Recently I had the opportunity to travel with a select group to Mexico with Travel + Leisure and visit with some of their marketing partners. With a small T+L contingency, I worked my way from Tequila to Punta Mita – eating up as much Mexican culture and beauty as I could.
We began in Tequila, which had me wondering, chicken and egg-like, which came first, the town of Tequila or tequila? Turns out the charming town of Tequila was founded in the 16th century, and tequila made from the local agave plants was named after the town. In more recent years, Tequila has been declared a Pueblo Mágico (Magical Town), as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, the agave fields surrounding Tequila are part of the UNESCO World Heritage designation; such is the importance of Tequila and tequila.
The best way to get to Tequila is to fly into Guadalajara and either drive 1 ½ hours to the town, or take the Tequila Express train, which runs on Saturdays. The Tequila Express is part of Jose Cuervo’s tourism branch, Cuervo Mundo. Jose Cuervo was founded in Tequila in 1795, and they have been successfully promoting both the town and its namesake spirit for the last 20 years.
Wondering where to stay in Tequila? Cuervo Mundo has a Relais and Chateaux property right off the main square and next to St. James Apostle church. Hotel Solar de las Ánimas opened in 2015, and it is spot-on. It does not feel like the new build it is. It was built in a colonial style, the service is impeccable, the food is fabulous and the roof-top bar and pool, with views of Tequila’s volcano and agave fields, are not to be missed. The bar “Chucho Reyes” feels like it was plucked out of 18th Century Mexico and adorned with early 20th Century art.
The Jose Cuervo distillery in Tequila, La Rojeña, is the oldest in Latin America. The tour my group took of La Rojeña included a trip to the agave fields to see how agave is harvested, a tour of the distillery to see how tequila is made, and a lesson on the proper way to taste tequila. Who knew tequila had a bouquet? After our lesson on the correct way to taste, smell and drink tequila, we were given the opportunity to blend our own tequila with blanco, reposado and añejo varities and take a certified keepsake bottle of tequila home.
After a full day, of all things Tequila, it was time to leave for the Pacific Coast and continue on with our Mexico journey. The genius of tequila tasting before a four-hour drive is its siesta-inducing properties. Except for an abundance of speed bumps, the drive to Punta Mita was uneventful. If four hours by road is not how you want to spend valuable vacation time, a private helicopter transfer can be arranged. As soon as 2018, a new highway in progress is due to be completed, which will cut the drive time down to 2 ½ hours.