Just 45 minutes away from busy Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, lies the largest lake in Mexico: Lake Chapala. The lake is 40km wide and 80 km long at its widest and longest points, and is the main source of drinking water for Jalisco’s capital city. Yet despite the huge role it plays as the water provider for millions of people its real popularity lies in the fact that it is the perfect big city weekend getaway that, surprisingly, has not become such.
The are has not remained unknown though as expats discovered it decades ago and the towns of Chapala and, particularly Ajijic, are now called home by one of the largest expatriate communities in all Mexico, if not the largest.
Despite this Ajiji has remained mostly untouched, and thus decided to spend a weekend in Ajijic exploring what the area has to offer and find out if it really is as charming as it is.
We got there late at night on Friday, it was raining but our hopes were high as we were in the middle of the dry season (mid February). But alas, luck was not on our side and the rain did not stop during the whole weekend. Not only were we surprised but locals mentioned too that rain during this time of the year is very unusual and they could not remember it having happened in at least two decades.
Ajijic has plenty of hotels to choose from, but the easy going lifestyle and cobbled streets that lead to the lake make it the ideal village where to stay in a guesthouse or B&B. We chose Angel Flores Guest House, hosted by Skip and Felipe. The place is tastefully decorated and ideally located too, and one of the better priced in town. At 50USD/nigh you get a spotless private room with a full bathroom and access to a common kitchen area, several roof tops from which to enjoy the views and lounge areas where to to strike casual conversations with other travelers and visitors (watch my video review).
Ajijic is a quite town who’s main attraction is the lake. There are a few boat tours that will take you to a couple of islands and other lakeside towns, yet the constant rain kept us from joining one. The short promenade along the lake is perfect for an afternoon stroll, and you can also rent kayaks or bicycles if you want to keep yourself active. Make sure you also drive to neighboring Chapala, a slightly larger town with a picture perfect lakeside promenade spotted with great restaurants where to eat, and the thermal water baths in San Juan de Cosala might also be appealing.
Food-wise, you will not be disappointed as there are many excellent restaurants to choose from, offering Thai food, Argentinian cuisine and of course and excellent array of Mexican dishes.
After walking around town and exploring nearby places of interest we decided to call it a day by enjoying a fantastic massage at Viriginia Moreno Massage Parlor on Colon 51 right in front of Lloyd Real Estate. The parlor had just opened a month ago and is simply yet tastefully decorated, making it very affordable (250 pesos for a 1 hour massage). Liza and I enjoyed the session and I highly recommend you visit Virgina and Katy if you have a chance. You won’t regret it!
Ajijic is a great town where to enjoy a weekend or even more days not only of you want to escape Guadalajara’s traffic and noise, but simply want to relax and enjoy some time of your own. The town is far from being overdeveloped (yet) and when the weather is good it is a great location where to enjoy the outdoors. I must also say that I usually dislike towns that have been become expat settlements because of the transformation that they endure, but I have to admit that Ajijic is just as charming, if not more, than what it could have been a few decades ago.
Have you visited Ajijic? Did you even know that Mexico has a lake this big? What other small lakeside towns around Mexico or the world do you know of you highly recommend? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and this post too if you liked it![Photo credit @ Flickr : sunset picture by nick farnhill]