Tuesday, June 18, 2024

A Tale of Two Cities: Connecting Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara on one itinerary

It’s about to get much easier to dive deeper into the state of Jalisco. This Pacific coast state in Mexico is best known for its two most popular destinations: Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta — one is rich with cosmopolitan and cultural energy, and the second is one of the beach capitals of Mexico. Rarely are the two put together on one itinerary, as the distance between them has made travel back and forth both time-consuming and costly. However, that’s all about to change with the completion of the brand new, high speed highway.

The high speed highway connecting Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta has been in the works for more than 10 years. Originally intended for completion in 2014, the final date for completion is expected a full 10 years later in July 2024. Currently, the majority of the highway is complete from Guadalajara to Las Varas. What remains is the final stretch connecting Bucerias to Puerto Vallarta. 

Driving from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta will allow your trip to end in paradise – on a beach, drink in hand with a stunning Pacific sunset. (Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta)

The highway is a significant development for the tourism landscape in the states of Jalisco and Nayarit. Covering more than 86 kilometers, the modern roadway includes 45 bridges, seven interchanges, three tunnels, and three viaducts. It is expected to handle 6,000 vehicles a day. The cost between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta is roughly $1,000 pesos each way, which may seem steep, but saves valuable expenses if traveling with the family.

Once completed, the highway between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta will shorten the trip to about two and a half hours, shaving the original drive time nearly in half. This opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to exploring the state of Jalisco, as well as the interior and coastline of the neighboring state, Nayarit.

Travelers can start their journey in either direction, but I recommend starting in Guadalajara first. There’s something appealing about starting with the culture, history, and cosmopolitan energy of one of Mexico’s most dynamic cities before ending a scenery-packed road trip by lounging on a beautiful beach on the Pacific coast. 

Guadalajara: The Soul of Jalisco

Your journey begins in the vibrant metropolis of Guadalajara, a city pulsating with cultural energy, rich history, and fantastic cuisine. It’s considered the “Silicon Valley” of Mexico, which has drawn a tech-savvy, forward-thinking culture, resulting in a funky arts scene and cafe culture. Still, Guadalajara is deeply rooted in its history and is known as the birthplace of some of Mexico’s most significant cultural icons like Mariachi, charrería, and tequila.

The Teatro Degollado, Guadalajara is one of the city’s most striking buildings and wouldn’t look out of place in Europe. (Román López/Unsplash)

Highlights

  • Historic Center: Explore the historic heart of Guadalajara, home to architectural marvels such as the majestic Guadalajara Cathedral, the ornate Government Palace, and the iconic Hospicio Cabañas.
  • Mariachi Plaza: Soak up the lively atmosphere of Mariachi Plaza, where traditional mariachi bands serenade visitors with soul-stirring melodies and vibrant performances.
  • Tlaquepaque Artisan Village: Indulge in a shopping spree at Tlaquepaque, a charming artisan village renowned for its exquisite handicrafts, colorful markets, and authentic Mexican cuisine.

Tequila: Spirit of Mexico

Continuing on your journey, the town of Tequila beckons with its aromatic fields of blue agave and rich heritage deeply rooted in Mexico’s cultural fabric. 

Tequila. Beyond the obvious, the town offers stunning natural vistas and colonial architecture. (Austin Curtis/Unsplash)

Highlights

  • Tequila Tastings: Embark on a sensory journey through the world of tequila with guided tastings at renowned distilleries such as Jose Cuervo and Casa Sauza.
  • Agave Landscape: Explore the picturesque agave landscape surrounding Tequila, where rows of blue agave plants stretch towards the horizon against the backdrop of the Tequila Volcano.
  • National Tequila Museum: Dive into the fascinating history and production process of tequila at the National Tequila Museum, where interactive exhibits and guided tours offer insights into this iconic spirit.

Compostela: A Glimpse of Mexican Magic

A large chunk of the highway passes through the state of Nayarit — a state rich in mountain villages, indigenous communities, coffee culture, and a spectacular coastline. Make a stop in the enchanting town of Compostela. Tucked away amidst lush greenery and rolling hills, Compostela exudes an irresistible charm, earning its status as one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos.

Th Pueblo Mágico of Compostela is an unassuming gem in quiet Nayarit. (Pueblos Mágicos)

Must-See Sights:

  • Nuestra Señora de la Asunción Church: Admire the exquisite colonial architecture of the Nuestra Señora de la Asunción Church, a cultural and historical landmark dating back to the 16th century.
  • Plaza Principal: Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Plaza Principal, where locals gather to socialize, shop, and enjoy traditional street food.
  • Cerro del Sangangüey: Hike up Cerro del Sangangüey for panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including lush forests, rolling hills, and the iconic Nayarit countryside.

Puerto Vallarta: Where the Pacific Meets Paradise

The journey ends on the palm-fringed beaches of Puerto Vallarta. A fusion of relaxation, adventure, and buzzy nightlife, it’s the perfect place to end the journey.

Puerto Vallarta is brimming with attractions. One of the most-visited destinations in all of Mexico, travelers can spend their days beach-hopping, exploring the dynamic restaurant scene, or taking additional road trips from Puerto Vallarta to surrounding towns and villages. If you only have a weekend in town, here is some inspiration for the perfect weekend in Puerto Vallarta.

If you’ve already tried parts of the Puerto Vallarta — Guadalajara highway, let us know how you found it.

Meagan Drillinger is a New York native who has spent the past 15 years traveling around and writing about Mexico. While she’s on the road for assignments most of the time, Puerto Vallarta is her home base. Follow her travels on Instagram at @drillinjourneys or through her blog at drillinjourneys.com

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