Discover western Mexico's beauty, history, and culture on this nine-day adventure. It begins in Guadalajara, where you'll not only tour its historic Spanish-colonial landmarks but also indulge in tequila tours and chocolate tastings. Then head to the coast and Puerto Vallarta, where you'll have ample time to relax on its beaches, dine in world-class restaurants, and enjoy its famous nightlife.

Highlights

  • See Spanish-colonial landmarks on a walking tour of Guadalajara
  • Take tequila and chocolate tours throughout Jalisco state
  • Visit charming villages around Mexico's largest lake, Lago de Chapala
  • Enjoy the beaches, seafood, and nightlife of Puerto Vallarta

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guadalajara, Optional Activities Guadalajara
Day 2 Walking Tour of Historic Guadalajara & Cacao Tasting Guadalajara
Day 3 Tequila Tour Guadalajara
Day 4 Day Trip to Lake Chapala Guadalajara
Day 5 Day Trip to Teuchitlán-Guachimontones Guadalajara
Day 6 Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta, Optional Activities Puerto Vallarta
Days 7-8 Free Days in Puerto Vallarta Puerto Vallarta
Day 9 Depart Puerto Vallarta  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Guadalajara, Optional Activities

Welcome to Guadalajara

Welcome to Guadalajara, the capital of Mexico's Jalisco state! Upon arrival at the airport, your driver will transfer you to your hotel. After checking in, you'll have the rest of the day to explore. Known as the "Pearl of the West," Guadalajara is the birthplace of tequila and mariachi music—two of Mexico's most famous cultural offerings. There's also quite a bit of history here, as the city was founded in 1542.

You can head to Guadalajara's colonial downtown to admire its historical landmarks. Perhaps go to the Mercado San Juan de Dios and mingle with the locals. Covering three floors home to over 3,000 vendor stands and stores, it's one of the largest municipal markets in Mexico. Or head to the city's south and stroll the cobbled streets of Tlaquepaque, a historic district founded in 1530. Known for its art galleries and artisanal goods, it's a great place to browse for handmade pottery and textiles. In its restaurant zone of El Parián, there's a bandstand where you can see live mariachi music. 

Day 2: Walking Tour of Historic Guadalajara & Cacao Tasting

Guadalajara's iconic Cathedral

In the morning, you'll venture into the historic center of Guadalajara for a five-hour tour. This is the second-largest city in Mexico, so it's not lacking in attractions. Here, modernity and tradition blend harmoniously, and you'll witness its rich cultural, historical, and architectural legacy as your guide leads you around its most iconic landmarks. 

On the tour, you'll visit plazas Liberación, Fundadores, and Armas. Each is surrounded by historic buildings like the Teatro Degollado (built in 1856) and the Regional Museum. The latter is housed in an old seminary and tells the history of Western Mexico from pre-Hispanic times to today. The most iconic landmark is the Guadalajara Cathedral, which dates to the 16th century and is a mishmash of Spanish renaissance, neoclassical, and Gothic architectural styles. You'll also visit the Palacio Municipal (City Hall), whose interior is adorned with murals by famous Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco.

After the walking tour, you'll enjoy a more delicious experience in the form of a 1.5-hour cacao tasting. The legacy of cacao runs deep, as it was the ancient Mayas and Olmecs who first learned to cultivate this delectable bean. Cacao was so vital in pre-Hispanic Mexico that it was reserved for special occasions such as festivities and funerary rituals. You'll learn about this history and taste four distinct cacao beans, each with a different texture, flavor, and aroma. You'll also sample various chocolate products made from cacao beans, which you'll pair with various beverages.

Day 3: Tequila Tour

Discover the origins of tequila 

After breakfast, your driver will pick you up for a road-trip adventure to discover the origins of Mexico's most famous spirit: tequila. You'll drive 1.5 hours from the city through rural agave fields to the town of Tequila. Here you'll visit two distilleries, including the Fábrica La Rojeña, the Jose Cuervo distillery that's been here since 1812. Tour nearby agave fields and learn about the plant's cultivation and fermentation of its piña (heart), which results in the finished bottle. You'll sample a wide variety of tequilas on this tour (all for educational purposes, of course).

Afterward, you'll have free time to enjoy lunch in town. Be sure to sample Jaliscó's renowned soups and stews, like pozole and birria (goat stew). Then you can take a stroll through this historic town, founded by monks in 1530 and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When ready, you and your driver can head back to Guadalajara.

