"Tourist Central on Lake Atitlan" Top 5 Page for this destination Panajachel by Hopkid

Panajachel Travel Guide: 133 reviews and 294 photos

Our base for the first part of our trip...

About a 3-hour drive from Guatemala City, Panajachel (or Pana for short) is the main destination on the shores of Lake Atitlan. As a result the tourist infrastructure is well established here with budget lodgings for less than $10 per night up to the towdy digs at the Hotel Atitlan just outside of town. Since the late 1960s, Pana has been a haven for hippies and New Agers who have gravitated here to experience the simple and laid back lifestyle. As far as cultural and historic sights, Pana is quite lacking. But it does serve as a nice base for adventures around the area with many lodging options, a variety of restaurants, ample shopping opportunities, nice views at the lakeside, and even an ATM or two. Solola is a 20-minute bus ride away. Chichicastenango and its bustling indigenous market is a 1 hour drive from Pana. Santiago Atitlan is a 30-45 minute boat ride across the lake.

It all happens on Calle Santander

The main drag in town is Calle Santander which allows vehicle traffic "una via" towards the lake. But because of the narrowness of the street and the concentration of tourists and locals, traffic is never very congested. The vehicle most often seen on the street are the recently established 3-wheeled taxis known as tuk-tuks. They are quite the deal if your dogs are tired as the fare is a mere 5 quetzales (USD 0.67 in 2007) per ride. Add 5 more quetzales if you're going up the hill towards Solola or over to the Hotel Atitlan or the Reserva Nacional Atitlan to the northwest of town.

A walk down Calle Santander will bring you to many shops with local crafts such as textiles, purses, place mats, ceramics, leather goods, etc. The textiles are especially hard to resist with their bright colors. Bargains are not difficult to find although you might want to check prices and then hit the market in Chichicastenango (Sundays and Thursday) to see if you can get a better deal. There are also a few food carts near the primary school about halfway down to the lake. They serve up fresh beef tacos, fried chicken, and fried potatoes. Also be on the lookout for vendors in the morning making fresh squeezed orange juice (5 quetzales a glass...or plastic bag with a straw for take away). My favorite was a warm cup of a sweet arroz con leche (rice and milk) on a dreary, damp afternoon. 3 quetzales!

The View

At the bottom of Santander is Lake Atitlan and a stunning view of the lake and the three volcanoes on the opposite shore...we'll at least when clouds aren't obscuring the view. Morning is a good time to get a good look as clouds tend to roll in as the temperatures rise. During the rainy season (June-November) rain clouds can completely hid them from view. There are a few restaurants and hotels along the walkway that parallels the lakefront. Farther east past the "harbor" are a number of grass-thatch roofed "lounges" that look like they'd be the party places in the evenings. Be sure to take a boat/ferry out on the lake either for a short tour or to go to one of the other villages on the lake. It's a great experience and like a lot of things in Guatemala it's cheap!

As we were here at the beginning of the rainy season, there weren't too many tourists so our time here was relaxing and not filled with crowds everywhere we went. I'm sure it gets much busier during the high tourist season.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Variety of lodging, restaurants, shopping
  • Cons:Lots of tourists; not much to see really
  • In a nutshell:A great base for exploring Lake Atitlan and surroundings
  • Last visit to Panajachel: Jun 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (21)

Comments (3)

  • karenincalifornia's Profile Photo
    Jul 27, 2007 at 11:57 AM

    How did you answer US Custom's question about coming into contact with livestock and birds after that chicken bus?? (We didn't tell them about hiking with the sheep and cattle in Asturias.) Look forward to reading more!

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo
    Jul 11, 2007 at 1:01 PM

    The Highlands shown at their highest ;-]

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo
    Jul 3, 2007 at 1:18 PM

    I'm proud to be the first to rate this most interesting page with very helpful tips. The volcanoes and lake would be awesome to see. We're discussing a possible trip to Guatemala for next January.


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