This area is known as “Lakeside” to residents from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Europe, among other places, and “la ribera” to Mexicans. Due partly to the eclectic mixture, it has developed a continental Old World charm which blends smoothly with a distinctly Mexican ambiance.
Cobblestone streets, tile-roofed homes, riotously colorful gardens blooming year around, and incredible open-air markets and restaurants are common sights, backdropped by lush green mountains surrounding the lake. The hills are laced with flowering trees and plants, and accented by waterfalls, caves, petroglyphs, indigenous sacred sites, and a variety of hiking trails and places to explore.
Numerous picturesque towns and villages, many of which evolved from prehispanic indigenous settlements, dot the shores around the lake. There is a substantial population concentration on the northwestern and western shores, where the largest expatriate community in Mexico is found. Estimates of the expatriate population range from 20,000 to 40,000 full-time residents. That population increases during the “high season” from mid-September to mid-March.
Cradled in the southern half of Mexico’s western mountain range, the Sierra Madre Occidental, lays one of the most delightful hideaways in the world … Lake Chapala. Tranquility, natural beauty, and a marvelously temperate climate are just a few of the attractions of the area. Approximately the same altitude as Denver, Colorado, Chapala is the largest natural lake in the country.
The term ecosystem was coined in 1930 to denote the physical and biological components of an environment considered in relation to each other as a unit; the whole complex of physical factors forming what we call the environment.
The degree of species diversity or biological diversity – popularly referred to as biodiversity – of an ecosystem has been hypothesized to contribute to greater resilience of the ecosystem as the biodiversity increases.
Mexico is one of the 18 countries of the world that have been defined as “megadiverse”. With over 200,000 different species, Mexico is home of 10–12% of the world’s biodiversity. Mexico ranks first in numbers of reptiles with 707 known species, second in mammals with 438 species, fourth in amphibians with 290 species, and fourth in flora, with 26,000 different species. Mexico also ranks first in number of species of cactus.
Mexico as a whole has been graced with an unusually temperate climate year-round given its tropical setting. The rainy season occurs during the Mexican summer and has a very moderating effect on day-time temperatures. Even though the rain rarely lasts more than an hour, and typically occurs at night, the cooling effect lasts well into the next afternoon. Extreme temperatures are found only in the North and in Baja, both of which have deserts, where the temperature goes above 100F. The mountainous or desert terrain of much of the country produce low night time temperatures which also help keep daytime temperatures moderate.
A number of interesting archeological zones have been discovered around the Lake Chapala area. While they require a bit of sleuthing to find, they reveal interesting facts about the ancient peoples who populated the area.