Beach resorts such as Cancún and Puerto Vallarta have been hogging the international spotlight in recent years, but Mexico has many beautiful inland destinations situated next to lakes. Some of these towns and villages are equally as impressive as the country’s coastal resorts, and considerably less crowded. Here’s a rundown of the very best lakeside destinations in Mexico.
The town of Ajijic nestles Mexico’s largest inland body of water, Lake Chapala. With a total surface area of 420 square miles (675 square kilometers) the lake is more than six times the size of Washington, D.C. Famed for its excellent year-round climate, Ajijic attracts a steady stream of North American retirees. As a result, it also boasts a range of pleasant shops and restaurants.
Mezcala de la Asunción, Jalisco
Also set along the shores of Lake Chapala, Mezcala de la Asunción is a small town with a range of excellent fish restaurants, but little else in the way of action. The town’s main attraction is the uninhabited island of Mezcala, which can be reached by boat from the town’s promenade. The tiny island contains a small fortress and was the site of several battles during the War of Independence. It is also sacred to the indigenous Cocas, who are fighting to preserve the territory from foreign property developers who are keen to move in.
Bacalar, Quintana Roo
This gorgeous town in Quintana Roo state is situated next to Lake Bacalar, the second-largest lake in Mexico. The stunning beautiful blue lagoon boasts crystal clear water and is famed for containing no less than 7 different shades of blue. Situated less than two hours from Tulum, the destination is a favorite for divers and snorkelers. History buffs will also find plenty to keep them happy – the Fortress of San Felipe transports visitors back to an age when pirates were a constant threat to the region.
Mexcaltitán de Uribe, Nayarit
For years, Mexican academics have speculated on whether this man-made island-city in the Mexican state of Nayarit is the true location of Aztlan, the original city of the Aztecs. Some researchers argue that the street design resembles the ancient Aztec city, which they left en masse in 1091 to set out on a pilgrimage to the area that is now Mexico City. Whether or not this is Aztlan or not, Mexcaltitán de Uribe is a scenic destination that deserves its reputation as “The Mexican Venice.” The city is almost perfectly round and boasts bright houses arranged in a unique cruciform street pattern.
Janitzio Island, Michoacán
Famed for its Day of the Dead celebrations, Janitizio Island is a center for the indigenous Purépecha people and boasts spectacular cultural events and scenery throughout the year. One of five islands on Lake Pátzcuaro in the western state of Michoacán, the village is dominated by an impressive statue of José María Morelos, a hero of Mexico’s independence campaign. Every year, visitors flock to the island for the Day of the Dead, when locals hold vigil sitting next to the graves of departed loved ones at the town’s cemetery.
Nestling the shores of the lake that shares its name, the town of Catemaco is famous throughout Mexico as a magic and witchcraft hub. On the first Friday of March, the town celebrates an annual witchcraft festival which draws around 5,000 visitors. Blessed with a scenic lake, the area is also home to all manner of extraordinary wildlife, including crocodiles, parrots and even monkeys.