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The Best Things to Do in This Lovely Mexican Town

Why the leisurely charm of Ajijic appeals to expats and snowbirds—and visitors like you

A walkway showcasing palm trees and benches along the coast of Ajijic in Mexico

For those seeking a Mexican experience slightly off the beaten path, Ajijic—pronounced AH-hee-heek— is a destination I recommend adding to your list. A haven for retirees and snowbirds from Canada and the U.S., the quaint town of 10,000 is blessed with good weather, local character and a picturesque lakefront area. Here’s what to expect.

Enjoy a warm welcome

Although it’s popular with snowbirds, Ajijic’s spring-like climate draws visitors throughout the year. (Temperatures don’t get extremely hot or cold, and the sunshine lightens everyone’s mood.) Guadalajara—and its international airport—are a 45-minute drive away, making the town easy to access.

Accommodation is mainly found in B&Bs and small inns. There is, however, one traditional hotel in town, La Nueva Posada, which has some baroque flair. This is where the Canadian Club of Lake Chapala meets and hosts monthly guest speakers and social events.

Try activities for every speed

People riding horses with dogs trailing along cobblestone streets in a small Mexican town 

Adventurous visitors can explore the town on horseback, accompanied by a guide, or seek out a local hiking group and discover the stunning Sierra Madre Mountains.

Those looking for a quieter pace should head to the malecón, or lakeside boardwalk, a town highlight for locals and visitors. Take a leisurely stroll or settle in on a bench to watch pelicans, ducks and herons do their thing in the largest body of fresh water in the country.

You’ll also find a laid-back pace at the Wednesday market, where vendors peddle everything from fresh produce and fish to crafts and clothing.

Taste a broad range of food

 Two delicious looking authentic Mexican tacos garnished with radish and lime on the side

Delicious Mexican cuisine, along with plenty of options for international fare, can be surprisingly affordable here if you look for less touristy restaurants. To keep it traditional, I tried cochinita pibil tacos, a slow-roasted pork dish originating from the Yucatán Peninsula. Wandering a small side street, I discovered a pleasant Thai restaurant where I ordered lad na (wide rice noodles in a savoury sauce with chicken). 

Meet local (four-legged) characters

I probably spotted more horses in one week than I’ve seen in my lifetime. In a single day, dozens plodded along the cobblestoned streets as part of a Lenten parade, ridden by locals in traditional dress. On one early morning, several others grazed by the shore of Lake Chapala. But one curious scene stopped me in my tracks: a tethered horse in the afternoon sun on a dusty downtown sidewalk, having a staring contest with a tiny Chihuahua.

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Image credits: istock.com/Esdelval; accesslakechapala.com; Lakeistock.com/Jacopo Ventura