There are tons of ecotourism activities in Chapala and Ajijic. For hiking, there are many places that are right at the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains, so hiking is an awesome thing to do in this area. Out on the lake, you can go boating. I think going on a catamaran would be an awesome thing to do on Lake Chapala because there's always a breeze and it's a shallow lake. It’s really great out here, and I'm surprised that we don't see more water activities.
Other outdoor activities around Chapala and Ajijic include horseback riding and camping. We have cabins at the other side of the lake, in Concepcion de Buenos Aires, which is up in the mountains near Mazamitla, two hours away. There's no garbage. It's the most incredible place, and it makes me feel like I'm in a Mexican Swiss Alps.
Concepcion is a small town. There are lots of adobe buildings, and there are just dirt roads leading out that we can follow. We usually go with our quads; it’s really great out there because Concepcion has nice, windy roads up and down the mountainsides. Concepcion has beautiful views and really clean air. It's gorgeous, quiet, and clean, and we have friends who go horseback riding there. They bring their horses by trailer and offload them at camp. It's just really fantastic, plus it's not far - just two hours away from Chapala.
Most people in Chapala and Ajijic wouldn't know about Concepcion because they have never been outside of the towns or taken dirt roads, but I find that the people in Concepcion are incredible and very friendly, and I would never be inhibited in any way to go back there.
There are probably other places like Concepcion that people don't know about, such as Tapalpa, which is also two hours away from Chapala, and is close to the Colima, up in the mountains. Tapalpa is also very clean, although it's probably a little bit more ‘touristy,’ and there are hotels plus a golf course in Tapalpa.
You can go to Colima in two hours and go to the Comala (a town designated by Mexico as a “Pueblo Magico”), which is a small town at the foothills of a volcano. In Colima, they can take tourists to the volcano where the locals grow coffee beans - definitely a cool place to visit.
When we came here years ago, littering was one of the things that I immediately noticed. They used to litter everywhere; there was lots of garbage. Today, it has come down to educating the people, so it's much better now than it was. That's important because there are lots of people who have this preconception that we're no better than before, that there's just garbage everywhere.
Whenever I go back home to Montreal or Toronto, Canada, there’s so much more garbage. I’m really blown away. My feeling is “this shouldn't be here; we are smarter than that.” It's getting much better here in Chapala and Ajijic, and people are getting educated that they have a little bit more respect for nature. When you go hiking sometimes, you do see garbage, but not like you did 25 years ago.
(Mountain villa in Mazamitla, Mexico, pictured.)