Day 4: Day Trip to Lake Chapala

Visit Chapala, on the namesake lake 

In the morning, your guide will pick you up for the hour drive south to Lago de Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico. You'll spend this day visiting two of the area's most scenic lakeside towns: Chapala and Ajijic. First, you'll walk the historic streets of Chapala and visit architectural gems like the Nido Hotel, which dates to 1905 and is now the City Hall. Head up the colorful Quetzalcoatl stairs, where you'll find the best lookout points to snap photos. Then stroll down the waterfront malecón (boardwalk), which will take you to the pier and the lighthouse.

From Chapala, it's a short drive west to the town of Ajijic. This is one of the oldest villages in Mexico, as it was inhabited by nomadic indigenous tribes even before the Spanish officially founded it in 1531. On a walk down its historic cobbled streets, you'll see Spanish-colonial buildings like the Parroquia de San Andres Apostol, whose origins date to 1532. Another hallmark is the colorful murals decorating Ajijic's adobe houses, stores, and art galleries (done by local painters). Don't miss a walk on the boardwalk, which offers magnificent views of the lake and the Sierra San Juan Cosalá Mountains.

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At the end of your time in Ajijic, you'll return to your hotel in Guadalajara. 

Day 5: Day Trip to Teuchitlán-Guachimontones

Explore the village of Teuchitlán-Guachimontones
The ceremonial structures at Los Guachimontones

Today you'll venture into the Tequila Valleys of Jalisco for a full-day tour. It's an excellent opportunity to discover West Mexico's indigenous Teuchitlán culture. This was one of the earliest complex societies in all of Mesoamerica, and it is exemplified in the town of Teuchitlán. This area is famous for being home to Los Guachimontones, the largest pre-Columbian archeological site in Jalisco. Its ceremonial buildings are distinct from other pre-Hispanic ruins in Mexico due to their circular (rather than pyramidal) shape. The site is estimated to be around 2,500 years old, and you'll explore it on a guided tour.

It is believed that Los Guachimontones was a ceremonial site built in honor of the wind god Ehecatl. You can learn more about this when, after touring the site, you'll stop in at the Interpretive Museum. It offers information regarding the site's history, plus exhibits and artifacts found in shaft tombs in the area. After finishing at the museum, you'll return to Guadalajara. 

Day 6: Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta, Optional Activities

Free afternoon in Puerto Vallarta
Sunset in Puerto Vallarta

After breakfast, you'll hop in a rental car for the five-hour scenic drive west from Guadalajara to the Pacific Coast and the resort city of Puerto Vallarta. If you choose, you can break up the drive with stops in charming colonial towns. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and will the rest of the day free.

Located on the Bahía de Banderas (Mexico's largest bay), Puerto Vallarta is a popular cruise port city that's as famous for its beautiful golden beaches as it is for its raucous nightlife. Though it's not as old as other historic cities in Mexico (founded in 1851), its historic center has been declared an area of cultural significance. Feel free to spend all day on one of the city's many beaches and later go to dinner at one of its world-class restaurants. Puerto Vallarta is known for its fresh seafood, and a must-try dish is the pescado zarandeado—grilled fish marinated in chiles, soy sauce, lime, and herbs.  

Days 7-8: Free Days in Puerto Vallarta

Enjoy Puerto Vallarta's beaches

Today is yours to enjoy Puerto Vallarta however you like. There are dozens of great beaches in and around this coastal resort city, including Playa Olas Altas and Playa de Los Muertos. If you're willing to travel, head 20 minutes south of downtown to the paradise at Las Gamelas Beach, or take a boat tour to Yelapa, a hidden cove and fishing village with golden sands perfect for sunbathing.

In town, you can stroll the cobbled streets of the Zona Romántica (Romantic Quarter), filled with bars, restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries. Head to the central plaza to see the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose Renaissance Revival tower is an icon of the city. Just down the road, at the waterfront, is the Museo Naval (Naval Museum) which features miniature models of pre-Columbian ships. 

Day 9: Depart Puerto Vallarta

Adios, Mexico
Wake up early and enjoy one last stroll on the beach in Puerto Vallarta. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up for the ride to the airport, where you'll catch your flight home. ¡Hasta Pronto!

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Map

Map of Guadalajara & Puerto Vallarta: Tequila, Cacao, Ruins & Beaches - 9 Days
Map of Guadalajara & Puerto Vallarta: Tequila, Cacao, Ruins & Beaches - 9 Days