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Lake Chapala

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Ringed with charming towns and villages, Lake Chapala has drawn a steady stream of foreign visitors since the sixteenth century, when the conquistador Nuño de Guzman arrived on the lake’s muddy shores. In the early twentieth century, the luxury obsessed dictator Porfirio Diaz popularized the area as a vacation spot for Mexico’s middle and upper classes, and lakeside towns like Ajijic abound with storied hotels, hot springs, beer gardens, and bars.

Located roughly 50 km south of Guadalajara, Chapala is Mexico’s largest lake: 35 km wide and 120 km long. Chapala is not a swimmer’s paradise: water levels have sunk steadily over the years and the lake is murky and choked with pretty but invasive water hyacinth. Most visitors prefer to explore the lake by boats, which can be chartered at the pier in the town of Chapala. The ruined fortress of Mezcala Island, also known as Presidio, is a must-see.

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