Guadalajara is one of the most vibrant cities in Central Mexico, known for its rich culture, delicious cuisine, mariachi music, and colorful architecture. However, if you’re looking to explore beyond the city center and discover more of what this stunning region has to offer, there are plenty of incredible day trips to take. In this blog post, I’ll highlight six excellent day trips from Guadalajara that you won’t want to miss, including visits to Tonalá, Tlaquepaque, Ajijic, Chapala, Tequila, and Guachimontones. Each destination has its own unique charm and character, making for an unforgettable experience that will give you a true taste of Mexico.
Day Trip from Guadalajara: Tonalá
What is Tonalá like?
Tonalá was once its own small town, but as Guadalajara grew, it swallowed Tonalá right up. If you look at a map, Tonalá will appear as just an outer suburb. It’s most well known for its Tianguis (markets) which are held every Thursday and Sunday. You can buy anything from wicker baskets, kitchen items, and ceramic address numbers, to tacos al pastor. Tonalá really deserves its own full day if you have the time due to these expansive markets which stretch along the main street; the markets also extend into a large dusty lot adjacent to the main street. Tonalá is easy to get to, making it a perfect day trip from Guadalajara.
Getting to Tonalá from Guadalajara
You can get to Tonalá from the Guadalajara city center by:
- TRAIN/BUS: Take the pink line train (L3) to the Rio Nilo station, and take another bus (T15) to Tonalá Centro. About 40-50 minutes, $9.50 pesos.
- BUS: Take the green bus (Camion) #231 from Jardin de San Francisco, in the center of GDL. This should take you directly to the tianguis. About 40 minutes, $9.50 pesos.
- CAR: Take a DiDi/Uber. About 30 minutes, 200 pesos.
Take a tour from Guadalajara to Tonalá
If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of taking public transit to Tonalá, or you would like to experience it with other people, a great way to take day trips from Guadalajara is on a tour. This cultural tour on Viator takes you through both Tonalá and Tlaquepaque. Transportation and water are included. If you prefer a private tour through the markets of both Tonalá and Tlaquepaque, then this tour is for you. This second tour will take you to a family-owned ceramic workshop, treat you to traditional food and drinks, and teach you the history of each barrio. Private transportation, a guide, and lunch are included.
Day Trip from Guadalajara: Tlaquepaque
What is Tlaquepaque like?
Like Tonalá, Tlaquepaque was once its own town that has now been brought into the fold of Guadalajara. It’s treated more like a suburb than its own neighborhood, than its own town (though Tlaquepaque is considered to be a Pueblo Mágico). Also like Tonalá, it deserves an entire day to visit, to leisurely walk the streets and soak in the culture. I did Tlaquepaque and Tonalá in one day, and it was honestly just too much. I was too tired to fully enjoy Tlaquepaque after spending the morning in Tonalá. That’s why I think, if you have got the time, Tlaquepaque is a fantastic (full) day trip from Guadalajara. I suggest going in the morning as the day will get quite hot and you’ll really feel it as you walk the streets here.
There is actually quite a lot to do in Tlaquepaque, even though it is not that large. Here are a few things you can see in Tlaquepaque:
- Parroquia de San Pedro (a church)
- Casa del Artesano (market)
- Andador Independencia (the main walking street where there are a ton of overpriced restaurants and cafes).
- Jardin Hidalgo (the main plaza)
- El Parián (a round building full of expensive restaurants. There is an umbrella roof in the center plaza).
- Centro Cultural El Refugio (Cultural Center)
- Museo Regional de la Cerámica (Ceramic museum)
Getting to Tlaquepaque from Guadalajara
You can take the pink train line (L3) from Guadalajara centro to “Tlaquepaque Centro.” From there, you’ll need to walk about 10 minutes to the center of Tlaquepaque. The cost is $9.50 pesos. The machines don’t give change, so make sure you have the exact amount.
Take a tour from Guadalajara to Tlaquepaque
If you’re looking for a great day trip from Guadalajara, but don’t want to do it alone, consider taking a tour. This tour from GetYourGuide is offered in both English and Spanish and is a walking tour of both Guadalajara Centro and Tlaquepaque. This tour also includes hotel pick-up and drop-off.
