Lake Chapala (Lago de Chapala)
The villages that ring Mexico’s largest natural lake are known for their friendly, laid-back vibe. Most visitors hang out in Chapala or artsy Ajijic, popular with retirees and expats. Lake Chapala also has several islands, including Scorpion Island and Mezcala Island, home to a ruined fortress.
While it’s relatively easy to stop by the towns on your own, travelers on a time crunch might prefer to visit both Chapala and Ajijic on a flexible full- or half-day guided tour from Guadalajara.
Things to Know Before You Go
Lake Chapala is best enjoyed from a boat or the shoreline—don’t bother packing a swimsuit.
Given the large expat population, most Lake Chapala businesses have English-speaking employees.
Cobblestone streets are par for the course in Jalisco, so Lake Chapala’s villages may not be entirely accessible to wheelchairs or strollers.
How to Get There
Lake Chapala lies around 31 miles (50 kilometers) south of Guadalajara, on the border between Jalisco and Michoacán. Take the public bus—there are usually a couple every hour—directly to Chapala from Guadalajara’s old bus station (Central Vieja). From Chapala, hop in a taxi to Ajijic.
When to Get There
For the best weather around Lake Chapala, go in the Mexican off-season, between June and September. For a little action in the generally quiet towns, consider heading there for the Independence Day festivities (September 15 and 16).
Alternative Lake Chapala Villages
If you’re the type of traveler who likes to get off the beaten path, check out a town or two other than (or in addition to) Chapala or Ajijic. For example, Jocotepec, San Antonio Tlayacapan, and San Juan Cosala are all typically Mexican in feel and far less frequented by tourists.