"Panajachel . . . Where it's okay to be a gringo" Top 5 Page for this destination Panajachel by acemj

Panajachel Travel Guide: 133 reviews and 294 photos

Panajachel was once a sleepy little Mayan town on the northeastern edge of Lake Atitlán. In the 1960s, it was discovered by the hippies and ever since it has been a magnet for Bohemian, easy-going Westerners. At some point in recent years, the town adopted the nickname "Gringotenango," but don't let that dissuade you from a visit. In Panajachel, it's okay to be a gringo.

Guatemala is smaller than the US state of Tennessee, so you can squeeze in quite a bit no matter how short your stay. No visit to this diverse country is complete without stopping at Lake Atitlán, which Aldous Huxley (the British author of Brave New World) once famously called "the most beautiful lake in the world". Panajachel, sometimes called "Pana" by locals and travelers alike, has the best infrastructure of hotels, restaurants and information of any of the lake's dozen or so villages that surround it, making it a fun place to hang out day and night.

While in Pana, my buddy Ryan and I experienced some things that we were expecting such as beautiful natural scenery and interesting local Mayan culture. But it was the unexpected delights that I'll remember most. We were surprised to find some great food (excellent lake fish and the best Mexican fajitas either of us had ever had). And we were excited to meet some interesting characters (mostly older, hippy throwbacks) who had either lived there or had been visiting for 20 years or more. These people were able to give us a unique perspective on how things have evolved and changed over the years. Some things have improved (like the local economy) and some things have gotten worse (like village authenticity and pollution). All in all, Pana is still a great place and one of the most convenient bases for exploring the spectacular Lake Atitlán.

Pros and Cons
  • In a nutshell:"Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlan is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing." - Aldous Huxley
  • Last visit to Panajachel: Mar 2005
  • Intro Updated Jul 22, 2005
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Reviews (27)

Travelogues (1)

Comments (15)

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Sep 4, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    Really looking forward to exploring Pana myself in November :-)

  • Hopkid's Profile Photo
    Jun 4, 2007 at 9:39 AM

    Great tips, Mark! These will definitely come in handy on my upcoming trip to GUA! Thanks!

  • Jul 20, 2006 at 12:56 PM

    Hi, the photo on your nightlife bar is taken from garden side of the bar looking out towards the entrance from the avenida santander. It is taken in bar / Restaurant called the Maktub´ar Café Jardin. Regards, Chris. (bartender of the establishment)

  • TXgal's Profile Photo
    Mar 25, 2006 at 6:26 PM

    Great Guatamala tips & pics! Can't wait to go back :-)

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Feb 4, 2006 at 1:08 PM

    Pana :-) Your pictures and writing bring back nice memories :-) It's really a wonderful spot to relax and hike - and hihi, so you also met San Simón :-))) And thanks for Monument Valley :-)

  • sim1's Profile Photo
    Aug 4, 2005 at 12:18 PM

    Great read Mark! Enjoyed it lots! Hahaha, "Oh, sh*t, sh*t, sh*t. Dis is not good.".... I would really get worried if I would here that, LOL :-)) Sounds like you had a great time here!

  • tpangelinan's Profile Photo
    Jul 15, 2005 at 1:14 PM

    Great page Mark, aren't we the adventurist type, Paragliding! We would never think of doing that! Sounds like a fun trip with lots of places to explore. Thanks for sharing you trip with us! :o)

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Jul 10, 2005 at 10:25 PM

    Mark, your natural ability to create interesting, informative, helpful tips is admirable. Your attention to detail, personal stories, and candid portrayals are fascinating to read. Great to have a congenial travel partner.

  • globetrott's Profile Photo
    Jul 10, 2005 at 9:06 AM

    an excellent page & great pics, Mark ! Not a bad place to go for a Gringo...

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo
    Jul 3, 2005 at 6:53 AM

    Excellent job. A lot of personal insight and helpful info.

acemj

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