Ajijic (Ah-hee-heek) offers an unparalleled and surprisingly sophisticated quality of life in a quaint, discreet Mexican village…with all the world-class services and amenities of the nearby metropolitan city, Guadalajara. This pre-colonial town on the sunny northern shore of Lake Chapala in Western Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains was founded by the Nahuatl Indians in the early 1400’s under their chief, Xitomatl. It was later colonized in 1652 by Fray Martin de la Coruña of Spain, leading to a unique integration of native and European cultures.
Eclectic Village Living
Artists and writers from around the world “discovered” Ajijic in the mid-1900s, lured by the ideal climate, the unspoiled quality of the village, and its festive, hospitable culture. The compact village is considered the “jewel” among the Lakeside villages, and maintains its charm through narrow cobblestone streets dating from the Colonial era, and walls decorated with colorful murals in the classic Mexican style. The streets are lined with vibrant-colored homes of every color imaginable, and a diverse range of small boutiques, galleries, candy stores, restaurants and shops.
The tranquil lake shimmers in different colors between dusk and dawn, while horses graze and snowy egrets fish along the shoreline. The streets overflow with lush Bougainvilleas of every shade and huge specimen trees including majestic palms, pine trees and flowering specimens such as Jacarandas, African Tulips, Royal Poinciana, Magnolia and many others.
Arts and Culture
Since expats make up nearly 50% of the population during the winter season, the village offers a far greater and more sophisticated variety of shops, arts, crafts, leisure activities and healthcare facilities than other Mexican towns. There are three theater companies, a large performing arts center which can accommodate an 80-piece classical orchestra, and a funky nightclub/music venue with a wide range of acts each week. In fact, it’s a world-class assemblage of cultural amenities disguised as a quaint, unassuming village.
Sophisticated Food & Dining
If fine foods and dining out are among your passions, then you’ll be content here. There’s a surprisingly wide range of specialty food markets, spice shops, organic markets and cafes, bakeries, coffee shops, ice cream parlors, and deli shops, plus a dizzying range of restaurants to suit any taste or budget. You’ll find French, Italian, Mexican, Continental, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, sushi, and steak houses restaurants along with numerous food trucks serving cuisines from Mexico to the Middle East. There are even three Thai restaurants within a five minute walk of Ajijic’s central plaza!
The Lake Chapala Society (LCS)
Founded in 1955, LCS is a non-profit organization in the heart of Ajijic dedicated to enriching the quality of life through the exchange of knowledge, expertise, culture, heritage and language. It offers a wide network of services for the expat community, as well as ongoing Spanish classes. LCS also assists the Mexican community with education in art, computers, English and academics. At its beautiful and extensively landscaped grounds, LCS also offers top notch speakers, exercise classes, a world-class English language lending library, and information about legal services, health insurance, immigration, and voting from abroad, among other topics.
Convenience and World-Class Amenities
Unlike most other expat havens, you don’t need to speak Spanish to get by perfectly fine, as there are so many U.S. and Canadian residents as well as locals who speak English. The village is about a half-hour drive from Guadalajara’s modern international airport, making travel to the U.S. and Canada as fast and easy as possible. This also means that you can enjoy all the benefits of an exciting world-class city that’s less than an hour away, while remaining blissfully separated from the hustle and bustle in a unique, exotic village environment.
Ten top reasons for owning a home in Ajijic:
- The natural beauty of the area includes miles of shoreline along the calm, shimmering waters of Lake Chapala, along with the majestic Sierra Madre Mountains that ring the lake.
- The warmth and hospitality of the local residents is contagious – not to mention their rich, festive culture which features year-round festivals, holidays, parades and fireworks displays.
- The exceptional semi-arid/tropical climate, tempered by a mile-high altitude, offers moderate temperatures throughout the year.
- Safety: Ajijic boasts a relatively low crime rate, with expats consistently reporting the feeling of being very safe – including the many single, retired women who walk to and from restaurants many evenings to meet friends, without fear.
- Ajijic is easily accessible: Guadalajara’s modern international airport is just 30 minutes away, with convenient, direct flights to many U.S. and Canadian cities and other international destinations.
- Ajijic’s culture is neither materialistic nor competitive, and boasts a relatively inexpensive standard of living – with property taxes less than $300 USD a year for most homeowners.
- With so many English-speaking residents it’s possible to get by without speaking Spanish.
- A wide variety of leisure activities including golf, tennis, and hiking, plus gardening and other clubs, organizations, academic lectures, and more – not to mention the thriving community service and social organizations that welcome the participation of all Ajijic residents.
- Despite the small-village atmosphere, Ajijic offers a wide range of world-class services and amenities, including many fine restaurants.
