Best Things To Do In Tequila Jalisco – Mexico
During our stay in Guadalajara, we noticed the small town of Tequila, Jalisco nearby on the map. After a quick Google, it confirmed our suspicions that we might have to stop here for a couple of days on our way to the west coast. Tequila tasting, tequila tasting, and also some more tequila tasting? Sign us up!
When I tried to picture what the world’s tequila headquarters would look like, I imagined a boring, sprawling industrial looking town with an unappealing brewery smell. I used to live close to a large beer brewery in my hometown of Auckland, so I thought the whole of Tequila might have a faintly-spew inducing, potato-y brew smell. It did not.
The town of Tequila is tiny, cute, colorful, and fun. You only need to spend one or two days there, and it’s easy to pack everything you want to do into this time.
Depending how bad your hangover is on the first night, of course.
On your way into Tequila, you’ll pass thousands of acres of blue agave plantations. These are the magical plants from which this world famous elixir is made.
Each agave plant takes 10 years to mature, so large tequila distilleries like Jose Cuervo and Sauza need to plant around 3,000 acres of agave every season to keep up with their production. This tiny town sends around 22.5 million cases of tequila to the USA every year,
Looking for more things to do in Mexico? Check out all of our posts on Mexico, or start with the most popular posts here:
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Where Is Tequila, Jalisco In Mexico?
Santiago de Tequila (literally a “place of tribute“) is a small town located in the state of Jalisco, northwest of Mexico City. The closest large city is Guadalajara, which is 60km away.
It’s best known (obviously) for being the birthplace of the tequila drink, which is made from blue agave plants that are native to the Jalisco area. These plants have been fermented and used for centuries to help get people delightfully intoxicated.
When the Spanish arrived and started conquering all the cool things around Mexico, the tequila beverage was firmly on their list. They saw the good thing the locals had going with their basic, fermented tequila – and began to distill it and refine it to produce what we know as tequila today.
Things Nobody Tells You About Tequila
- The 9pm priestly blessing – Every night at 9pm, the local priest will ring a bell three times and bless the town. At this time, you’re supposed to stop turn off your TV and radio, stop whatever you’re doing, and stand up for the blessing. Understandably, you may not be able to stand up at all by 9pm, but try to respect this brief period of silence for the locals.
- The annual Tequila festival – The National Festival of Tequila is held every year here. It runs from the end of November to mid-December. All of the main distilleries in the Jalisco promote their finest tequilas, and the Tequila Queen is crowned. There is also a parade through town with floats, fireworks, traditional cockfights, and other entertainment.
- Pueblo Magico – Tequila is one of the official Pueblo Magicos (magic towns) of Mexico.
- UNESCO World Heritage site – In 2003, UNESCO declared the “Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila” to be a World Heritage site. This put the tiny town of Tequila firmly on the map as a tourist destination.
- Coat of arms – Tequila’s official coat of arms was introduced in 1983. It features the tequila distillery chimneys, agave plants, the church tower, and Tequila Mountain. The Latin phrase “alma laeta nobilis” also graces the coat of arms, which simply means “cheerful and noble soul”. An accurate representation of every local we spoke to in town!
Things To Do In Tequila Jalisco
You can’t visit Tequila and NOT sample some of the widely available tequilas on offer. Whether you go to a restaurant, a distillery, a bar, or one of the town’s street stalls, tequila is eeeeverywhere here. And it would be rude not to?
While you can still visit Tequila and have a great time as a non-drinker, it’s safe to say most of the people that visit go for the tasting experiences.
Tequila comes in two main types – “Mixto” and “100% blue agave”.
If you’ve ever woken up with a tequila hangover so bad that you’re not entirely sure you’re still alive – you probably had a little too much mixto.
Mexican locals tend to avoid mixto like the plague, because it’s bottom-shelf tequila for losers. Only 51% of the alcohol in mixtos come from the blue agave plant, with the remaining 49% cobbled together from random distilled sugars, and finished off with a dash of food coloring.
Sorry to say, but your fancy frozen margaritas are probably mixto, along with basic staples like Cuervo Gold, Sauza Silver, and Sierra Silver (the one with the cute little sombrero hat for a lid).
Most distillers have a mixto in their range as they’re cheap and easy to sell in bulk to restaurants and bars, both in Mexico and overseas.
100% Blue Agave
Always look for the label “100 percent blue agave” when you’re tequila shopping. This means it’s the real deal, with no nasty additives.
Other tequila terms to know before you go:
- Blanco – this is young, unaged tequila which is bottled straight after distillation. I can’t drink this straight as it’s too harsh, but it’s fine in cocktails.
- Reposado – this is the most popular type of tequila, so you’ll be able to taste a lot of varieties when you’re in Tequila. It’s aged for a few months to a year, which gives it a softer, more oaky quality.
- Añejo – this is the top-shelf, aged style of tequila, and you should treat it like you would any fine whiskey. This is the most expensive tequila you can buy – but it’s worth it!
