Ajijic is a small artisan town located just 35 km from downtown Guadalajara. Due to its charm and local flavor, it is a destination point for tourists and a hive for Canadian and U.S. expats. Ajijic is on the shores of Lake Chapala (the largest lake in Mexico, top photo) and at the base of some amazing mountain views. You cannot go anywhere in this town without wanting to pull out your iPhone to take a postcard-worthy photo. The best way to explore such a special place is by foot. Many shops in Mexico operate out of people’s workshops or homes, so you may miss some unique places if you merely drive through the town. It’s best to travel as the locals do — slowly and with no specific purpose — because this is when you snag the best finds!
The first item on my list was Mexican pottery. I’ve been obsessed with Anthropologie’s kitchenwares for years and own a couple of pieces, but they can be pricey when you add them up. The classic handmade pottery at Casa de Mexico (second photo) has everything from serving bowls to water pitchers to egg cartons to decorative tiles. If it weren’t for weight limitations on airplanes, I would have bought the entire collection. There are various styles that will appeal to just about anyone (red floral, geometric, sugar skulls, and so on) and the prices are fantastic. We spent $35 USD and walked away with six items.
The next and most coveted items on my shopping list were woven pillowcases for our bedroom. I have had my eye on these pillows and many others, but was sure that I could get a great deal in Ajijic and support small artisan businesses at the same time. Thanks to good timing and a little bit of luck, I came away with two gorgeous white pillows with pink stitching (as seen on my Instagram @papermarina_) for a fraction of the price of many retail and Etsy shops selling similar items.
After grabbing lunch by the water, my mom and I strolled down a side street and stumbled upon a weaving wonderland! Local weavers had set up a “pop up shop” of sorts and were working on large wooden looms to make napkins, placemats, table runners, and rugs. I purchased a set of dish towels and four napkins that will be great for entertaining. They’re an off-white with intricate designs down the middle. (I chose to include the colorful napkins and placemats pictured in order to showcase the shop’s variety.) At the end of the afternoon, we came across an indigenous woman who was hand weaving blankets and wall decorations. Four years ago I bought an Aztec-style blanket from a similar artisan, but chose not to add to my ever-growing stockpile this time.
Ajijic artisans specialize in classic Mexican home and garden decor. If you are planning a trip to Guadalajara or any major city in Mexico, keep an open mind when shopping for souvenirs. There are so many artisans that specialize in classic Mexican home decor and their items will have a lasting impression on you and your loved ones. So forego the cheesy shot glass or t-shirt in favor of beautiful items that embrace the country’s culture and history. Trust me, your friends, family, and wallet will thank you.