastings. So, when I was doing some research before the trip trying to decide which distillery to visit and what was the best way to go about it was a little overwhelming. There are a ton of tours that will pick you up at your hotel in Guadalajara and take you on an all day excursion to multiple distilleries. These trips look like fun, you get to try your hand at agave farming and some even offer tours of the town itself. But the idea of being trapped on a tour for 6+ hours did not seem appealing to me. You could also go the DIY route – rent a car and visit the distilleries of your choice. This is essentially what we did but thanks to Ivan we learned that the distillery Tres Mujeres was the only one who offered a free tour and tasting.
Our tour was given by a nice young lady, who did not speak English. Between Ivan and my parents and the patience of our guide, we were able to put together a very informative bilingual tour that talked about the process of making the tequila from harvest to refining to storing.
Like a lot of other types of alcohol, tequila is stored for different amount of times prior to bottling which creates different the tastes and smoothness. The clear kind of tequila, usually labeled as ‘Silver’ is bottled immediately after being distilled. At Tres Mujeres, they have 5 different kinds of tequila, that vary in their resting period from none to about 15 years. After getting the rundown on how the tequila is distilled, the tour continues in the tequila cellar (yup, just like it sounds) where you’ll see all the barrels patiently storing the tequila until the appropriate time. It’s in the cellar that the tasting happens.
Our guide explained the different types of tequila and the slight difference in the way to drink them. The Blanco or Silver type are mostly used for mixing into drinks like margaritas so drinking them as a shot is best with a little salt on the tongue first and finished with a lime wedge. Everything more ‘reposado’ or rested more than that should be sipped. During the tasting we tasted four tequilas and of course things got pretty silly. But I never felt rushed to leave, it was a great experience. Who doesn’t love seeing their parents get sloshed every now and again? The tour ends in the gift shop, of course, where you can buy bottles of the stuff you just drank. They also save the very best tequila for this part of the tour – a black bottle of tequila that has been rested for 20 years. Great strategy on their part, honestly.
By the time we had finished at Tres Mujeres we were all pretty spent. For all of you on those tours that hit three distilleries, more power to you. I’ve become an old lady and can no longer hang with that crowd. With our day trip complete, we headed back to Guadalajara and our hotel for a nap before dinner. Tequila is an easy and fun day trip from the capital city but also accessible from the port town of Puerto Vallarta, the next time you find yourself there.
Getting a look at the UNESCO World Heritage Site and tasting the fiery libation known the world over in the same building it is created in, is pretty special.