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Is Tonala Jalisco Worth Visiting? The Handicraft Capital of Guadalajara

  • Joel CZ 
  • 6 min read
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Tonala is a municipality in Jalisco with a territorial extension of approximately 119.58 square kilometers.

Among the most important neighborhoods in Tonalá are Zalatitan, downtown Tonalá, Barrio Nuevo, Hacienda Real, Santa Paula, El Rosario, Colonia Jalisco, Loma Dorada, Quinta Catalina, and Lomas de Camichin.

In Tonala, visitors can mainly find a great handicrafts center, which is famous nationally and internationally. So it is definitely worth visiting.

In this admirable site of Jalisco, pottery, high-temperature ceramics, papier-mâché, wrought iron, and blown and embossed glass, among many other varieties, are made.

The origins of Tonalá date back to the days of the great cultures of Mesoamerica, when the Zapotecs, in contact with other tribes, such as the Tonaltecas, managed to impose their way of life and religious beliefs.

When the Spaniards arrived, the lord of Tonalá was Tzapotzintli.

Nuño de Guzmán, the conqueror of Tonalá, entered the city with his army in 1530, without problems and amid a great uproar.

However, the locals were dissatisfied with the Spanish ruler and began an insurgent movement that did not prosper in a short time.

During the Spanish rule, Tonallan was declared a Province of the Kingdom of Nueva Galicia with the new denomination of Santiago Tonalá.

In 1824, after Mexico’s Independence, it was again named simply Tonalá.

This municipality of Guadalajara is located in the fascinating National Museum of Ceramics and the Cerro de la Reina.

It is believed that hidden under its hill. There’s an old pyramid of the pre-Hispanic inhabitants of the place.

What to do in Tonala Jalisco

tonala jalisco
Tonala is internationally known for its handicrafts – Source: Alfonso Velazquez /

I recommend visiting several monuments, buildings, and museums of great interest in Tonala.

In the first place, there’s the Parish of Santo Santiago, with its main facade of a single body, beautifully topped with a quarry pediment.

It also highlights a coral window that is adorned with plant motifs in relief.

It includes some buttresses with a tower-like appearance and gargoyles in the shape of animals.

Equally interesting are the parishes of Tololotlán, Coyula and Santa Cruz de las Huertas.

I also recommend visiting important civil constructions in Tonala, such as the bridge over the Santiago River, the former Hacienda Arroyo de En Medio, with its remarkable neo-Gothic style, and the Puente Grande sentry box, which was built at some point in the 18th century.

Outstanding monuments in Tonalá are, for example, the busts of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and Benito Juárez that can be seen in this Jalisco destination.

About museums, the National Museum of Ceramics and the Regional Museum of Tonalá stand out.

In the case of the former, there are several collections of pre-Hispanic, colonial, and contemporary handicrafts.

The collection includes the artisan creations of Tonalá and those of Jalisco in general.

The Regional Museum of Tonala is a rustic wooden building where exhibitions of local artisans and artists are held.

How to get to Tonala

tonala jalisco
Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart – Source: oscar garces /

Tonala is only about 30 minutes from downtown Guadalajara.

However, if you’re driving from Mexico City, you should get on the highway through La Marquesa on the Toluca-Morelia route (about a six or seven-hour drive total).

The penultimate toll booth is in Ocotlán, then continues straight to where this part of the route ends.

Ocotlán appears next, then Zapotlanejo and the Guadalajara metropolitan area.

Ten minutes from this point, an exit takes you directly to Tonalá.

Relevant information

Some popular festivities celebrated in Tonala are the Fiestas del Sol, which occur from April 1 to 14; the Fiestas de la Santa Cruz, from May 3 to 15 and the Fiestas in honor of Santo Santiago during one week in June.


tonala jalisco
Source: oscar garces /

Since pre-Hispanic times, a large flea market has been held on Thursdays, which has been maintained over the centuries.

At present, about 4,000 merchants come to offer their products on Thursdays and Sundays in the main streets of Tonala Jalisco, such as Juárez, Madero, Cruz Blanca, Santos Degollado, and the Tonaltecas and Tonalá Avenues.

What are the hot springs in Tonala like?

They comprise six adjacent basins with thermal waters that reach approximately 40° C (104° F).

Getting to this place is super easy and involves the descent of a “mountain” 15 minutes away from the site.

It is not advisable to go when it is raining, since you have to walk down it can become a little dangerous.

At the end of the descent, you will find the Lerma River, where the piles begin.

This place is not yet very visited by tourists, so the equipment and facilities are basic, such as bathrooms with showers, stores, and a soda fountain that offers food and drinks.

The opening hours is from Monday to Sunday from 8:00 to 15:00 hrs. and departure is at 18:00 hrs.

“Las Pilitas,” as it is called, is considered an ideal place for ecotourism because of its low level of construction, and it is protected by the CEA (State Water Commission).

It is not possible to camp or stay overnight in this place since there is no hotel nearby.

This destination is more suitable for excursions and packages, including transportation and a tour of the surroundings.

In the state of Jalisco, there are thousands of known places where you can go swimming. However, nothing like this one. A unique experience worthy of a true adventurer.

The hot springs of Tonala Jalisco are a must-see.

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