If you happen to find yourself here, you’ll be happy to know that while the town is quite small, there are still many things to do in Ajijic.
Ajijic, a picturesque pueblo mágico nestled on the shores of Lake Chapala in Jalisco, central Mexico, has become a haven for expats and retirees from all over the world, but mainly the US, Canada, and the UK. With its stunning natural beauty, mild climate, and charming local culture, Ajijic offers a unique blend of modern amenities and traditional Mexican charm. Despite its popularity among expats, Ajijic has managed to maintain its calm and peaceful atmosphere, making it an ideal destination for anyone seeking a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. I know I did, and it was the best choice I could have made. In this blog post, I will delve deeper into what makes Ajijic so special, why it’s worth considering as your next travel destination, and all the best things to do in the city.
But First Things First- Guadalajara to Ajijic
Getting to Ajijic is easy. From Guadalajara’s Central Vieja station, you can take a red/white Chapala bus. There are buses that go directly between Guadalajara and Ajijic, skipping both Chapala and Jocotopec. To leave Ajijic and return to Guadalajara, there are also direct buses.
If you are heading to Ajijic from a southern suburb of Guadalajara, then you may need to pass through Jocotopec on the way. I was staying with friends in San Agustin, so I first took a bus to Jocotopec, and there I changed to a Chapala bus which dropped me off an hour later in Ajijic. There are many stops so it takes longer than it should. Traveling as early as possible will save you a traffic headache. The photo on the left is the schedule for leaving Ajijic and going directly to Guadalajara.
It’s easy to move between all the small towns along the water. You can catch almost any bus between Jocotopec and Chapala, as long as it’s not labeled “Guadalajara Directo.” There is also a long bike/walking route if you are looking for exercise.
Is Ajijic Mexico Safe?
Safety is really quite subjective. It depends on your personal experiences, your spatial awareness, and your comfort level. Personally, I never felt unsafe. It’s a small town and I spent 5 full days there alone. I felt comfortable on the transportation, as well as going out alone at night. Because of its small size, the streets do tend to get pretty dead once the sun goes down. There are some bars and restaurants but I wouldn’t say there was a very active and lively nightlife. That said, the dark and quiet streets can feel a bit daunting only because of the unknown factor. Just take regular precautions, be aware of your surroundings, and you should be fine.
How do you pronounce Ajijic?
If you’re not that familiar or comfortable with Spanish, the word ‘Ajijic’ can seem a bit confusing. But just remember, in the Spanish language, all letters are pronounced the same each time. A ‘j’ in Spanish makes an ‘h’ sound in English, like ‘horse,’ ‘house,’ and ‘hat.’ The ‘i’ in Spanish is pronounced like a long ‘e’ in English, like ‘team,’ and ‘green.’ An ‘a’ in Spanish is said like an open ‘a’ in English. For example, “Amish,” or “awesome.’
So let’s break the Ajijic pronunciation down into syllables:
Enjoy Your Accommodation in Ajijic
I wouldn’t usually promote staying in your accommodation while you’re traveling, but in Ajijic, I’m definitely not against it. There are so many fantastic Ajijic hotels, Bnb’s, guesthouses, etc. here in Ajijic, that it would be a crime to not take advantage and enjoy them a little. Many have swimming pools, jacuzzis, great views of Lake Chapala, and incredible sunrises from balconies.
Check the Ajijic map below for several housing options.
I stayed here in this fantastic Ajijic hotel for 5 nights and couldn’t be happier. I stayed in the room on the very top floor, which has windows on 3 sides, and beautiful views all around. There is a private patio that allows you to see Lake Chapala. This was incredibly peaceful. Every morning I woke up and enjoyed a quiet morning with the sounds of the birds and the sunset.
There is a full kitchen, fresh drinking water, a private safe, and all towels and linens are provided. The bed is massive and so very comfortable. It would be a great romantic room for a couple. The hosts, Colin and Brian, are great and are always willing to help you find what you need. There are several rooms, each with a unique floor plan and style. I definitely feel this provided value for what I paid.
This is easily one of my favorite places I have ever stayed! I was sad to leave!
Hotel Lindo Ajijic
This Ajijic hotel is on the opposite side of the main road from where the majority of the action happens in town. That said, nothing is far in this small town, just a short walk away. Because of its location higher up on the hill, you can get fantastic views from your room. There is a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, and a relaxing garden area with benches and pool beds. There is also a spa on the grounds which was very relaxing. The people working here were very kind and helpful.
This is one of the more affordable hotels in the area. The location is just on the opposite side of the main road through town from the water, but everything is so close and easy to walk to. The hotel has a terrace with a decent view, free private parking, a garden, and breakfast included.
