Mexico's largest natural lake is a one-hour drive southeast of Guadalajara. Surrounded by jagged hills and serene towns, Lake Chapala is a favorite Tapatío getaway and a haven for thousands of North American retirees. The name probably derives from Chapalac, who was chief of the region's Taltica Indians when the Spaniards arrived in 1538.
The area's main town, Chapala, is flooded with weekend visitors and the pier is packed shoulder-to-shoulder most Sundays. Its malecón is often packed with local families and couples on the weekends. Eight kilometers (5 miles) west is Ajijic, a picturesque village that's home to the bulk of the area's expatriates. Farther west, San Juan Cosalá is popular for its thermal-water pools.