Oh, tequila. You’re easily Mexico’s greatest export and arguably the spirit that gives me the most raging hangovers known to man, yet I still love you. There’s nothing that makes me feel smugger than explaining to someone that tequila is just as great with a mixer as it is in shot form, knocked back at 3am when you’ve lost all hope and want to get into bed with some cheesy chips.
However, while most people are aware of the drink, fewer know that Tequila-with-a-capital-T is also a small Mexican village in the state of Jalisco, which makes for the perfect day trip from Guadalajara. Here’s the story of my (second) time in this pretty pueblo mágico, plus everything you need to know to plan your day trip to Tequila, Jalisco – I’m talking prices, all the must-see sights, a brief but handy buying guide, plus everything you need to know about getting there in the first place. Happy day drinking, everyone!
If you couldn’t care less about my Tequila ramblings, skip ahead to the good stuff.
DAY DRUNK DAY TRIP TO TEQUILA, JALISCO
Just last weekend, I took a busy, tiring and super fun long weekend trip to Puerto Vallarta for a wedding (you can read more about that debacle soon) but of course, no trip to Vallarta would be complete without taking time to stop in my beloved Guadalajara on the way there and hop north to the pueblo mágico Tequila. (Plus, flights to Guadalajara are always way cheaper than to Vallarta, but that’s not the point.)
Now, even though me and my boyfriend, the well-travelled pair we are, had already been to Tequila once before, we knew we had to squeeze a day drinking, day trip to Tequila into our whistle-stop tour of Jalisco, because we were travelling with some friends who’d never been there. And you cannot visit Jalisco without a trip to Tequila. You just can’t.
Anyway, we’d chosen the Friday to visit Tequila and so after a 6am wake-up call on the Thursday to meet some deadlines, combined with a delayed flight in the evening, some possibly (definitely) ill-advised beers at Chacal in Guadalajara and a night sleeping on an airbed in my former living room wrapped in just a towel (not even a nice fluffy one, might I add, but one of those sad, flaccid microfibre towels), it was time to head to Tequila. Because nothing screams good idea like a day full of day drinking after a relaxing day like that, obviously.
After a brief and distinctly unrefreshing nap on the bus, we all shuffled off down the main street to get to the real attraction, the main plaza and church. It wasn’t long before we were grabbed by a savvy tour operator though, who wanted to sell us a trip on his guitar-shaped (yes, really) tour bus. We said yes, obviously, because who doesn’t love a bit of novelty factor. I mean, that or the fact we were exhausted, hungover and it was already 3pm by this point. Who can say.
During this negotiation (lol, there was none, we just took the first offer – don’t be like us), a nearby store had handed a comically tiny sherry glass of unidentified liqueur to one of our friends who happily passed it round so we could try. I don’t know where I’m going with this, but I guess the moral of that story is don’t take drinks given to you by random people on the street… unless you’re in Tequila. It was all very fast and disorientating to say the least and before we knew it we were all adorned with a tiny gold sticker and found ourselves trotting along after the tour operator to get our first (official) free drinks of the afternoon.
Let’s just say when the guitar bus eventually rocked up, we were not disappointed. Literally, this thing was swanky as fuuuck and almost certainly bigger than my bedroom. I honestly questioned how it could possibly manoeuvre its way around the winding cobbled streets of Tequila, but that it did. Manoeuvred us right to the Orendain tequila factory, where we were treated to the tour of a lifetime by the most adorable guide. His name escapes me, but his tour patter was informative and held even my slightly hungover, incredibly tired attention.
While this tour (and visit as a whole) felt far briefer than the last one me and my boyfriend had done together in Tequila (we had opted not to get a village tour, but rather just a factory one), it was super well put together and I could definitely recommend. It’s worth saying at this point that I paid for this tour with my own hard-earned (lol) money and so I’m not been coerced into this – I would go back to the Orendain factory again!