- A strong, welcoming and supportive expat community
Overall… an unparalleled quality of life
East of Ajijic
At the east entrance to Ajijic is La Floresta, an upscale, tree-lined residential neighborhood that runs both north and south of the main Carretera. A very desirable place to own a home, the neighborhood is conveniently located walking-distance to everything Ajijic offers, with a good homeowner’s association providing security patrol and other fine services.
The area features stately homes in many different architectural styles and price points, and many fine restaurants all within easy walking-distance. The stately Hotel Real de Chapala is set along the lake with lovely poolside dining. You’ll also find the Lake Chapala Municipal Auditorium – a cultural center with 465 seats, a stage large enough for an 80-piece symphony orchestra and excellent acoustics, which plays host to an annual chamber music festival and numerous other performances throughout the year.
San Antonio Tlayacapan
Just East of Ajijic and La Floresta is the quiet residential village of San Antonio Tlayacapan, right out of a storybook with its church, town square and cobblestone streets offering a true Mexican village living experience. The neighborhood houses an increasing number of fine restaurants catering to its growing expat community, an upscale food market with many imported goods, shops, furniture stores, a high end butcher, the Lakeside Little Theater where productions in English are presented throughout the year, and a terrific music venue nightclub with frequent live performances in many different genres. Next to the Centro Laguna Shopping Center is a private gated community named El Parquet. It has the feeling of a cohesive village with cobblestone streets, lovely homes, and a central clubhouse with a deluxe pool, a hot tub and a common kitchen and entertaining area.
Situated along the mountains on the north side of western San Antonio are several private, gated communities that attract expat homeowners and families from Guadalajara in search of a vacation home. Vista Alegre and Cielo Vista are immediately next to each other and built by the same developer. Each offers a common pool, tennis courts and a club house, along with round-the-clock private security. They are within walking distance to numerous restaurants, a shopping mall and the Lakeside Little Theater. A little further east also along the mountainside is Chula Vista Norte, a more upscale private gated community complex with unique, beautiful homes – most with outstanding lake and mountain views. Just east of this development along the Libramiento is Mision Chula Vista, another upscale private gated community with pool and clubhouse.
This upscale, established residential community along the main Carretera in San Antonio winds its way upwards into the mountains and features some of the area’s grandest homes. Inside the development you’ll find the Chula Vista Country Club, which features a beautiful nine-hole golf course that hugs the mountain. A strong neighborhood association maintains a high quality of services, including potable water, which is a luxury in Mexico.
Riberas del Pilar
This residential neighborhood is located between San Antonio Tlayacapan and Chapala, and hosts a range of homeowners including local Mexican, U.S. and Canadian expats, and a number of Mexicans who own a vacation homes. It offers a wide range of home options that are among the least expensive along the lakeside region, including many buildable lots. The neighborhood offers many conveniences such as Pancho’s upscale food market, shops, furniture stores, a fast-growing number of restaurants and the Bare Stage Theatre.
Mirasol, a neighborhood within the western section of Riberas del Pilar, is a collection of nicely planned residential communities and older homes next to available, developable lots. The neighborhood offers residents a quiet and yet truly authentic Mexican ambiance, with easy access to all that Riberas, San Antonio and the wider region has to offer.
With nearly 50,000 inhabitants, Chapala is the largest town along the lake, and a quintessential Mexican locale which is fast growing into an attractive, less expensive alternative to the towns that lie west.
The open mall on both sides of the street coming into Chapala from Guadalajara, all the way to the shores of the lake, is paved with tile and has a lovely center island with tropical trees, shrubs and flowers. There are several restaurant and sidewalk cafes near the center of town serving as focal points for socializing and they also offer good breakfasts and afternoon snacks.
The villa where British author D. H. Lawrence wrote his widely read “Plumed Serpent,” is on Zaragoza Street. The Cazadores Restaurant, a converted mansion on the lakefront, was once the home of the Braniff family of aviation fame. Local and Guadalajara sailors dock their sailboats and speedboats at the Chapala Yacht Club east of the pier. Across the street is a public park, horses for hire and the Chapala Handicrafts Market. There are several large Mexican and seafood restaurants along the lake, offering terrific meals and cocktails with a fantastic view.
Three minutes from Chapala on the highway to Guadalajara is Chapala Haciendas, spanning both sides of the highway with nice homes in a tropical setting with lovely views. The Chapala Haciendas Hotel and Restaurant has a casual atmosphere and overlooks the lake. An abundance of shade trees and tropical flowers cover the hillsides, creating a feeling of a tropical paradise.
