Lake Chapala and picturesque towns around it
Lake Chapala is located close to Guadalajara, between Jalisco and Michoacán; there is actually a line between the states along the lake so small part of it belongs to Michoacán. It covers 1,100 km² and it is situated 1,524 m above sea level. The depth varies from 5 to 10 metres.
The lake was made from Lerma that is one of the longest rivers in Mexico comeing from D.F., rivers Duero, Zula, Huaracha and from the rain water which makes it smaller in the dry season when it does not rain. Sometimes one can even take a walk quite far from the shore when the part of the lake dries up. It is a well known touristic zone with many hotels, spa and restaurants around the lake. As well Chapala is one of the most important sources of potable water in the state of Jalisco.
The biggest problem of the lake, water plant lirio acuático (eichhornia crassipes) was cleaned out from the lake by government. El pez blanco (white fish) being a very special spiecb almost died out because of the contamination of the lake, but its getting better recently. Chapala lake still has the that not very clean green water so hopefully the cleaning of this marvellous place will improve in future.
Every single town around the lake is absolutely different from the others. Just a couple of minutes by car between the villages, but still every place is special in a way.
CHAPALA is the biggest village here around the lake Chapala founded in 1521 by Chapalac, the chief of Indian Tecuexe tribe. In the early 20th ct, a wealthy Norwegian, Christian Schjetnan Hansen started works in Chapala and established the communication with Guadalajara which brought a lot of tourism to the area.
The carnival – fiesta del pueblo – is the biggest party in Chapala. The village offers its visitors a very colourful market along the shore and a quite pier good for family picnic and children’s plays, just to mention some things to do. A must is a short visit to Parroquia de San Francisco de Asís built in 1747 in Renaissance style. The tomb of Fray Miguel de Bolonia, a Flemish missionary who lived in the town, can be found here. Worth a visit is the Town Hall (Palacio Municipal) which was originally a hotel of red bricks built in 1898. Famous Mexican actress Maria Felix spent her honeymoon here. You can still enter the building to see the amazing painted wall next to the staircase.
Los Alacranes is the biggest island in lake Chapala where you can get by boat from the pier in Chapala village. There is a restaurant on the island in case you get hungry, but not much else to do there, so I recommend you to visit another island, Isla de Mezcala.
Mezcala is not very touristic, mostly only people who live close know about it and have been there (in Guerrero there is a village and river called Mezcala, too). In a village you should not miss a boat to La Mezcala Island, ask about the prices, you can tell them less because they always make the price higher than it usually is.
Mezcala island used to be a fort called the Presidio, where Indians fought against the Royalist Army in 1812, until 1816 they resisted the Spanish invasion. And later one of the main buiildings served as a prison. Is is very nice to visit the ruins of the prison of the Indians, dorms where the Spaniards stayed at night, and the ruins of the church. Is is possible to climb up to the roof of both the prison and the church to get the view of the whole Mezcala Island and Chapala lake.
On the island there is a really big tree, known as Palo Blanco (literally White Stick) older than 200 years. It is of a weird white and light green colour so please take a photo of it as I do not think you will come across the same piece ever again. This one has more than 200 years.
Next to Mezcala Island there is another little island called simply by the locals La Isla Chica or La Isla Menor – The Little Island, The Smaller Island.
Ajijic – la ciudad de la risa – jiji is the sound of the laugh in Spanish so it is called the town of the laugh. From all the towns around the Lake Chapala, Ajijic is the place where you will find many foreigners. It is probably the biggest colony in Mexico with the Canadians and the U.S. citizens. The extremely huge houses are sold here for U.S. dollars, not Mexican pesos. Very picturesque, whole houses painted with colours, mostly native imagery. What gives it even more beauty to the town is the long pier along the Chapala lake for children to play, walk, fishing, or just breath the fresh air and listen to the waves. There are many galleries, crafts, restaurants and bars.
JOCOTEPEC – in comparison with Ajijic and Chapala, Jocotepec is a very calm place where inhabitants cultivate vegetables. There are some great restaurants here with the view of Chapala lake, one of them is El Mirador with a big offer of fish dishes you should taste, overlooking the lake.