About the Chapala Area
Chapala, Mexico has long been a draw for those interested in spirituality. Indian yogi and guru Paramahansa Yogananda, who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship, visited in 1929. He is famously pictured in a boat on Lake Chapala and even wrote a poem inspired by the beautiful scenery and welcoming people. He is quoted as saying: “The Mexican people are spiritually inclined.”
Chapala is rated by National Geographic as one of the best climates in the world. Even in the rainy season the showers mainly come at night. Today Chapala is a simple but charming working-class Mexican town with lakeside walks and a buzzing weekend scene. The area is home to a large community of ex-pats from around the world drawn by the welcoming people, colorful atmosphere and year round perfect weather.
Paramahansa Yogananda on Lake Chapala 1929
Within Walking Distance – Enjoy the best sunset stroll ever along the lake promenade (Malecon) or take in the vibrant local vendors at the permanent street stalls nearby. Be serenaded by the many Mariachi street musicians in their traditional garb. Or take a quiet solo sunrise walk to Christiana Park and enjoy the prolific wetland bird population greeting the new day.
Eating Out – For a great margarita and other traditional Mexican fare there is a wide variety of restaurants and cafes in both Chapala and nearby Ajijic. Eating out is always a fun experience and a great opportunity to meet the openhearted, friendly locals.
Art and Artists – The mystical energy of the nearby village of Ajijic has long been a magnet for artists of all disciplines. You are invited to immerse yourself in the regions unique offerings of sculpture, textiles, jewelry, stained glass, photography, pottery, oil and acrylic painting and watercolors.
Mexican Street Markets – (Tianguis) Don’t miss these wonderful open-air markets. You can purchase a large assortment of fruits and vegetables, local crafts, delicious homemade snacks and traditional herbal medicines. Monday in Chapala on Calle Obregon / Wednesday in Ajijic on Calle Revolution
Thermal Pools – The lakeside village of San Juan Cosala, offers natural hot springs, delicious herbal spas plus thermal saunas known as temazcal.
Island Visits – A short boat ride from Chapala takes you to the secluded Isla de los Alacranes (Scorpion Island) – where you can have a simple meal and enjoy bright wall art that tells stories of the island and inhabitants. Another island to visit on Lake Chapala is Isla de Mezcala. Here you’ll find ruins of a fort to explore where Mexican independence fighters held strong from 1812 to 1816.
Walking – If you love a vigorous hike, there are many mountain trails with sheltered waterfalls for quiet reflection during the rainy season and glorious views over the lake.
Pelicans at sunset on Lake Chapala
Ode to Lake Chapala
by Paramahansa Yogananda (1929)
Like the flickering flame of Indo-skies,
Thy moods of limpid waters
Boisterously play with fitful gleaming storm,
Or rest on thy shining forehead
without a ripply wrinkle!
‘This then thy silver, shining mind,
Free of ruffling causes,
A transparent mirror—
Reflects just noble images
Of the green-dressed young and old hills,
Like tableaux of drilling soldiers
Standing hand in hand, with dwarf and tall heads,
Crowned with sliver skies or fleecy clouds.
I beheld the starry damsels
Beautifying their twinkling faces
In the mirror of thy waters.
How I watched in the flickering hall of lightning
Thy furious fight with the gunning clouds.
Showering torrential bullets of spattering rain,
O! what wild cloud-churned skies
and bounding winds,
Rolling thunder peals,
bursting vapour embankments,
Have flooded thy territory of waters
And have lashed thy spirit
to rouse thy resting soldier-waves
To leap to furious fightings!
Then again, when truce is signed with storm gods
And warring fury of the skies,
I find a stray white sail
Charged with a vital breeze,
Racing to thy horizon’s hidden unknown shores.
Thy nocturnal silence,
Oft rocked to sleep
By the lullaby of thy gentle breakers,
Is rudely roused at dawn
By those busy silence-shattering, droning sounds
Of man-made, horrid watery ploughs
Which encroach upon
Thy private fields of silence,
O! Changing Chapala
—The gleaming lightning of my feeling’s skies!
I love thee as never before!
Here’s hill-ramparted lake—
Which can allay
The scenic-beauty thirst of yearning minds.
When comes such another? Where?
Thy beauty will be snatched
From my adoring skies
By cruel duties of exacting life,—
But they will fail to take away
Thy beauty enthroned in me as joy for e’er.
The stony arms of the palace by thy banks
Enclosed a tract of thy loved waters,
And ‘neath the lone, shady tree,
Standing on the spot ‘tween two sheets of water,
Oft I sat with those unforgettable hours—
When I beheld the Infinite
Emerge from pale unanswering walls of blue—
And unite my soul with thee,
Mounts, skies, and me!