The state of Jalisco is the archetype of all that is ‘Mexico’. This is where you'll find the town of Tequila, best known for its eponymous drink (also Mexico's best-known export); the lasso-swinging charros of Los Altos, the country's most cherished cultural icon; the swirling Jarabe Tapatío (Mexican hat dance) and the beautiful chinas pobladas who perform them; the Mariachis – roving musicians dressed in tight-trousered gala suits and massive sombreros of the 19th-century rural gentry; and further north, the world-famous beaches of Puerto Vallarta – the birthplace of mass tourism – and San Blas. All these originated in Jalisco and the nearby states of Colima and Nayarit.
Guadalajara is a huge, modern metropolis. But the ‘pearl of the west’ still has a magnificent and elegant colonial core with shady plazas, impressive colonial architecture, fine museums and the vast Mercado Libertad, to say nothing of its top-drawer modern malls, galleries, universities and parks. A short visit to the nearby famous craft centre suburbs of Tlaquepaque or Tonalá is rewarding. Take a boat ride on Mexico's largest lake, Lago de Chapala. Cool off in the pine forests around delightful, scarcely changed colonial towns such as Tula, Tapalpa or San Sebastián del Oeste.
Jalisco is the gateway to the Pacific coast and the mega-resorts of Puerto Vallarta and its spin-off, Nuevo Vallarta, on the vast Bahía de Banderas. There are other beautiful and secluded beaches nearby. A few kilometres to the north await beautiful Bucerias and La Cruz de Huancaxtle. Further up, in neighbouring Nayarit state, sleepy San Blas is popular with surfers and birdwatchers. Away from the resorts, remote in the Sierra Madre Occidental, live the Cora and Huichol people, renowned for their stunningly beautiful chaquira beadwork and colourful nierika yarn paintings. In the western interior of Jalisco are several villages of pristine, colonial-era charm, nestled along the slopes of the Sierra Jolalpa and Sierra Tapalpa, whose legendary beauty is seldom seen by outsiders.
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