Last month I heard from a subscriber who is still living North of the Border. She is avidly checking listings for rentals and homes for sale on real estate websites and getting more and more confused.
"Help!" she pleaded, "I haven't been there yet, and I just can't visualize where anything is in relationship to anything else. Where are the towns of Riberas, San Antonio Tlayacapan, Villa Nova and Vista Allegre? How far apart are they?"
I wrote right back to her to explain that here on the North Shore of Lake Chapala there are two “county-seat” towns and eight villages which lay like a string of beads along the water's edge. Some of the other names she lists are fraccionamientos. (county authorized subdivisions) and which are neighborhoods or condo associations.
(ABOVE:) Chapala and Jocotepec are the north shore’s Municipios (County Seat Towns). In each of these towns you’ll find a building for the “county” offices. The famed old Nido Hotel in Chapala has been converted to the office building.
From the east end of the lake to the western end, the North shore villages are fairly evenly spaced – between two to about five miles apart.
- San Juan Tecomatlán
- San Nicolás de Ibarra
- Santa Cruz de la Soledad
- San Antonio Tlayacapan
- San Juan Cosalá
- El Chante
The several categories of settlements here at Lake Chapala include (in order of importance):
Municipios--(county seats) The towns of Chapala and Jocotepec are both the seats of government for their respective municipios, (counties).
Pueblos (villages)—these are the other small towns from the bulleted list. Each has a plaza and church. Only the municipios and pueblos have regular, free garbage pickup and access to sewage treatment plants. Homes in all other areas have septic systems.
These villages are represented in “county government” by a locally elected representative called a Delagado from a Delagacion building.
(Left:) The Ajijic seat of local government has been decorated with murals by local artists.
Fraccionamientos (subdivisions) are neighborhoods with homes built over a longer period of time and by a variety of builders. Some have a gate with a guard, and most now have a homeowners' association with rules and regulations, with a board of directors governing the subdivision. Some have their own water system, and garbage pickup, which, along with street maintenance, is covered by the fraccionamiento fees.
Some of the area's fraccionamientos are Chapala Haciendas, Las Brisas de Chapala, Vista del Lago, Riberas del Pilar, Mirasol, Chula Vista, La Floresta, Villa Nova, Rancho del Oro, and the Raquet Club.
There are other, smaller neighborhoods that are too small to be organized. A few of these smaller clusters of individual homes are the places called Las Salvias, Los Charales, La Canacinta, El Limón, Jaltepec, and La Cristina.
Note: Fraccionamientos that do not collect fees also don’t provide services, nor do these other small un-organized neighborhoods. You’ll want to check to know how the streets are maintained, if there is street lighting, and how neighbors handle garbage pickup.
Condominium Associations—most area condo associations are developments where the homes were built in the same or similar style by one builder – all at about the same time. The homeowners share ownership and responsibility of the common areas, some of which can include a swimming pool and club house.
Some associations are small, with just a handful of homes – including Las Palmas, Villas San Jose, Villas Canacinta, and the 16-unit El Palmar Courtyard (shown at left). Others, like Riviera Alta, Villa del Sol, Birds of Paradise, Los Arroyos and El Parque have up to 100 or more houses. Many of the condo associations have a guard at the gate and some share gardeners for all of the homes. A few even pay for the exterior maintenance of the buildings.
As you might guess, the monthly fees in these developments are much higher than in the fraccionamientos where fewer services are paid communally. Among the many other area developments or condo associations include Vista Allegre, Los Terraces, Lomas del Lago, Lomas de Tepalo, Lomas de Ajijic, Los Olivos, Mission del Lago, and the 30-some new developments between Ajijic and Jocotepec.