The government of Mexico’s just released 2020 census data shows the lake Chapala area is growing along with the greater Guadalajara metro area, located less than an hour north.
Our state of Jalisco is third largest of Mexico’s 32 states and the Guadalajara metropolitan area’s 5.2 million people ranks third largest in the country behind Mexico City and Monterrey. Within the Guadalajara metro area, the municipality of Zapopan, with a population of 1.47 million, is now larger than the municipality of Guadalajara’s 1.38 million people.
On the north shore of Lake Chapala, the municipalities of Chapala and Jocotepec attract most of the expat residents. The municipality of Chapala consists of the town of Chapala, as the seat of government, and the five villages of Ajijic, San Antonio Tlayacapan, San Nicolas de Ibarra, Santa Cruz de la Soledad and Atotonilquillo.
The town of Chapala, with a population of 26,300, is about 47 percent of the municipality’s 55,200 residents. That’s a growth of approximately 13 percent over the 2010 population of 48,300. Nearly ten percent, about 5,400, of Chapala’s population were born outside of Mexico. Chapala retains its more Mexican environment and seemingly lower cost of living when compared with the villages of San Antonio Tlayacapan and Ajijic.
Of the five outlying villages, Ajijic, with a population of 11,400, is about 20 percent of the Chapala municipality and is the largest expat center. For that reason, the cost of living in Ajijic seems to be the highest. The village that reflected the largest growth over the past ten years, however, was San Antonio Tlayacapan, growing by just over one-third. It is situated just east of Ajijic and attracts many expats due to its proximity to Ajijic activities and a more modest cost of living when compared to Ajijic.
Other nearby expat living options include Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos, a city of 68,000 that is just over the mountain range north of Chapala and along the highway to Guadalajara. Though its proximity to Lake Chapala is obvious, it is included within the metro Guadalajara population count. It has gained popularity for expats because of its old Mexico feel, cost of living and easy access via a dual-lane divided highway to north shore activities.
To the west of Ajijic is the municipality of Jocotepec that anchors the far west end of Lake Chapala. Jocotepec, with a population of 47,100, attracts expats seeking the lowest cost of living along the north shore of the lake. With the recently completed renovations to the main highway along the lake’s north shore, it affords easy travel access to Ajijic and points east. A bicycling path extending from Chapala to Jocotepec is under construction and is anticipated to be completed within the next year.
Bicycles are a main form of transportation for many Mexicans and are becoming a popular means of healthy exercise for expats. The new bicycling path also will serve as a safe path for those who enjoy jogging and walking as a healthy outdoor activity.
Just east of Chapala, toward the eastern end of Lake Chapala, is the municipality of Poncitlan, which remains very Mexican in its lifestyle and environment. Fewer expats live among its 53,600 inhabitants.
The Lake Chapala region has grown considerably the past 10 years but still retains its warm and welcoming hospitality. Catherine and I are now in our fourteenth year of living lakeside and have seen the growth, but are glad that the region maintains its tranquil Mexican village appeal while it continues to improve local infrastructure.
For example, we have seen three new hospitals open lakeside in the past 10 years, affording quality healthcare options. There has been commercial growth too, in not only basics, but many desired needs for a comfortable life. There also continues to be growth in local artisan crafts and live entertainment in music and theater. And last year, the Mexican government named Ajijic as a Pueblo Magico (Magic Town), which reflects its history, culture, beauty and environment as a tourist mecca.
Travel to and from Lake Chapala by air will also be improving within the next few years with the expansion of the Guadalajara International Airport, which is less than 45-minutes away.
All of the changes we have seen these past 10 years have made life along the lake just that much more pleasant. We have a marvelous year-round climate, we are far enough inland to avoid the threats of tropical storms, but just a five to six-hour drive or bus trip to several Pacific Ocean resort destinations (the new Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta highway should fully open next fall, cutting several hours off the drive).
Even with the growth we have seen, we at lakeside think we have it all: less stress and peaceful tranquility with opportunities for adventure. Truly the “Good Life” at Lake Chapala.