The Lago de Chapala (Chapala Lake) in Jalisco, Mexico
The Lago de Chapala is Mexico's largest lake, covering an area of over 1110 square kms. with an approximate depth of 8 meters. Since the decade of 1950, this place has had a great tourism development and is popular amongst foreign travelers, mainly from the U.S. and Canada. In fact, many of these visitors have ended up adopting it as a place to retire. It is an ideal place to visit with your family, to party with friends or to spend a romantic weekend. Although in the 1990's the lake's level dropped due to the construction of dams and ditches, thus affecting tourism (apart from a dispute over who had the rights to use the water of the lake) later, due to strong rains, dams were re-opened, the lake recovered much of its former glory and tourism returned.
There are 2 places that you dont want to miss when visiting Lago de Chapala: The lake itself, home to many activities, and the Town of Ajijic, which is a perfect example of the typical little town portrayed in old films, since it is almost 450 years old. Its an interesting place for taking long walks and of course photographing its cobblestone streets and quaint houses. There, in the Central Plaza, you can find a variety of shops where you can buy everything from clothes and jewelry, to various crafts in gift shops. It has art galleries and excellent restaurants with great variety of cuisines from around the world.
There are several water sports that can be practiced in the lake since the area known as La Playa (The Beach) and the lake itself have been restored, cleaned and rebuilt after an overpopulation of water lilies gave the place a grim look for quite some time.
The novelty now is kayaking for 1 or 2 people (its rental includes life jackets). It is also possible to practice para-gliding with an instructor, for safety. Similarly, we have the kite-boarding, where you use something like 2 surfboards and a sail to jump over the water; there are boat rides to the Isla de los Alacranes (Scorpion's Island) or Isla del Presidio (Prison Island) (which involves a 4 hour ride). Some other things you can do is to rent an aqua-bike, go skiing, horseback-riding in La Rivera (The Riviera) or hiking, all of which have guides available.
The place is totally tourist-oriented so it won't be difficult to find lodging, either near the Lago de Chapala or in Ajijic. The accommodation ranges from single rooms to 5 star hotels, bungalows, cottages and more. Another attraction is the swimming resorts, ideal to go for a while or for the whole weekend. One of the most popular is the one in San Juan Cosala, which has hot springs, plus a few hotels nearby. For golf lovers, there are 2 golf courses near the lake. You can also see Mexico's national sport and, contrary to popular belief, this is not soccer but The Charrería , thus, throughout the year, there are many festivals and events to attend!
Nightlife here is fun: There's always somewhere to go dancing, usually with live music, play pool or have a drink at the nearby bars. To wrap-up this review, on Lago de Chapala you can do almost anything, there are cinemas, golf courses, book clubs, craft shops, art galleries, and lots of extreme sports thanks to the lake. Landscape lovers will find it fascinating given the large amount of flora and fauna: there are more than 40 fish species in its waters, many of which are used for human consumption. Located at the border between the states of Michoacan and Jalisco, it takes less than 30 minutes from the nearest airport and 50 minutes from Guadalajara. The Lago de Chapala: A beautiful paradise to visit anytime!
Article produced by the Editorial Team of "Explorando Mexico".
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Photo: Kevin Hutchinson