If you’re looking for a vibrant and culturally rich destination, Guadalajara, Mexico should be at the top of your list.
Located in the heart of the country, Guadalajara is the second-largest city in Mexico and offers visitors a unique blend of history, art, and modern attractions.
As the birthplace of both mariachi and tequila, the city is overflowing with rich history and cultural significance.
Here are some reasons why you should plan a visit to this underrated city:
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Guadalajara is often considered the cultural center of Mexico due to its rich history and artistic heritage.
The city is home to several world-class museums, including the Regional Museum of Anthropology and History and the Instituto Cultural Cabañas.
Visitors can immerse themselves in Mexican art, music, and dance at the many festivals and events held throughout the year, such as the Guadalajara International Film Festival.
Being the home of tequila and mariachi, there are, of course, festivals dedicated to those as well. The Tequila Festival and the International Mariachi and Charrería Festival take place in March and September, respectively.
While tequila and mariachi need no introduction, charrería, Mexico’s national sport, is most commonly compared to a rodeo and something not to miss on a trip to Guadalajara.
Mexican cuisine is known for its bold flavors, and each state has its own unique dishes.
Guadalajara is famous for its birria — a spicy meat stew (usually goat) that is typically served with tortillas and lime wedges.
Another local specialty is the torta ahogada, or “drowned sandwich.” This is exactly what it sounds like – a fried pork sandwich smothered in a spicy tomato sauce and served with avocado, onions, and radish.
Some other dishes to look out for are pozole and chilaquiles. Visitors can sample these dishes and more at the city’s many street vendors, markets, and restaurants.
Guadalajara is home to some of Mexico’s most stunning architecture, with buildings that date back to the 16th century.
The historic center of Guadalajara, or Centro Historico, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features beautiful colonial-era buildings, such as the Government Palace and the Guadalajara Cathedral.
The cathedral is almost as old as the city itself and includes Gothic, baroque, and neoclassical influences.
Visitors can also explore the neighborhood of Tlaquepaque, known for its colorful buildings and traditional crafts, or venture an hour outside of the city to view the ancient Guachimontones Pyramids.
Guadalajara has a vibrant nightlife scene with a variety of bars, nightclubs, and live music venues.
Visit the Tlaquepaque neighborhood for mariachi or head to the popular Chapultepec neighborhood for more trendy hotspots.
The city is also home to the most LGBTQ bars and nightclubs in Mexico and is known for hosting Latin America’s largest gay pride parade.
If nightclubs aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other attractions, as Guadalajara has a thriving shopping and sports scene.
For shopping, you’ll find everything from local artisan markets to large urban malls.
Sports lovers should check out a charreada (rodeo) or head to the Arena Coliseo for an incredibly entertaining lucha libre performance (wrestling).
5. Day Trips
Guadalajara’s location makes it an ideal base for exploring nearby attractions.
One of the most popular day trips from Guadalajara is to the town of Tequila to visit the sprawling agave fields and learn about tequila production.
These blue agave fields, which are yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, are the source of all the tequila in the world.
Travelers can visit the National Museum of Tequila, tour distilleries, and visit the original tequila factory, the Hacienda Herradura San Jose Refugio.
There is even a train, aptly named the Jose Cuervo Express, to take you from Guadalajara to Tequila.
Another nearby option for either a day trip or a relaxing weekend is Lake Chapala.
An hour’s drive takes visitors to this freshwater lake where they can bird-watch, enjoy the calm surroundings, or hire a boat to go island-hopping.
The area is so tranquil that it has brought in quite a few retirees and expats over the years and is currently home to many Americans and Canadians.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com