An Ajijic local // © 2018 Mark Rogers
Feature image (above): Lake Chapala is the biggest lake in Mexico. // © 2018 Getty Images
Experienced travelers know that areas where expats resettle often have a unique vibe and tend to be especially interesting for visitors. These places can be particularly fun for tourists who imagine themselves moving abroad one day.
Mexico is full of these destinations, but one that is often overlooked is the town of Ajijic (pronounced ah-hee-HEEK), which is located on the shores of Lake Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico. According to some estimates, 30,000 expats live in the Lake Chapala area.
Ajijic is located in the state of Jalisco, about a 45-minute drive from the city of Guadalajara. Ajijic offers a beautiful natural setting, where palm trees stand side by side with evergreens. Lake Chapala is on the town’s southern border, and the Sierra Madre mountain range provides a backdrop to the north.
The heart of Ajijic is its wonderful lakeside malecon (boardwalk), where residents tend to congregate to socialize, walk their dogs, exercise and more. Virtually everything in town is within walking distance, and the streets are lined with cafes, restaurants and shops. The roads and even some sidewalks are cobblestone, so sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended for visitors.
Stores range from those providing essentials to boutiques offering Mexico-centric goods, including embroidered blouses and silver jewelry. The expat community has influenced the town’s dining scene, and in addition to Mexican fare, visitors will find restaurants serving Thai, Argentinian, Chinese, and Spanish/Basque cuisine, as well as hip takes on burgers and pizza.
If possible, advise clients to drop into Ajijic on a Wednesday, when the town has its weekly tianguis (open-air market). There’s a mix of booths selling fresh produce, handicrafts and household goods. It’s also a good opportunity to sample local Mexican cuisine at bargain prices from the market’s food vendors.
Ajijic makes a nice daytrip from Guadalajara, but some visitors might choose to stay a couple of nights. There are lots of boutique hotels right in town, including Estrellita’s B&B Hotel and Hotel Casa de Abuela. Hotel Real de Chapala offers an option away from the main activity of the town, although it is still within walking distance. The 85-room property is probably the most modern in town, although high-end travelers might find it a bit dated. Hotel Real de Chapala’s strengths are its lovely setting on the shore of the lake and its first-rate restaurant.
Savvy agents would be wise to suggest a visit to Ajijic to their Mexico-loving customers. Not only will clients be exposed to a new destination, but they may even end up buying property there, leading to multiple return trips — which could mean more business for the agent. After all, 30,000 expats can’t all be wrong.