After spending over four months near Lake Chapala, it is time to move on. We will definitely be back but we can’t leave without giving a shout out to the places, restaurants, and small businesses we will miss the most. If you visit Ajijic, we hope you enjoy our favorites as much as we did!
Restaurant Las Gaviotas
Grab a table right next to the lake and enjoy watching herons and pelicans enjoy their dinner – as you enjoy yours. Favorite eats here include the Fish or Shrimp Ceviche and the Queso con Chorizo! This was also one of the few restaurants lakeside that served salsa spicy enough to please our family! We preferred to go in the late afternoon to avoid crowds, but if you are looking for a more festive environment you might prefer going for dinner.
Smokehouse serves up the most tender and tasty brisket I have ever had! The hamburgers are the best in the area (according to my teen, so it must be true). The ribs fall from the bone to the delight of your anxiously awaiting taste buds. The sides are delicious and include favorites from North of the Border – onion rings, coleslaw, and potato salad. Daily specials, including all you can eat ribs on Thursdays, are not to be missed. The large patio is dog- friendly! (The street dogs also know this is a great place to get some dinner)
Heading out for Thai food might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re in Ajijic, but Tepetate offers some of the most authentic Thai food I have had outside of Thailand. The restaurant features all the classic dishes like Phad Thai, a variety of Curries, and Coconut Shrimp. The owner is from Bangkok and the spiciness goes from 1-10.
We cannot speak highly enough of our friends Juan Diego and Laura – and the amazing products they produce. Their goat milk, yogurt (greek and regular), and soaps are some of the reasons it was hard to say farewell to Ajijic. You can find them at the Tuesday organic market and the Wednesday Ajijic market. Laura and Juan Diego also give tours of their goat farm. Read about our visit to their farm here!
Coffee from Veracruz
My mother tipped us off about amazing coffee from Vera Cruz sold out of a truck on the Carretera (aka- the main drag in Ajijic). If you see this truck, stop immediately. Not only is this some of the outstanding coffee you’ll ever have, Francisco is incredibly kind. His family grows the coffee and he drives back and forth to Vera Cruz to sell it directly to the consumer. No corporations involved! He will even hand grind the coffee for you if you don’t have your own grinder. We bought 3 kilos when we left for our trip back to Seattle! We can’t wait to serve it to our discerning friends (if we don’t drink it all during the road trip).
Happy Life (Chocolates)
Chocolate plus helping youth! What is not to love? The owner, Margarita Llona, is a former Montessori teacher who is devoted to empowering youth by teaching them business skills through a one-on-one mentoring program. We especially love her peanut butter cups and nut butters! Her products are made without sugar or oil. You can find her at several markets around Ajijic (often next to Productos de Cabra Galo de Allende).
There are many places to stroll around Lake Chapala, but the malecón in Jocotepec is our favorite. The nearby park offers plenty of trees that provide an escape from the sun, gorgeous indigenous inspired sculptures, a playground and a skatepark. This is also a great place for bird watching. Definitely a favorite spot for locals as well. There wasn’t a time we visited when families weren’t enjoying its beauty. There are even a few vendors serving cool drinks and snacks.
The thermal baths exceeded our expectations. The grounds are beautifully maintained and the baths overlook the lake. The staff monitor how many people go into each tub, to ensure a relaxing experience. Depending on the package you purchase you will have access to 4 or 6 tubs. The thermal mineral water hot tubs provide a variety of hydrotherapies (e.g., flowers, apple cider vinegar, salt, coffee, or even wine). The two special baths rotate the type of hydrotherapies available (making multiple trips worthwhile). You end your experience by slathering yourself with therapeutic mud and then one final soak. You can also enjoy steam and ozone rooms. Or for an additional charge – a massage, facial, or pedicure. Your admission fee also gives you access to the heated pools and several other hot tubs making it possible to spend an entire day unwinding and being pampered.
After a 30-minute boat ride from Mezcala, you arrive at a peaceful island steeped in history. The island is famous for when Indigenous people held the Spaniards from overtaking it for four years (1812-1816). Depending on which boat captains are available, you can pay for a guided island tour or your boat captain will wait while you explore (usually 1 hour of waiting is included and the fare negotiated is round-trip). It is helpful to understand some Spanish or hire a local guide for this experience. This was a highlight of our time in Ajijic. We were in a parade and got quite the history lesson.
Mazamitla, a Pueblo Mágico, is about an hour and a half drive from Ajijic. The road, although winding through the mountains, is in great condition. And the drive is worth it. Upon arrival, you feel as if you were transported to an alpine village in Europe. The contrast in the type vegetation and architecture is substantial. It is also a great day trip if you need a break from the heat. There are plenty of shops and restaurants in the village. There are also numerous tour companies that will take you up into the mountains, if you are seeking adventure. On the way back down you can stop and pick up some water buffalo for dinner from a small roadside shop. Who knew there were water buffalo in Mexico?