VISIT A TEQUILA DISTILLERY
Tequila is home to many distilleries, and two of the biggest ones (Jose Cuervo and Sauza) are located right in the center of town, so you don’t need to take a day trip to visit them.
If you do take a tour, you’ll see jimadors (who harvest the agave plants) hard at work, and learn how tequila is made – all the way from picking the piñas, to roasting, and distillation.
Jose Cuervo began making tequila in the town in the 1700s, with Sauza opening up shop shortly after. They’re the two largest tequila producers in Mexico, but they happily (hopefully) co-exist side by side in this tiny town.
Close by is the Orendain tequila distillery, which is still a family owned and run business, with each of the family members in control of specific stages of the harvesting and distillation process.
RIDE THE JOSE CUERVO EXPRESS
This full-day luxury train experience runs between Guadalajara and Tequila. On board, you’ll learn all about the history and processing of Mexico’s most well known alcohol.
It includes tastings, a tour of the Cuervo distillery, snacks, drinks, and a cultural performance.
VISIT LA CAPILLA FOR BATANGAS
La Capilla (meaning “the chapel”) is a shabby-chic, traditional Mexican cantina. It’s the oldest bar in town – and, somewhat surprisingly, was on the World’s 50 Best Bars list from 2011-2014.
You’ll be coming here for the cantina’s signature drink – the batanga. This drink was created sometime in the 1950s by the bar’s later founder, Don Javier Delgado Corona.
Much like its humble surroundings, this cocktail is divinely simple, and similar to a cuba libre. So if you love your cuba libres, it’s a must. Batangas are made with cola, fresh lime, and tequila, and finished with a salted rim.
La Capilla uses their house brand tequila El Tequileño for the batangas. This is a high quality mixto tequila, made from 71% percent blue agave and 29% piloncillo (a natural sugar). It also goes down pretty smoothly for straight shots!
EAT AT LA ANTIGUA CASONA
This is the top-rated restaurant in Tequila. If you love Mexican food, La Antigua Casona puts a refined, beautiful twist on many classic dishes, and the chef expertly uses the local tequila to great effect, flavoring sauces, desserts, and cocktails.
The produce is all fresh and locally sourced, and plated beautifully. When we went, it was dinner rush hour and super busy – but it was surprisingly quiet inside despite this. I totally recommend the tuna tostadas – perfect in every way!
DO SOME PEOPLE WATCHING AT LOS PORTALES
Next to the main square in tequila is a combination of tourist shops, craft marketplaces, bars, and restaurants. The terraza of Los Portales has been providing locals with shade and sustenance for centuries – it was my favorite place to sit at midday, have a cold drink, and watch the town of Tequila go about its day.
Pro tip: This is a great place to put your bags down and have a snack if you’ve arrived before check-in time at your hotel – it’s fenced off from the square, so you don’t have to be paranoid about keeping an eye on everything.
TAKE A GUIDED DAY TRIP FROM GUADALAJARA
If you’re only looking to take a day trip to Tequila from Guadalajara, there are plenty of options, here are a few top rated tours to get you started:
Where To Stay in Tequila
Tequila has a variety of hotels and apartments to stay in that are all as adorable as the town itself.
- We stayed at a cute little Airbnb right by the Tequila central plaza. It was literally just a bedroom and bathroom, with a balcony that looked across the square to the church. It was the absolute perfect location – and you’re only going to need it to sleep (or have a break from tequila sampling and eating).
These are some other great options for accommodation in Tequila:
I recommend using Booking.com, Airbnb, or VRBO to book accommodation in Tequila. Remember to always read the reviews and check the photos of your accommodation before you finalize your bookings on any of these platforms.
How to get to Tequila, Jalisco from Guadalajara
We caught the bus to Tequila from Guadalajara – which was both cheap and easy.
We were staying in central Guadalajara, so had to catch an Uber to the bus station – this will cost you around $120 pesos.
A bus ticket to Tequila is $240 pesos per person. You’ll be catching a Tequila Plus bus from the Zapopan bus terminal in Guadalajara (a block away from the larger bus terminal).
Allow 1 to 1.5 hours in travel time each way, depending on how crazy your bus driver is. It took us 1.5 hours to get from Guadalajara to Tequila – but only 1 hour to get back (the bus driver on the way back was cranking late 90s psy-trance beats all the way, which could have had something to do with the radical time difference).
Planning to visit Mexico? Check out our other posts for things to do and places to eat in Mexico!
- Things to do in Sayulita, Nayarit
- Things to do in Queretaro
- Best things to do in Mexico City
- Awesome places to eat in Mexico City
- Where to eat in Oaxaca City
Have you been to Tequila or are planning to go? Leave us a comment or a question below. And if you’ve been to Tequila but can’t really remember anything except the hangover, I will totally understand!
Rachael is a full-time digital nomad and freelance copywriter for B2B and SaaS companies. She’s worked with brands like Unbounce, Biteable, Datacom, Viddyoze, and Owler.