Prime areas of Lake Chapala, Ajijic and the entire North Shore.
Chapala is the largest of the lakeshore villages, and the first to be placed on Spanish maps in the early 1500s.
Among the restaurants, bars and meeting places of Chapala is the largest American Legion Post outside of the US, with its own clubhouse, restaurant and activities. Much of the Lakeside foreign population has business or banking activities in Chapala and you will see them meeting for conversation with friends in one of the several coffee shops and sidewalk cafes. Near the church and the former Braniff estate (of aviation fame) is the pier and Malecón, the Mexican version of a boardwalk, which is lined with vendors of souvenirs, food, clothing, boat tours and more.
Just outside of Chapala are the bedroom communities of Las Brisas de Chapala, Chapala Haciendas and Vista Del Lago, which surrounds the nine-hole Chapala Golf Course.
Five minutes west of Chapala is the subdivision of Chula Vista,
where some of the 260 homes wend their way up the side of a mountain to capitalize on the spectacular 180º views of the Lake and the mountains. The Chula Vista Country club features tennis courts, clubhouse and a short executive nine-hole course with great lake views. As is typical of much of the area, flowering trees, shrubs and plants of all descriptions abound throughout the area.
SAN ANTONIO TLAYACAPAN
Along the main road, midway between Chapala and Ajijic is the village of San Antonio Tlayacapan. This village has remained largely unchanged with the influx of North Americans. At first glance you may not realize there are North Americans in the village — but look again. Behind the walls are lovely homes with modern appliances, pools, beautiful gardens, and happy retirees. In Mexico we truly learn not to judge any area home by “curb appeal.”
On the south side of the highway in San Antonio is a very active strip mall which includes MailBoxes, Etc., a pharmacy, hardware store, excellent restaurant, and a popular grocery store, liquor store and meat market featuring US products. North Americans in their transition period will find these familiar products satisfy their yearnings. Just east of these establishments you will find the Absolut Fenix Office. Just across the highway is the Lakeside Little Theater where English productions run through the winter months.
La Floresta is an older, charming neighborhood, where the trees on the highway meet overhead to form a leafy canopy. There are many medium and larger homes on both sides of the highway. La Floresta is a very pleasant neighborhood to explore to see some of the plantings and homes.
La Floresta, which means “Where the flowers are” in Spanish, is the location of the local 465-seat auditorium where classical musical performances, folkloric dance groups, plays and choral groups may be seen and enjoyed on a regular basis.
The village of Ajijic is the center of most of the activities of the North American community. This once sleepy fishing village had a long and noble Indian history, and then it was discovered by the rest of world. Writers such as DH Lawrence came and were inspired, as did many musicians, actors and dancers. Some of entertainment’s famous stars, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Charles Bronson came here to get away from the hectic pace north of the border. The community is the haven for many writers and artists inspired by the always-beautiful surroundings.
The village church, which is dedicated to San Andres (St. Andrew) the patron saint of Ajijic and the little chapel were built in the 1500’s and both are located on the central plaza. San Andres Church, rebuilt in 1749, is referred to locally as the “new” church. The traditional, shady plaza is the center of local fiestas and is always busy with venders and families. Sunday evenings the young people still walk in the traditional “paseo,” the boys one way, girls the opposite. Although taken up for repairs on many occasions, the cobblestone streets date back to colonial times, and still provide totally recyclable paving material today.
Near the lake on the street called 16 de Septiembre is the largest foreign organization, the Lake Chapala Society. The society is located on the former estate of Neill James, a famous travel writer and long-time resident. Stop in and visit their comprehensive library, video rental club, and ask about the many other activities and services.
Many fine restaurants, hotels and B&B’s are located in the village. You will enjoy browsing the numerous designer boutiques, shops and art studios/galleries. Buses and taxis are available, but sometimes delayed by an occasional burro carrying a load of wood or grain for his owner. Newly refurbished lakefront walkways and parks are a wonderful early-morning setting for watching the fishermen bring in their catch.
LAS SALVIAS, VILLA NOVA & RANCHO DEL ORO
On the north side of the highway in western Ajijic are the charming and popular neighborhoods of Las Salvias, Villa Nova, and Rancho Del Oro. Some of the most beautiful and grand homes in the area lie within these areas. Marked by stone entrance arches, Villa Nova is the original Hacienda site from the time when this was still farm and ranch land. On the grounds of the recently remodeled and restored Hacienda are magnificent Indian Laurel trees (bay leaf). Rancho Del Oro is to the west of Villa Nova and shares the same potable water system. Gold and silver was once mined in these hills, but be aware that the mineral rights always belong to the country of Mexico, so prospecting will probably not be worth your effort. Rancho Del Oro has been one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the past several years, as building and development push westward.
SAN JUAN COSALÁ & THE RAQUET CLUB
During a ten-minute drive west from Ajijic you will pass the quickly developing neighborhoods of La Huerta, La Canacinta, La Cristina, Los Charales and Las Palmas before arriving at the village of San Juan Cosalá. This largely Mexican village is still one of the better places to look for occasional “bargain properties.” In the village of San Juan Cosalá are found renowned spas with thermal mineral water. These spas are a popular mid-week getaway for local residents who enjoy the relaxing and medicinal qualities of the hot mineral waters.
Above the village is the Raquet Club, which features upscale homes with panoramic views. The club offers a pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, six tennis courts and clubhouse.
Continuing westward, you pass through the neighborhoods of El Limón, Jaltepec, El Chante, and Las Fuentes until, at the westernmost end of Lake Chapala, you find the town of Jocotepec. Founded in 1529, Jocotepec is a typical Mexican town, best known for the quality serapes woven there. It features an active street market on Thursday mornings. Jocotepec is home to about 1000 North Americans and many residents who once worked in the US and now have returned to their homes and families. At the far (southern) end of Jocotepec is the subdivision of Roca Azul, home to many weekend Guadalajarans and foreign residents.
From the west edge of Jocotepec, you can travel to Guadalajara, or continue on around the lake to see unspoiled quiet farm land, quaint villages, and wide open spaces with wonderful views ... of THIS side of the lake. Take a day-trip up into the mountains on the South lakeshore to alpine-like villages where pine forests grow, but remember to bring a warm sweater. Or if you prefer a few days of rest and fun at the beaches of Manzanillo and Barra de Navidad, they are only four hours to the west via a beautiful toll highway.
TLACHICHILCO AREA (pronounced “Tlaw-chee-CHILL-ko”)
Ten kilometers to the east of Chapala, at the widest, deepest part of the lake, you will find a little area of approximately 125 titled lots not at all like the rest of lakeside. The area is unique in its history, being one of few in Mexico that never surrendered to Spanish invaders. It is unique in character, too: the lots are all large and unwalled, each with its own gorgeous view of the lake and surrounding mountains.
The homes are all relatively new, as development began here only seven years ago. The area is reputed to have the finest drinking water at lakeside. Another big plus for the community is the irrigation water from the nearby dam, the only one on lakeside. The popular Chapala Golf and Country Club is only five minutes away. For those that enjoy their peace and tranquility, large gardens and spectacular beauty, the mostly undiscovered, wide-open spaces of the Tlachichilco area are worth a look.