Mariachi music, colorful folk dances, fine handicrafts, rodeos and tequila-all that most people think of when they hear the word "Mexico"-originate in Jalisco, home to Puerto Vallarta and to its capital city, Guadalajara "The Pearl of the West". Founded in 1542, aglow with parks and flowers, rich in colonial heritage, and now home to more than 3 million inhabitants, Guadalajara enjoys an almost perfect climate. During the cooler hours of the morning or as the sun goes down, elegant horse-drawn carriages provide a delightful alternative to the usual buses and taxis as a fun way to see the city.The magnificent Plaza Tapatía-seven blocks of shops, museums and public buildings-combines new and colonial buildings in pleasing harmony among shady parks, gardens, charming fountains and sculptures.

Some of the most interesting architecture of the city is on this plaza, including the Cathedral, with several centuries of history expressed in its blend of architectural styles. The Governor's Palace is only one of several buildings with impressive wall paintings by the great Mexican muralist, Orozco; and the Regional Museum hosts the remains of a wooly mammoth along with many uniquely Mexican treasures. Also located in this cluster of historic buildings is the Degollado Theater with its exquisitely painted central dome.

The charreada (rodeo) gives handsome young cowboys and cowgirls a chance to demonstrate their skills in riding and roping; while some of the finest handicrafts in Mexico are on display in the neighboring towns of Tlaquepaque and Tonalá, where they are produced. Ceramics, blown glass and fine work in leather, silver and paper maché are always on exhibition in these two craft centers, and on Thursdays and Sundays an informal artisans' market lines the streets of Tonalá. Nearby Lake Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico, is ringed with small towns, such as Chapala and Ajijic, now the adopted home of many artists and other foreigners who love the climate and the culture.

Location: about 280 miles east of PV.