Day Trip from Guadalajara: Ajijic
What is Ajijic like?
Ajijic is a small town on the shores of Laka Chapala, the largest freshwater lake in Mexico. There is a large retiree community, made up of mainly Europeans, Canadians, and US Americans. They have an active community with Facebook groups, forums, and meeting space (Lake Chapala Society). That said, it did not feel to me that the foreign community overwhelmed the local community. Sure, it’s obvious that they’re around, but I felt that there was a good balance, and didn’t subtract from the local culture. Ajijic is one of the best day trips from Guadalajara, but I highly suggest spending several days here. Read this blog post to see the 17 best things to do in Ajijic.
Getting to Ajijic from Guadalajara
Getting to Ajijic is easy. From Guadalajara’s Central Vieja station, you can take a red/white Chapala bus. There are buses that go directly between Guadalajara and Ajijic, skipping both Chapala and Jocotopec. To leave Ajijic and return to Guadalajara, there are also direct buses.
If you are heading to Ajijic from a southern suburb of Guadalajara, then you may need to pass through Jocotopec on the way. I was staying with friends in San Agustin, so I first took a bus to Jocotopec, and there I changed to a Chapala bus which dropped me off an hour later in Ajijic. There are many stops so it takes longer than it should. Traveling as early as possible will save you a traffic headache. The photo on the left is the schedule for leaving Ajijic and going to Guadalajara.
It’s easy to move between all the small towns along the water. You can catch almost any bus between Jocotopec and Chapala, as long as it’s not labeled “Guadalajara Directo.” The cost is usually 9-10 pesos for each leg (Ajijic – Chapala; Ajijic – Jocotopec). There is also a long bike/walking route if you are looking for exercise.
Take a tour from Guadalajara to Ajijic
I do suggest staying a few days in Ajijic to really enjoy the calm. But if you are short on time and still want to see Ajijic, consider taking a tour for one of the day trips from Guadalajara. This tour via GetYourGuide is an 8-hour journey that will take you to both Ajijic and Chapala. The guide is bilingual. You can also consider this tour from Viator which lasts 8-9 hours (between Chapala and Ajijic) and includes transportation, tastings, and alcoholic beverages.
Day Trip from Guadalajara: Chapala
What is Chapala like?
While Chapala is not far from Ajijic, it does not have the same vibe. It definitely feels bigger than Ajijic, with more traffic and more chaos. More main roads, and less cobblestone. The majority of points of interest are concentrated along the malecón. There you can find several restaurants, markets, a skatepark, boat rentals, ice cream, etc. It was great to spend one day in Chapala, but I much preferred the calm of Ajijic. The San Juan de Dios market in Guadalajara had the same goods as the market here but for more affordable prices. If you’re trying to choose between Chapala and Ajijic for the best day trips from Guadalajara, I suggest Ajijic. Chapala is nice, but only if you have the time for it.
Getting to Chapala from Guadalajara
You can find buses between Guadalajara’s Central Vieja station and Chapala’s bus station hourly.
Take a tour from Guadalajara to Chapala
The majority of the Chapala tours include Ajijic as well since they are so close, and both are great day trips from Guadalajara. This tour via GetYourGuide is an 8-hour journey that will take you to both Ajijic and Chapala. The guide is bilingual. You can also consider this tour from Viator which lasts 8-9 hours (between Chapala and Ajijic) and includes transportation, tastings, and alcoholic beverages.
Day Trip from Guadalajara: Tequila
What is Tequila like?
In one word, Tequila is: fun! Alive! Amazing! This little pueblo mágico has good vibes and positive energy. There are definitely defined moments of each day- the morning is quiet and calm. Afternoons get busy and chaotic with day visitors and tours. Nights are loud; it’s party time. I was worried about coming here as I’m not much of a tequila drinker but I had so much fun. From taking photos around town early in the morning to getting refills of my cantarito (porcelain mug), to making new friends on my tequila tour. I had the best time here! Of all the day trips from Guadalajara, going to Tequila was my absolute favorite. Read this blog for more detail on experiencing the town of Tequila.