After we’d taken the tour, been treated to severaaal free tequila shots and a free margarita in the really very pretty gardens near the back of the factory, we went to look around the village, explore the José Cuervo complex (José Cuervo 33, Centro) and grab some snacks. I had a (and I honestly never thought I’d say this) disappointing elote (corn on the cob) – turns out elotes that are asado (roasted) taste very different to those that are cocido (boiled) – before we walked back to the bus station for another, and treated ourselves to a not-that-refreshing nap on the way home.
If day drinking, day tripping seems fun but you wanna get to the nitty gritty of the town, with some historically intriguing fun facts then you shouldn’t skip the next few paragraphs.
Easily up there in one of my top five pueblos mágicos, Tequila is just an hour and a half away from Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco, Western Mexico, and is easily best known for, well, some of the best tequila in Mexico. Duh. According to Wikipedia, the first agave plant distillery was established in the town way back in 1600, although nowadays it’s probably best known for the Sauza, Orendain and José Cuervo distilleries.
Although, if you thought that the town was named for the drink then you are wrooong! As I learned on the really great Orendain tour, Tequila (the town) is actually named for the sharp rocks that are found there and means ‘lugar donde se corta’ in Nahuatl (place that cuts, literally). The drink, on the other hand, was actually named after the town and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be thinking what a fun fact that is to whip out at parties.
And so ends your brief history of Tequila. Go forth into the world with your newfound knowledge.
Take a tequila tour
As mentioned, this was my second day trip to Tequila, Jalisco and the second time I’ve taken a tequila factory tour. The first time I went, we took one of the Tequila tours that cost in the region of MXN$120 per person for me and my boyfriend. It included a mini drive around the town, with some explanation of the sights and history, as well as a stop-off at the public baths just outside the Orendain factory, before taking us to the Tequila Arette (Silverio Nuñez 100, Centro) factory for our tour. Afterwards, we were ushered to the store across the street for tequila tasting and buying.
This time around, we went to the famed Orendain factory (Tabasco 208, Centro) itself and decided not to opt in for the town tour but it still cost us MXN$150 per person, which undoubtedly had something to do with our non-existent negotiation skills and the swanky as fuck guitar bus we went on. I still think paying MXN$150 for the tour alone is well worth it though, and we got a frozen margarita thrown in for free.
Hang out in the main square
For the purposes of this guide, when I say main square, I’m referring to the one right in front of the town’s (very photogenic) Parroquia Santiago Apostol church (Sixto Gorjón 16, Centro). That’s where you’re likely to find a tour, be told to wait for your tour bus and be able to grab some elotes asados, if that’s what floats your boat.
Then, go to the Plaza Principal (the actual main square)
This is the square just to the left-hand side of the church and I actually went there for the first time on my second visit to Tequila. Here you can pick up snacks, there are plenty of ice cream stores selling tequila flavoured concoctions and, my fave, agua de cebada (barley water). There’s usually plenty of people and families milling about and there are also some great photo opportunities to be had, including this amazing mural tucked away in the (free to enter) courtyard of what I later found out was the Municipio de Tequila. You can also visit the Museo Nacional del Tequila, but I’ve never been so I can’t comment on how worthwhile it is.
Explore the José Cuervo store
Sure, you can take tours of José Cuervo, but due to the big name appeal they’re likely to be more expensive (in fact, the website tells me that tours and tastings cost MXN$385). However, you can and should still get your Cuervo fix by wandering through the massive store and courtyards of the tequila distillery for free.
Wander down Calle José Cuervo
Calle José Cuervo is arguably the prettiest street in the town, and is completely pedestrianised so it’s ideal for wandering. It also hides one of Tequila’s biggest secrets – the real-life José Cuervo crow, which very few people seem to know about. I won’t pinpoint the exact location, but if you walk down Calle José Cuervo and keep a lookout on your left-hand side you’ll stumble across this majestic creature eventually.