Casa de la Abuela
This is a great Ajijic hotel right at the top of the hill with a fantastic view, and just a few minutes from hiking trails. The hotel has shared gardens, an outdoor pool and rooms with partial lake views. All rooms have a fan, a minibar and a private bathroom with free toiletries. Studios also have a kitchen. Breakfast is included. There are also bbq’s available for use. Free parking.
Hostels in Ajijic
Unfortunately there do not seem to be any hostels in Ajijic. This is most likely due to the fact that it is not a young person’s hot spot. The majority of foreigners here are of retirement age.
Get Some Rest & Relaxation in Ajijic
Because of the tourism and the high population of North American and European retirees, there are plenty of places around town to get a teeth cleaning, a doctor check-up, and the best part- massages. If you were wondering what to do in Ajijic, but then remembered you came here to relax, well go ahead and treat yourself to a massage. I recommend the Spa Lindo Ajijic.
This spa is inside of the Hotel Lindo Ajijic. It’s a professional and clean space; the massage therapist was also fantastic. I got a one hour relaxing massage and as massages always do, the time went too fast. You must pay in cash, and you can make a reservation by sending a whatsapp message to: +52-33-1865-4766.
The massages were between 1000-1200 pesos/hour.
Take a Hike in Ajijic
The most well known hike in the area is up to El Tepalo. There are actually a number of trails, the majority of which are very well marked with white paint on rocks. Start by walking to where “El Tepalo” is marked on Google Maps. Then head up the dirt road and keep following the white painted rocks until you reach the top. It gets very hot, so I strongly suggest starting as early as possible. I left my hotel with sunrise at 6:45am, and reached the peak about 7:45. It was definitely getting very hot on my way back down, and I felt sorry for the people I passed on the way headed up at that time. In the rainy season (June-August), you’ll be able to see a waterfall, but don’t expect to see much in the dry seasons.
This is not a beginner’s hike. There are lots of rocks and very steep sections as the trail switches back and forth. I did not have sport shoes, though I still managed with what I had. Although I do think hiking shoes or sneakers with good traction would be the best option. I saved doing this hike until my last day in the town, but I definitely think doing this hike is one of the best things to do in Ajijic.
Ride a Horse around Ajijic
If you fancy a stroll around town on horseback, I have just the place for you.
Head to the futbol stadium as a landmark. Once you’re reach the corner of Calle Revolución and Paseo Camino Real, look for the long stretch of dirt and trees between the two lanes of the street. At the very end you’ll see some horses hanging around.
Head towards the horses, and you’ll be greeted by the friendly caretakers. They speak both English and Spanish. They are very friendly, and are from Ajijic so the know the area very well.
Rides around town cost:
30 minutes: 100 pesos
60 minutes: 200 pesos
If you are enjoying yourself and want to keep going, there is a possibility of extending your time. You will be accompanied by one of the care takers at all times. They can even take you up into the hills above Ajijic for majestic views.
If you have children, there are also small horses available, and a small area where they can walk in circles.
Explore Ajijic by Foot
Lake Chapala Society
The Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic feels like little USA inside Ajijic. The entrance is on the corner of 16 de Septiembre and Ramón Corona. Once you enter, you’ll be greeted by English speaking volunteers. Take a walk around the space. It’s a massive garden with beautiful flora, ponds, a gazebo, massive English library, meeting rooms, concert spaces, a cafe, and an administration office.
Visit the Main Plaza
The Plaza Principal in Ajijic is a beautiful town square, both during the day and at night. In the center is a gazebo with Mexican flags strung up. The plaza is surrounded on all sides by cafes and restaurants. Here you can find live music, street vendors, friends enjoying a coffee in the sun, and people relaxing on the benches.
Crafts & Shopping
As you wander around town, you’ll be treated to wonderful shops and market stands, selling homemade soaps, traditional Mexican clothing, linen clothing, leather sandals, etc. There is a small street just off of the main plaza, where several vendors set up tents throughout the day and evening. I got some beautiful earrings and a chunky rock ring. Most of them even accept payment with a credit card.
Cobblestone Streets and Painted Buildings
One of the best things to do in Ajijic is to simply wander. Every corner is a unique photo opportunity. Painted walls, murals, doors, bougainvillea. Really soak up the feel and energy of the city in these small streets. Get out early if you really want the streets to yourself.
