San Juan de Los Lagos, Jalisco, Revealed: Beyond Pilgrimage

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San Juan de los Lagos is a small town in Jalisco, Mexico, known for its rich livestock and poultry farming.

However, religious tourism has turned this town into one of the most sought-after in the country, and millions of visitors come to marvel at its surroundings.

For this reason, I find it interesting to share the best things to do and see in San Juan de Los Lagos so you can make the best of your visit.

How to get to San Juan de Los Lagos?

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Take Federal Highway 80 to San Juan de Los Lagos

To get here, you have several options depending on your starting point and preferred mode of transportation.

Here are some common ways to reach San Juan de los Lagos:

By Air: The nearest major airport is Guadalajara International Airport.

From there, you can take a bus or rent a car to reach San Juan de los Lagos (approximately 2 hours away).

By Bus: Several coach companies operate routes to San Juan from various cities in Mexico.

You can check bus schedules and book tickets online through ADO, ETN, or Primera Plus.

Buses from Guadalajara to San Juan de los Lagos run regularly and take around 2-3 hours.

By Car: If you’re driving, you can take Mexican Federal Highway 80 (Carretera Federal 80) which connects Guadalajara to San Juan de los Lagos.

The road is well-maintained and offers a scenic drive. Make sure to check the current road conditions and plan your route accordingly.

Before traveling, it’s always a good idea to check for any travel advisories, road closures, or transportation updates.

Additionally, ensure you have any necessary documents such as identification or tickets, and consider booking accommodations in advance if needed.

Top 11 things to do and see in San Juan de los Lagos

1. Pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos

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Pilgrims arriving at the Cathedral
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The Cathedral

This is one of the most important celebrations, and on February 2, it congregates approximately 2 million parishioners.

This pilgrimage begins on January 28 and ends on the 31st of the same month.

The route includes four stages: Ixmiquilpan, Queretaro, Leon, and then (on January 31) they arrive before the image of the Virgin.

Later, on February 2, the lavish celebration in honor of this venerated Virgin takes place.

2. Stroll in the Historic Center

In the historic center of San Juan, you will find museums, handicrafts, hotels, and restaurants that will undoubtedly captivate your attention.

3. Enter La Capilla del Primer Milagro (The Chapel of the First Miracle)

The Chapel of the First Miracle will take you back to the past, specifically when the Virgin resurrected a little girl after a tragedy in which she lost her life performing a circus act.

4. Visit the Rita Perez School

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Central courtyard, surrounded by polished pink quarry arches

This is an old inn where President Benito Juarez stayed during the Three Years’ War and multiple battles during the Cristero War.

Its construction comprises a baroque-style two-story building; it opened in 1767 to provide lodging to pilgrims, travelers, and merchants.

On the upper floor, there are balconies of quarry and ironwork. In the corners, pilasters culminated in pinnacles topped by a cross with a double crown, in addition to rectangular openings.

The main entrance stands out for its size, it has a main balcony that tops a baroque niche with Doric columns, and inside there is a central courtyard, surrounded by polished pink quarry arches, supported by square columns with Doric capitals.

There is another courtyard that was formerly the garage and stables, as well as 25 classrooms. It currently houses the elementary school for girls.

5. Independence Monument

You will find this iconic monument right across the Cathedral, surrounded by a beautiful fountain. You can’t miss it!

6. Admire the Miracle Paintings in the Museum

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The paintings depicting the first miracle of the Great Lady are one of the most appreciated works of art in this beautiful Mexican town.

7. Celebrate the Fiestas de Primavera

Among so many celebrations, the “Fiestas de Primavera” is one of the most entertaining in the city, where you can spend days learning about its traditions.

It is held between May 17-26

8. See the Post Office building

This is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan de Los Lagos and represents the beauty of the baroque style in its facades.

9. Enjoy the typical food

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Regional artisan candies. A must!

You can’t leave this magical town without tasting its tamales, chile relleno, cajetas, and alfajores. You can get them in almost any store in town.

10. Shop at the handicrafts market

The handicrafts market is huge, and you will find everything from embroidery and women’s clothing to purses, handbags, and pottery hand-made with local materials.

11. Visit the Cihualpilli Museum

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In this museum, you will find priceless objects that date back to the region’s first civilizations related to the Virgin of San Juan de Los Lagos.

Pope John Paul II visited the Cihualpilli Museum because of its importance.

When is the Day of the Virgin of San Juan de Los Lagos?

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The Virgin of San Juan de Los Lagos

The celebration of the Virgin is held on August 15, the date of her first coronation.

During this day, millions of pilgrims travel to this city from different parts of the world to venerate the miraculous image and share their expressions of faith.

When is the pilgrimage?

One of the most important dates in this region is the day of the Candelaria, celebrated on February 2.

However, the faithful perform various activities from January 25 to date (launching fireworks, processions, dances, among other things) to gather a large crowd that will eventually make the pilgrimage to the Basilica.

Town’s history

Formerly, the region was inhabited by the Nahua Indians, who abandoned their lands after the Spanish domination.

Nevertheless, many of these tribes settled in the surrounding area forming new towns until, finally, Fray Miguel de Bolonia took the initiative to reconquer Metzquititlán with the name of San Juan Bautista de Metzquititlán.

By that time, the indigenous people, having already been taught the Gospel, kept the image of a virgin that later became the Great Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos.

Why the name San Juan de los Lagos?

In the middle of the 17th century, the Royal Court of Guadalajara allowed the mestizos, Creoles, and Spaniards to live in San Juan Bautista.

However, as it depended politically on the town of Santa Maria de Los Lagos, the inhabitants of that town occupied the region over time, thus earning the name of Villa de San Juan de Los Lagos.

How miraculous is the Virgin?

The first miracle of the image of the Virgin comes from the second decade of the 17th century.

At that time, the town was still known as San Juan Bautista, whose image represented a small chapel.

You may want to read: Lagos de Moreno: Dive into Jalisco’s Rich Culture and Beauty

In that same chapel was kept the image of the Great Lady, which once brought a little girl back to life.

The event occurred after a circus performance, where the girl fell on some knives and died immediately.

From that moment on, she is considered a miraculous Virgin, which is why millions of people prostrate themselves in front of her to ask for acts of faith.


Again, the most important festivity is the Virgin of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Celebrated twice.

The first one is from January 25 to February 2, with dances of the Conquest and Moors and Christians, mechanical games, and processions of some towns, among other things.

The second is from August 1-15, when practically the same activities take place.

In the middle of these dates, the Spring festivities are celebrated from May 15-31, with cockfights, serenades, and even bullfights.

Finally, from December 1-12, the most important Virgin of the country, Guadalupe, is celebrated.

San Juan de Los Lagos, Jalisco: Final thoughts

As we conclude our journey into San Juan de Los Lagos, Jalisco, it’s evident that this charming town is much more than its famous shrines.

Beyond the religious significance, this magical town offers a rich tapestry of culture, history, and natural beauty waiting to be explored.

From its vibrant markets to its picturesque streets and warm hospitality, this destination has something for every traveler.

Whether you seek spiritual enlightenment, cultural immersion, or simply a peaceful retreat, San Juan de Los Lagos invites you to embark on a journey of discovery, where the true essence of Mexico shines through its people, traditions, and landscapes.

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