- Sierra Madre meets sparkling sea
- Coast life
- Shopping, surfing and sunbathing
Skewered by the stunning Sierra Madre and edged by the warm waters of the Pacific, Jalisco is often said to be the most Mexican of Mexican states, and, since it gave the world tequila, mariachi, and rodeos, it’s not hard to see why.
From snow-capped volcanoes of the highlands, down to the central plains and steamy coastal jungles, the state of Jalisco boasts a rich diversity of landscape and culture. Its indigenous peoples (the Huicholes, Coras and Tepehuanes) still maintain their languages and traditions, while urban hubs such as Guadalajara – Mexico’s second largest city and the state’s capital – offer their own attractions: grand gastronomy, upmarket boutiques and a lively night-time scene. Along the Costa Alegre (or ‘happy coast’) you reach the inexplicably popular Puerto Vallarta, but venture a few steps from the beaten path and there’s dozens of sleepy fishing villages and unspoilt beaches to be enjoyed, while taking in the staggering biodiversity of the Pacific coast – whales, dolphins, turtles, seals and rare seabirds.
- Thundering hooves, death-defying stunts and questionable respect for animal rights – it can only be the charreada, the rodeo style developed by the charrerría cowboys in the days of the haciendas. Jalisco was the birthplace of these bravura displays of horsemanship, where rope-wielding riders in traditional costume lasso bulls, ride wild mares and leap from one galloping horse to another. Heart-stopping stuff.
- In Guadalajara and Jalisco’s major towns, cabs are easily hailed in the street and you’ll find ranks at the region’s airports and bus stations. If you want to book ahead, try Taxi Aguirre in Guadalajara. (+ 52 33 3644 4818).
- Tipping culture
- Bar and restaurant staff will expect 10–15 per cent.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Jalisqueños lunch between noon and 3pm, and dine from 7pm until 10.30pm, heading to bars and clubs from around 9pm. Jalisco’s shops open at around 10–11am, and can stay open as late as 10pm. Banks keep more sedate hours, until around 4pm.
- Packing tips
- Bring your surfboard if you want to catch some breaks along the coast, there are several recommended top spots for wave-riders. Leave room on your credit card and in your suitcase for shopping at the gorgeous boutiques in Guadalajara’s pretty suburb of Tlaquepaque.
- Recommended reads
- Tequila! A Natural and Cultural History by Ana Guadalupe Valenzuela Zapata and Gary Paul Nabhan is a scintillating labour of love that does exactly what it says on the cover. Malcolm Lowry’s masterpiece, Under the Volcano , by contrast, sombrely charts the effects of too much tequila.
- The presence of the Pacific yields a wealth of seafood specialities, including marlin and dorado, and Lake Chapala supplies the region with plentiful freshwater fish. Inland you’ll find more meat on the menu as cattle ranching is also big here. Jalisco’s characteristic culinary creations include pozole, (a pork and hominy soup), birria (a spicy meat and chilli stew), and torta ahogadas, or ‘drowned sandwiches’ (rolls filled with meat and beans then slathered in a spicy tomato sauce).
- Mexican Pesos (MXN).
- Time zone
- GMT -6 hours.
- Dialling codes
- +52 for Mexico; 33 for Guadalajara and 322 in and around Puerto Vallarta. Add a 01 prefix if calling from a mobile.
- Do go/don't go
- Between November and June, the weather is at its sunniest and the festival season is in full swing. From February to April the climate is warm and sunny, without being too humid. It’s always a good idea to bring warm clothes to Mexico as, depending on altitude and geography, the nights can often be colder than you might expect.
Don't go home without...
...drinking too much tequila while being serenaded by a wandering eight-piece mariachi band – both are native to Jalisco.