Eco-friendly igloo hotel on Chapala’s south shore

By John Pint

For some time I’ve wanted to spend a night at Igloo Kokolo — said to be an environmentalist’s dream come true — on the ribera sur of the lake, between Tuxcueca and Tizapán.

Fifteen friends carpooled in four vehicles and off we went to Igloo Kokolo, where we were met by the owner, Salvador (Chavo) Montaño. Under the shade of a huge, beautifully constructed palapa offering a gorgeous view of Lake Chapala, Chavo, a Mexican, and his Spanish wife Jessica, spoke to us of their personal challenge, which is trying to live a sustainable lifestyle in the great outdoors.

A superadobe igloo on the south shore of Lake Chapala

A superadobe igloo on the south shore of Lake Chapala

The result of their efforts is Igloo Kokolo, a learning center located on virgin Lake-Chapala waterfront, that teaches first by doing and later by talking about it.

“Here,” added Chavo, “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-thatch roofs, dry toilets which produce odorless compost, solar ovens and even bicycle-powered devices, from blenders to cement mixers.”

Hotel Igloo Kokolo is the perfect getaway for the ecologist.

Hotel Igloo Kokolo is the perfect getaway for the ecologist.

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.

Author John Pint pedals to provide power to run the blender for salsa.

Author John Pint pedals to provide power to run the blender for salsa.

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 and, yes, the showers have hot water, solar-heated, naturally. 

Visitors take it easy in the common thatch-rood  palapa  overlooking the lake.

Visitors take it easy in the common thatch-rood palapa overlooking the lake.

I found the dry composting toilet truly ingenious. Solids and liquids are cleverly separated at the toilet seat. The former all end up as compost while, says Montaño, “The urine makes a great liquid fertilizer when mixed with 9 parts water.” Speaking of water, at Igloo I learned that in a year I flush away the same amount of water I would normally drink during 40 years. Wow!

Although it goes without saying, I will nevertheless say it: This is one hotel where you’d better not forget your flashlight! By the way, in case you dislike being disconnected, note that there is great 3G reception here.

Staying connected in the Igloo Kokolo hot spot.

Staying connected in the Igloo Kokolo hot spot.

I invite you to watch a truly fascinating YouTube video filmed at Igloo Kokolo. Just search for “Igloo Kokolo.” It's three minutes and 23 seconds long and uses time-lapse photography to show a Superadobe house being constructed by a joyful crew of enthusiastic volunteers.

If you like this video, you can also search YouTube for “Bicimáquina de nieves en Igloo Kokolo” which shows how to make ice-cream in the middle of nowhere using foot power.

I found Igloo Kokolo on Airbnb where, among 22 reviews, I could not find a single complaint. A guest named Katja says: “What an amazing place, so far the best Airbnb in Mexico for us!” Another happy Igloo-camper was Luis: “The hosts were very welcoming and always in constant communication. They even picked us up at the bus stop about three kilometers away from the igloos. Get out of the stress of the city and give yourself a weekend of calm.” Finally, David says: “It was beautiful and cozy: Awesome place!”

If you have questions or want to book an igloo, call Chavo Montaño, who speaks English, at cell 331 835-8026. You’ll also find information on their Facebook page Igloo Kokolo.

How to get there

From Chapala and Ajijic, take the Carretera to Jocotepec and turn off onto highway 15 to the south side of the lake and head east until you reach Tuxcueca, which is also the turnoff point for Mazamitla. Set your trip odometer at zero here and continue east along the lake shore for six kilometers. On your left you'll see the gate (N20.16151 W103.13117) for Igloo Kokolo, marked with a big sign.

From Guadalajara, take highway 54 toward Colima for about 36 kilometers and turn off onto highway 15, signposted Morelia or Jocotepec. Continue as above.

Driving time is just over an hour from Guadalajara and less from Ajijic and Chapala.

Lake Chapala Realty