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The Difference Between Chapala And Ajijic

Updated: Apr 14, 2022

A lot of you who have never visited Lake Chapala are wondering what the difference is between Chapala and Ajijic. Frankly, it's like night and day. So which one is for you and what are the differences?


Although Ajijic started out as a rural fishing village it is important to know that Ajijic has been an expat destination for about 70 years now. Because of this, there developed over time, many services and shops catering to the expat population. This, in turn, has led to the need for more locals to speak English. You should know, though, that Ajijic still retains it's rustic charm and it's picture postcard look. Ajijic is definitely still a village compared to a town.

Ajijic has Highway 23 (the Carretera), the main highway between Chapala and Jocotepec, which runs directly through the village and this often prompts complaints about the traffic and congestion. But as soon as you are one block off of this main artery with it's many businesses and restaurants, you'll be back to the horse trodden cobblestones of Ajijic.

As a result of having more available land and the expat population, Ajijic features more hospitals, clinics and laboratories than Chapala. A huge benefit for us who come to live our remaining years here. Another complaint I here from visitors to Ajijic is that “there are only expats living here, where's Mexico?” Nothing could be further from the truth and these 'Facebook myths' grow bigger with each passing year. It is important to keep a frame of reference as to how many expats live here. Although there are no official numbers as the population is transient, I would say that Ajijic has a population of about 10% expats. If you visit in January thru March, you might disagree with me, as the population can double in the winter months with Canadian and American snowbirds.

Also due to the expat population and the close proximity and frequent visitors from Guadalajara, there is a huge variety of restaurant choices. You can get anything here from Vietnamese to Thai, Indian to Italian and so much more, making Ajijic a delight for people who love to eat out.

What you'll also find in Ajijic is more yoga studios, Pilates, meditation centers, live theater and shows, movie theaters, and clubs and activities of all kinds.

The cobblestone streets of Ajijic are lined with many murals and with the addition of Pueblo Magico status in 2020, we will be seeing more improvements in the heart of the village in the coming years to infrastructure and tourist areas, increasing it's overall beauty and charm.


Chapala is a town, no doubt about it and has a much more urban (city) feel. Chapala is the county seat for the area featuring City Hall and other government offices. They receive more money for infrastructure and as such showcase a more elaborate Malecon and some better streets and sidewalks near the heart of the town. Due to it's slightly closer proximity to Guadalajara and it's much more extensive Malecon, it draws lot of visitors from the big city who enjoy vacations and weekends away from the smog and noise of Mexico's second largest city.

Chapala has a tremendous number of restaurants too but lacks the ethnic diversity of restaurants found in Ajijic.

As the expat population is very small, maybe 2-4%, having a good grasp of the Spanish language will help in day to day living.

Key points describing Ajijic vs. Chapala

--picture postcard village with lots of murals

--more expats and gated communities

--more English speaking locals

--cobblestone streets throughout

--more tourists

--slow traffic along the Carretera thru the village of Ajijic

--more hospitals/clinics, services/shops/grocery stores/art galleries

--greater variety of restaurants in Ajijic

–more club activities

--more entertainment

--slightly higher rents/real estate prices

For more information about the Lake Chapala area or to ask your questions about making the move, Contact Us. We're always here for you!

Michaela & Ricardo are your FULL SERVICE Real Estate Agents. Along with our Retirement Seminars, our over 20 years of combined experience Lakeside, and our network of area Professionals, we help guide you to from beginning to forever in your Retirement Journey to Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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