Getting to Tequila from Guadalajara
Head to the Central Vieja in Guadalajara. The bus company called Primera Plus has frequent trips between Guadalajara and Tequila. I suggest going directly to the station to purchase tickets. Their website is pretty bad. Also, don’t buy a ticket from a 3rd party website as they are not accurate.
The total trip takes about 2.5 hours, and costs 130 pesos.
Take a tour from Guadalajara to Tequila
I spent two days in Tequila and found a tour directly from the city center. However, there are a ton more options if you want to visit Tequila on just a day trip from Guadalajara, and at various price points to suit all traveler’s needs. You can go horseback riding on the tequila tour, visit distilleries, make your own cantarito, etc. Of course, one of the most popular tours is the Jose Cuervo tour. This tour includes hotel pickup/drop-off, a bilingual guide, Jose Cuervo visit and tastings, free time in the town of Tequila, and a visit to the agave fields.
Day Trip from Guadalajara: Guachimontones
What is Guachimontones like?
If you’re looking for cultural day trips from Guadalajara, Guachimontones might be just what you’re looking for. Guachimontones is an archaeological site known for its circular pyramids that were constructed by the pre-Columbian Teuchitlan culture. The site dates back to around 300 BC to 900 AD, and its unique architectural style is believed to have been used for religious ceremonies and astronomical observations. The site was rediscovered in the 1970s and has since been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you go during the summer months, it is very hot and brown (when I went). If you go during the rainy season, everything is green and beautiful. The cost to enter is 30 pesos per person.
Getting to Guachimontones from Guadalajara
Guachiontones is just outside the town of Teuchitlán. You can take a bus from Central Vieja bus station in Guadalajara to the town of Teuchitlán. You can take either the ATE bus company (75 pesos) or River (50 pesos). Buses run every 30 minutes with River and every 20 minutes with ATE from 5 am – 8:30 pm. Return buses also run every 20-30 minutes, from 7:30 am – 8 pm. It takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes to take the bus from Guadalajara to Teuchitlán.
Once you reach Teuchitlán, you only have two options to reach Guachimontones: walk or taxi. You can find it easily with Google Maps. Walking takes about 40 minutes, and taking a taxi will take about 8 minutes. But be aware that Teuchitlán is a small town, so finding a taxi might be more tricky. You may end up walking both ways. Guachimontones is not super touristy.
To get back to Guadalajara, look for the ATE station. It is just a small one-room building in town.
I went with friends from the area, and we drove. It seemed that everyone else there had also driven.
Take a tour from Guadalajara to Guachimontones
Because reaching the pyramids of Guachimontones via public transport is a little more challenging, you might consider taking a day trip instead. There are full-day tours, half-day tours, and even tours that combine a pyramid visit with the town of Tequila.
Day Trips from Guadalajara: Final Thoughts
I spent just over 48 hours in the city of Guadalajara. While I found the city itself to be nice, I actually enjoyed the day trips from Guadalajara much more. I made friends and laughed all day in Tequila, found peace and calm in Ajijic and Chapala, and found culture in Guachimontones. So if you’re planning to visit Mexico’s second-largest city, I strongly suggest making time for a few, if not all, of these day trips from Guadalajara.
INSURANCE: Make sure you cover yourself with travel medical insurance by SafetyWing.
FLIGHTS: Get the best flight deals with Skyscanner and set flight alerts with Hopper (use code nicholep4jh to get $20 in hotel vouchers).
TRAVEL: Get cash back on flights, hotels, and more with WayAway Plus.
STAYS: Check out hotels and apartments with Booking.com and Vrbo.
RENTAL CARS: Get the best deal on rental cars with Discover Cars.
eSIM: Get an international eSim with Airalo.
CITY GUIDES: Save time and purchase pre-made city guides with Thatch.
CITY TOURS: Book your tour with GetYourGuide and Viator
LUGGAGE: Get the best carry-on suitcase here.
CREDIT CARD: Start earning travel points with the best travel credit card.
BUENOS AIRES GUIDE: Purchase my Buenos Aires travel companion here.
CONSULTATION: Book a 1:1 travel consultation with Nicki here.