Walk Along Ajijic’s Malecón
The Ajijic Malecón (boardwalk along the water) is absolutely stunning, and spreads quite far along the edge of town. Take a leisurely stroll and soak in the view. There are palm trees lining the edge, and this is where you can find the “AJIJIC” sign. The Ajijic Malecón is beautiful both at day and night. There are a few Ajijic restaurants and bars along the path as well, where you can stop to grab a drink while admiring Lake Chapala.
Ajijic Museo de Arte (AMA)
Ajijic both attracts artists and inspires art. There are even urban sketching groups that meet every Wednesday. With such a high density of artists in the area, there is of course a space to showcase their work, which is the AMA- Ajijic Museo de Arte. It’s on the western side of town and costs 40 pesos to enter.
View the Parroquia San Andres
Parroquia San Andres is a Catholic church located one block from the Plaza Principal, and is dedicated to Saint Andrew the Apostle. The church is a historic building with a unique blend of Spanish colonial and traditional Mexican architectural styles, featuring interesting rock work on the outside and religious artwork on the inside. It plays an important role in the religious and cultural life of Ajijic, hosting regular masses, weddings, and other religious ceremonies. It is also a popular tourist attraction due to its picturesque location, rich history, and beautiful architecture.
Eat and Drink Well in Ajijic
La Vie en Rose
This is a cute French-style cafe, popular with the expats in town. There is a great patio out front with tables and chairs. The people working here are very friendly and speak both English and Spanish.
If you’re topped off Mexican food, make a lunch stop here to try out some Mediterranean flavors. The patio in front is really cute, with trees and plants all around, along with several tables.
Whenever I mentioned Ajijic, I was always told- GO TO TANGO AJIJIC. So I did! This is an Argentinian-style Ajijic restaurant with several options on the parrilla. It is slightly expensive, although the food is absolutely delicious. The menu is very extensive. I got the salmon and it was cooked to perfection. I also ordered a glass of Malbec, and the total was around $400 pesos.
I suggest going around 7pm before it gets busy. If you go around Mexican dinner time, 9pm, you’ll find the restaurant very crowded. I had no problem to get a table at 7:30pm.
Alex’s Pasta Bar
The pasta here is very fresh, and the chicken parmigiana is one of the best items on the menu to order. They have a great open style restaurant, where the entire front wall is open to the street which is really pleasant. They have live music on weekend afternoons.
This bar is super fun. It would be very easy to walk right by and not realize it. But inside is a perfect Mexican dive bar, with live music in the evenings. I went alone but quickly made friends with the locals and the bartenders. Everyone was very friendly and the drinks were affordable. The music was great, and the ambit was perfect. I had such a fun night here!
Explore the Surrounding Areas of Ajijic
Chapala is considered to be the capital city, and easily the biggest city, of the Lake Chapala region. While it is definitely has a bigger feel than Ajijic, the majority of the things to see are concentrated near the water’s edge. There are a couple different spots along the Ajijic Malecón where you can find a Chapala sign. There are a ton of Ajijic restaurants, cafes, and market stalls at the Malecón as well. This is a great place to get souvenirs, though I did notice that prices were slightly higher here than in the San Juan de Dios market in Guadalajara. There are also several sweet treats to try on the water’s edge- tejuino (drink made from corn), and nieve de garrafa (ice cream made from water instead of milk). If you’re keen, you can also go out on a boat ride. You’ll see several boats at the dock available for rent.
To get there from Guadalajara, you’ll need to catch a bus from Central Vieja bus station. It takes around one hour, depending on traffic. To get to Chapala from Ajijic, you simply need to wait at one of the many bus stops along the main road and get on any bus (except the ones that say “Guadalajara Directo”), and you’ll arrive to Chapala within 15-20 minutes. The cost is 9 pesos. If you give 10 pesos, don’t expect to get change back.
San Juan Cosalá
San Juan Cosalá is a small town right between Jocotopec and Ajijic. It is known for its thermal baths, of which there are many. One of the main ones is at the Hotel Balneario San Juan Cosala. There is also the Spa Termal Tlalocan. If you’re looking to relax without the presence of children, the Termal Cosala is adults only.
Ajijic may be small, but there is a lot to keep you occupied without feeling too busy. Enjoy this small town, and soon you will see why so many people retire here. I might be back in 30 years!
Is Ajijic worth Visiting?
I would say the answer to that question is absolutely yes! Ajijic is quiet and small and peaceful. It’s full of art and wellness centers and nature. You can find beautiful jewelry, clothing, and handmade souvenirs. You can enjoy a wonderful meal or a specialty coffee in one of the plaza cafes. Visiting Ajijic was a highlight of my trip to Mexico, and I can’t wait to go back again one day.
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