If this is your case, here are a few little-known spots on the lakeshore well worth a visit.
La Maltaraña Mansion
Although its walls are now propped up by long poles, La Maltaraña is still a strikingly beautiful casona or mansion with 365 doors and windows, said to be of either French or Italian style.
Fortunately, when I first visited La Maltaraña I was with birdwatcher John Keeling who told me that the house had been built at the beginning of the 20th century by Manuel Cuesta Gallardo, “the man who reduced the size of Lake Chapala by 33%.”
Cuesta had noticed that the eastern end of the lake was shallow, marshy and rich in silt deposited by the Lerma River. “So,” said Keeling, “Manuel persuaded President Porfirio Díaz to grant him a license to drain one-third of Lake Chapala and sell the land for agriculture, just like other smart developers were doing in California.
“Manuel built a dike across the lake from Jamay on the north shore to La Palma on the south shore, and also built raised dikes along each side of the Lerma River and its tributary, the Duero River. Water was pumped out of the marshy areas and the land was sold. Back in those days Lake Chapala may have stretched as far southeast as Zamora.
Cuesta was young and rich and naturally the most eligible bachelor in Jalisco. Some people think he maintained Maltaraña for a beautiful lady from Guadalajara, but others point out that the house was also known as La Bella Cristina in honor of Cuesta’s daughter.
It is said that President Díaz used to visit La Maltaraña occasionally, not to watch birds, but to hunt and shoot them.
The grounds of La Maltaraña, by the way, provide a perfect place for an elegant picnic and maybe a selfie of you and your friends toasting La Bella Cristina. How to get there.
This prize-winning ecology center is only a half-hour’s drive from the town of Petatán, mentioned above, and offers what may be the most unusual overnight accommodations in all of Mexico. Here, Salvador (Chavo) Montaño and his wife run a learning center that “teaches by doing.”
“At Igloo Kokolo,” says Montaño, “we have no electricity, but we do have energy-saving wood stoves, efficient filters made of natural materials for reusing gray water, buildings made of Superadobe, palm-tree roofs, dry toilets which produce odorless compost, solar ovens and even bicycle-powered devices, from blenders to cement mixers.”
It’s the Superadobe house, of course, that gives Igloo Kokolo its name. This was the brainchild of Iranian architect Nader Khalili, who proposed making houses out of the most easily available building material: earth.
You mix dirt with a small amount of cement and water, put it into old feed bags and pile them on top of one another in ever smaller circles to create an igloo. Khalili’s solution was designed not only for homeless refugees on Earth, but also for future colonies on the moon or Mars where, it seems, every inch of the surface is covered with dust.
The two largest igloos have clean, comfortable beds, lights (solar-powered, of course) and you’ll even find elegantly wrapped, environmentally safe soap and shampoo on your nightstand. What you won’t find in your igloo is a toilet or a sink or a shower or a stove. All of these, however, are available a stone’s throw away — just be sure to bring a flashlight! And, yes, the showers have hot water: solar-heated, naturally.
Igloo Kokolo is listed on Glamping.com, a website for people who love spending the night at unusual but attractive sites off the beaten track. I also found Igloo Kokolo on Airbnb where, among 22 reviews, I could not find a single complaint. To book an igloo, contact Chavo Montaño at cell 331 835 8026. How to get there.
By John Pint from Mexico News Daily. More of his writing can be found on his website.
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