Experience the region’s biodiversity and get a taste for Jalisco’s mountain culture with a drive to Mazamitla. Just two hours south of Guadalajara, you’ll find yourself winding through pine cloaked mountains where the air is crisp and bright and tile roofs abound. Mazamitla dates back to at least the twelfth century; the town was a rebel stronghold in the War of Independence. Today you’ll find a traditional plaza surrounded by colonial buildings and a classic arcade. Mazamitla is a popula launch point to hike in the Sierra de Tigre range, but travelers with a more leisurely agenda should visit the nearby waterfall of El Salto and the Enchanted Garden, where visitors can pad across wooden bridges that criss-cross a tumbling stream.
Jalisco is hacienda country, and remnants of the once vast estates can be seen on the “Hacienda Highway.” Head out of Guadalajara on the road to Jocotepec, but instead make a right toward Tala. Your first stop is the small town of Mazatepec. On one corner of the town plaza you’ll spot the walls of an ancient hacienda and a line of palms that mark the once grand drive. If you talk to locals, you’ll likely hear legends of secret passageways and buried treasure. Resist the impulse to spring for a metal detector and instead travel onward to Tala, where you’ll take a left on Highway 70 to Ameca. Make a left at “El Limon.” From there you’ll take a dirt road to the hacienda of El Cabezón, one of the richest landholdings of the nineteenth century. This hacienda is in better shape than some, with a restored chapel and a striking fountain adorned with serpent heads. Be sure to check out the chapel’s gilded altar piece. When you’re done exploring, get back on the highway and continue west to the town of Ameca for lunch. If you’re still feeling adventurous, you’ll find even more ruined haciendas in the area, including La Esperanza, 4 km to the southeast. From Ameca it’s a straight shot back to Guadalajara on Highway 70.