Lago de Chapala, Mexico’s largest lake measuring 12.5km by 80km, lies 50km south of Guadalajara. Surrounded by dramatic mountains and enjoying a mild climate (always warm during the day and pleasantly cool at night), the lake continues to lure North American retirees and, at weekends, masses of tapatíos (Guadalajarans) out for some fresh air, a boat ride and a fish lunch. For foreign tourists the allure is a little less compelling, although it does make for a fun escape from Guadalajara.
Sadly, the lake is not as healthy as it is beautiful. Water levels fluctuate due to Guadalajara’s and Mexico City’s water needs and on-again, off-again drought conditions. Commercial fertilizers washed into the lake have polluted it and nourished water hyacinth, an invasive plant that clogs the lake’s surface and kills off aquatic life. You’ll see very few people swimming here.