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See how magical Tequila, Mexico really is on this virtual tour

10Best logo 10Best 12/29/2020 Lydia Schrandt, Special to USA TODAY 10Best
a little girl that is standing in the street: Magical Town sign © Guadalajara CVB Magical Town sign

Welcome to Tequila

Tequila is known around the globe as an iconic spirit, made from blue agave. It’s also the name of a town in Mexico’s state of Jalisco, at the very heart of the tequila-producing region. Come along as we explore sun-baked Tequila through photos.

a train is coming down the mountain: Jose Cuervo Express © Guadalajara CVB Jose Cuervo Express

All aboard the tequila train

A favorite way to arrive in Tequila is aboard the Jose Cuervo Express. One of Mexico’s few remaining passenger trains takes visitors from Guadalajara to the town of Tequila. The ride typically includes mariachi music (mariachi originated in Jalisco) and tequila tastings.

a large building with a mountain in the background: Tequila skyline © iStock / zstockphotos Tequila skyline

Tequila: Magical Town

The town of Tequila has been granted Pueblo Magico (Magical Town) status by the Mexican government for its cultural richness, historical relevance and other travel-worthy qualities. The program began in 2001, and today, Mexico has more than 121 Pueblos Magicos.

a large brick building with a sign on the side of the street: Historic Tequila © iStock / zstockphotos Historic Tequila

A UNESCO World Heritage site

The landscape surrounding Tequila, stretching from the foothills of the Tequila Volcano to the Rio Grande Valley, earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 2006 as the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila. The blue agave grown in the region has shaped the culture of the region, as well as Mexico as a whole.

a group of people flying kites in a building: Church in Tequila © Guadalajara CVB Church in Tequila

Parroquia Santiago Apostol

Tequila’s main plaza is home to a beautiful historic church, the Parroquia Santiago Apostol. The 18th-century Baroque structure features a bell tower, Doric columns to either side of the entrance, and a Neoclassical main altar inside.

a sandy beach next to the plant: Agave © Guadalajara CVB Agave

Agave fields

The rolling agave fields have become an iconic image of Jalisco. Tequila begins with this blue-green plant – a large succulent with spiky leaves. After a plant has matured for several years, its heart (piña in Spanish) is removed to make tequila.

a man standing next to a tree: Harvesting agave © Guadalajara CVB Harvesting agave

Jimador

Agave farmers, known as jimadores, use a pointed shovel to harvest the agave, removing its spikes and extracting the heart. The harvested piñas weigh anywhere from 80 to 200 pounds. This labor-intensive work is still done entirely by hand.

Tequila distillery © Guadalajara CVB Tequila distillery

Making tequila

Once harvested, the agave piñas get baked in traditional brick ovens to help soften them and begin converting their carbohydrates into fermentable sugars. These sugars are extracted using a tahona (a giant grinding wheel) traditionally operated by mules. These days, many distilleries use a modern mechanical crusher to extract the juice.

a statue in front of a brick building: Crow statue © Guadalajara CVB Crow statue

Jose Cuervo

Jose Cuervo began producing tequila in 1795 and has since become the best-selling tequila on the planet. The word “cuervo” is Spanish for “crow," which first appeared on Jose Cuervo bottles in the 1990s. Pay a visit to the Jose Cuervo distillery in Tequila, and you’ll see a large statue of a crow guarding the entrance.

a bench in a garden: Mundo Cuervo in Tequila © Guadalajara CVB Mundo Cuervo in Tequila

Mundo Cuervo

The Jose Cuervo distillery has grown from a small operation to a practical theme park celebrating the town’s native spirit. Mundo Cuervo offers distillery tours, hotels, tequila tastings and operates the Jose Cuervo Express train.

a glass of wine: La Rojeña © Guadalajara CVB La Rojeña

Fábrica La Rojeña

A highlight of a visit to Mundo Cuervo (and Tequila) is a tour of Fábrica La Rojeña. The oldest operating distillery in the Americas has been producing tequila since the 18th century. Tours include a tequila tasting and the chance to stick around for a drink from the margarita bar.

a close up of a barrel: Tequila hotel © Guadalajara CVB Tequila hotel

Matices Hotel de Barricas

If you’ve ever wanted to spend the night in a giant tequila barrel, you’re in luck. The Matices Hotel de Barricas, one of the most unique in the town of Tequila, features 30 barrel rooms, each named after a different type of tequila.

a blue bowl filled with oranges on a table: Cazuela cocktail © Guadalajara CVB Cazuela cocktail

Cazuela

In much of the world, tequila is closely associated with the margarita. But in Jalisco, you’ll find a more traditional tequila cocktail. The cazuela gets its name from the large clay bowl it’s served in. The recipe typically includes citrus juice, citrus-flavored soda and gold tequila, served with citrus wedges or bite-sized chunks of watermelon and pineapple.

a sunset over a fence: Akamba at sunset © Guadalajara CVB Akamba at sunset

Akamba Festival

The town of Tequila may be steeped in history, but it’s also the scene of an emerging cultural festival, known as Akamba. This celebration of the music, art and food of Jalisco takes place among the blue agave plants at the base of the Tequila Volcano. The event features a mix of musical genres, art installations and parties that extend through sunrise.

a large tree in a field: Agave in Jalisco © Guadalajara CVB Agave in Jalisco

Jalisco

Tequila is one of many destinations that makes the state of Jalisco so travel-worthy. This state in the western part of Mexico is also home to the colorful city of Guadalajara and several other Pueblos Magicos.

10Best is a part of the USA TODAY Network, providing an authentically local point of view on destinations around the world, in addition to travel and lifestyle advice.

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