Try the typical drinks
Jalisco has a ton of unique drinks that visitors should try out if they’re passing through, but there are two which are arguably far more ‘local’ to Tequila…except tequila itself, obviously. The first is the cantarito, a refreshingly fruity beverage made from tequila and fizzy citrus fruit juices.
The second is the so-called pachecada or tequino/ cerveza combo. Tejuino, an admittedly pretty odd fermented corn concoction, is a typically Jalisco beverage and you’ll see it sold from carts across the state. However, in Tequila in particular, you’ll see this combined with beer to make a (supposedly) delicious and refreshing drink. I haven’t tried it myself, because I think tejuino is fucking gross and I don’t see how adding beer will change that, but still…give it a whirl.
Stroll the main street
If you take the bus from Guadalajara to Tequila, you’re likely going to walk this street (Calle Francisco Madero) anyway, simply because it’s the route that takes you from the bus station to the main square. It is also absolutely rammed full of vendors selling all kinds of typical tourist souvenirs and agave based products, as well as the iconic cantaritos, but for the love of god, browse before you buy! There are so many options, you don’t have to go with the first one you see.
You cannot visit Tequila and leave without having bought any tequila. That’s not the way the world works, my friend. However, it’s not all about the tequila when you visit this pueblo mágico in Jalisco, as there are tons of other products on offer that would make the ideal memento of that time you slurped tequila in the sun at two in the afternoon. Here are (what I consider to be) the only four things you should even consider buying in Tequila and where to find them.
Obviously. You have to buy tequila while you’re there. It’s, like, the law. And it’s also surprisingly cheap if you buy it in the factory during or after your tour, mainly because, well, they’re factory prices. So, if you do plan on buying, make sure you do so after the tour you’re inevitably going to take.
Alternatively, if you really don’t want to do a tour or didn’t want to buy the tequila brand on offer, head to the José Cuervo store where you can get their tequilas at honestly bargain basement prices and in some seriously statement-making bottles.
Cholula hot sauce is suuuper cheap in the José Cuervo store. I don’t know why, I don’t work there, but consider this a public service announcement that you can pay around seven pesos a bottle for Cholula or De La Viuda brand hot sauce, which is insanely good. I know it sounds weird to recommend buying hot sauce in Tequila, but do it.
The blue agave plants used to make tequila also have tons of other uses; from the delicious miel de agave (agave honey), to the marginally more practical woven products made from the fibre remnants, or even notebooks with paper made from agave plants, there are plenty of other things you can buy if you don’t want a bottle of Tequila’s finest.
OK, I already mentioned this before, but cantaritos are so associated with Tequila that you can’t leave without buying one, and they always give you the clay pot to take home which means that buying a cantarito either on the main street or in the centre is the perfect two-for-one souvenir option. I mean, the pots aren’t that pretty but you could put a houseplant in them or something…
Take the bus from the Vallarta Plus Zapopan Terminal (Avenida Vallarta 650, Americana) in Guadalajara, which can be easily reached by either taking the 629-B bus (it should say ‘La Venta’ on the windshield) from the centre, and costs MXN$7.50, or by grabbing an Uber. The journey GDLàTEQ costs around MXN$90 one-way or MXN$160 return and will take about an hour, to an hour and a half, to arrive.
It’s worth noting that the last buses back from Tequila to Guadalajara leave at 8pm, so make sure you’re waiting and ready at the Tequila Plus Terminal (Calle Madero 146, Tequila) in Tequila well in advance.
Alternatively, take the all-inclusive tren del tequila, José Cuervo Express. I’ve not been on it myself (hello! I’m not made of money), but I’ve only heard good things from those who have. It includes a train journey (quite a rarity in Mexico) from Guadalajara to Tequila, and you get lunch, drinks and entertainment on board, plus a tour of the José Cuervo complex in Tequila and time to explore the town before returning. It costs a painful MXN$1900 per person though, but if you want to splurge on a day trip to Tequila then this is surely the best way to do it.
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