Vista del Lago
The private Chapala Country Club, nestled in the Vista del Lago residential area, is about 15 minutes East of Chapala, near the town of San Nicolas. It features a well-maintained, nine-hole regulation par-36 golf course, and a clubhouse offering lunch and dinner. The area is a good choice for those looking to acquire a home in a golf course setting that is both private and secluded – away from it all in a neighborhood with magnificent lake views.
Puerta del Sol
Located a few miles north of Chapala, nestled in the mountains, Puerta del Sol is a favored area for those who are looking for peace and quiet and larger parcels of land. There are many fruit trees, flowering bougainvillea, large custom-built villas and vistas of the lake and mountains.
A quiet, rural community a few miles east of Chapala, this peaceful town is drawing an increasing number of expats drawn to the tranquil life, advantageous real estate prices, and the ability to own larger parcels of land.
West of Ajijic
Las Salvias is perhaps the most prestigious lakeside neighborhood with beautiful homes, panoramic lake views and spectacular tropical growth on the upper side of western Ajijic along the mountains. It has a solid reputation of quality and value, and is generally a good choice for well-to-do foreigners looking for a home in Ajijic. There are traditionally few properties available here. A full-array of restaurants, shops, and services are walking distance, oriented to English-speaking foreign residents and tourists.
Rancho del Oro and Villa Nova
These two well-maintained neighborhoods sit side by side, about two kilometers from Ajijic’s central plaza. They are indistinguishable from each other except for their official boundaries, making a seamless cobblestone residential neighborhood of beautiful, well manicured homes with stunning lake and mountain views. Properties range from magnificent villas with million dollar views, to smaller, accessible homes along the lower section of the mountain. Rancho del Oro (meaning “The Golden Ranch”) was a gold mining area in the rush of the 1920s. Entrances to the now-closed goldmines are still visible alongside the upper part of the mountain.
Los Sabinos and La Reserva
These two private gated communities sit near to each other – Los Sabinos along the mountainside slightly closer to Ajijic, and La Reserva which sits below the Carretera slightly more west. They have been created by the same high end developer. Both of these communities boast impressive common areas, with La Reserva being much larger and still under development. It offers a wider range of high-end amenities, including a boutique hotel, restaurant, tennis courts and a boat dock. In either development, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you open the door of any unit, to see the open flow floor plan and outdoor living spaces.
Located between Los Sabinos and La Reserva is La Canacinta, a small, private gated neighborhood. Most homes in this community are constructed in traditional Mexican style, both large and small. La Canacinta has a nursing home on lakefront property, several small shops and cobblestone streets.
About three miles west of Ajijic, Natura Village, is a gated, planned community, featuring 28 ecological and sustainable homes, plus a common heated pool, two jacuzzis, a roof top garden, entertaining area and adjacent shopping center. The one or two-story home models feature solar panels, sun filtered crystals, reuse of water as well as LED lighting equipment, among other features.
San Juan Cosala
Ten minutes west of Ajijic is the village of San Juan Cosala with its famous thermal spas and spouting geyser. The Balneario Hotel is situated on the lakefront. The facility with its large public mineral swimming pools, steam cave and several restaurants is popular with locals and tourists alike. The exclusive Racquet Club, north of the Carretera, is a private gated community. Here, you’ll find residences in all architectural styles and at all price points, many with stunning views, along with an array of clay and hard tennis courts. The community also hosts the exclusive La Vita Bella hotel and restaurant with fine food and dazzling views, as well as the exquisite Monte Coxala hotel and spa, which features magnificent natural hot water baths in both indoor and outdoor settings, a full spa and restaurant.
Driving west five minutes further west of San Juan Cosala, just before entering Jocotepec, is the modern residential development of Las Fuentes. This area is designed for privacy and exclusive living with some of the best-built homes at lakeside, using top quality materials and accessories. Homes here are definitely USA style, and are available in a range of price points, considerably lower than properties closer to Ajijic.
Jocotepec is the anchor town at the extreme western end of the lake. Its history traces back to 1361 when the Nahua Indians settled there. In 1520 a Spanish expedition led by a cousin of Hernan Cortés conquered the Indians, and in 1529 Jocotepec was founded. The town has rustic charm and is widely known for its beautifully woven sarapes, with their traditional flowered motifs as well as other local handicrafts. Like the town of Chapala, “Joco” as he locals refer to it, is fast becoming a more affordable residential destination for expats looking for the next big real estate deal in this idyllic natural setting along Lake Chapala.
Roca Azul is a small development located around the West end of Lake Chapala just South of Jocotepec. It is well known for its nice homes, as well as the Roca Azul Country Club where many families gather, especially on Sundays, including those from Guadalajara. The Club overlooks the lake with great views and has as large pools; one with thermal water.