Vanlife diaries #48: Mazamitla, Jocotopec & Ajijic, Jalisco Mexico
Although off to a less than exciting start (with a long and unwelcome illness), this proved to be another beautiful week spent in the Mexican state of Jalisco as we explored the area surrounding Lake Chapala and two new Pueblo Mágicos.
What we’ve been up to this week
I’ll be honest, it’s been a rough couple of weeks.
Last week, just after my birthday and right before Dan’s, I came down with a cold that quickly developed into bronchitis. I’m absolutely no stranger to respiratory infections (and I typically get bronchitis and/or pneumonia at least once a year), so I wasn’t overly concerned when I started experiencing symptoms just before we got to Tequila last week.
As soon as I determined it wasn’t COVID, I figured I’d be able to manage it like I usually (sometimes, kind of) do. And I say that because I have a history of underestimating my own illnesses and failing to rest (and therefore failing to recuperate)… but surely this time was different, right?
Well, no. I tried too hard to keep up, largely due to Dan’s 40th and the desire to make that special, and then I came down worse than ever with full blown bronchospasms, mucus so bad that I had to bang on my chest when I coughed just to get a little air, and fatigue that made it hard to sit up.
This is how we spent our week in the cabaña we’d rented in Mazamitla, me slowly deteriorating in bed while Dan tried desperately not to get sick himself.
This week was meant to be a reset for us, an opportunity to catch up on a mountain of work, actually plan the next 5 months of our trip, finally monetise my blog, clean the van, and just enjoy time together without the stress of driving anywhere.
I suppose most of those things did happen, but certainly not as we’d hoped. We extended our stay for an 8th night, which at least got me in shape to leave bed for the first time all week, but it was still a shaky return to the van— in the end, I got on antibiotics, pushed our itinerary back a full week, and then eased a tentative toe out into town.
Although we’d been in Mazamitla for 9 days, Friday was our first day actually seeing the town (since it was the first day I successfully left bed, motivated by a 12pm check out).
As it turned out, this was another charming Pueblo Mágico— the coveted government designation that recognises 132 towns around Mexico for their rich culture, natural wonders, striking architecture, or historical significance.
Nestled in the high forest an hour south of Lake Chapala and apparently nicknamed “the Switzerland of Mexico”, Mazamitla is incredibly popular with domestic tourists, but there wasn’t a single gringo in the mix. Always a bonus!
In this case, the comparison to Switzerland was fairly accurate and we truly loved the hustle and bustle of the holiday weekend after a week with nothing but each other’s company and my unrelenting cough.
We spent a delightful 2 days wandering around Mazamitla, slowly regaining energy as the antibiotics took effect and hugely buoyed by the promise of more days like this— what a shame to miss another minute!
Jocotopec & Ajijic, Jalisco
By the end of the week, we finally cruised out of Mazamitla and retraced our route back north to the western shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest inland lake.
With Constitution Day this Monday, a national holiday celebrating the end of the Mexican Revolution and the signing of Mexico’s constitution in 1917, it seemed that every Mexican family was out and about for the festivities. We didn’t make it anywhere quickly through the long-weekend traffic, but we certainly had a good time watching as huge queues congregated at roadside bars that served cocktails in plastic bag with a straw.
As we strolled to the lakefront in Jocotopec, the entire Malecon was packed with local families and eager vendors, and we found the same around the north side of the lake in Ajijic.
One of Mexico’s newest Pueblo Mágicos, Ajijic (pronounced Ah-hee-heek) is also one of the country’s most popular expat destination and we’d heard from multiple people that the town was a major gringo centre.
Wary of finding so many Americans that the town would be entirely white-washed, we were pleasantly surprised to instead find a charming lakeside village with some of the best (and still incredibly cheap) restaurants and shops we’d yet found in Jalisco.
And although we did see more gringos in a single day that in the last 2 weeks combined (eating at Cocinarte was nearly enough to make us consider the move ourselves, so who can blame them!), it didn’t dampen our time in this colourful little pueblo or totally detract from the fact that we are in Mexico!
The final bonus was two wonderful nights spent camped alongside the lake, for free and totally secluded, yet a 10min walk to town. If you read my post last week, you’ll appreciate what a big deal these kind of campsites have been and just how excited we are whenever we find a true boondocking opportunity (beyond street parking or simply sleeping behind a petrol station).
This was just what we needed to really get back at it after more than a week off the road!
Where we stayed this week
Overflowing from last week (to keep my sad, sick tales in Mazamitla together) and dripping slightly into the next (Monday was a public holiday, so that counts as this weekend, right?), this post is a little bit of everything. Cheers to getting back on track with some normal weeks soon!
- Cabaña in Mazamitla, Jalisco (8500p for 8 nights; 27 Jan – 3 Feb)
- Parking behind the Pemex in Mazamitla, Jalisco (free; 4-5 Feb)
- Boondocking on the shores on Lake Chapala in Ajijic, Jalisco (free; 6-7 Feb)