Guatemala is certainly one for your travel bucket list. With its stunning natural beauty, it’s a culture-lover’s delight.
If your flight has landed in Guatemala City and you’re looking for the next stop-off on your tour, Panajachel is a must-visit destination.
Panajachel, commonly shortened to ‘Pana’, is a town that sits on the northeast shore of Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán in the southwestern Highlands.
What’s more, it’s only 140 km from Guatemala City.
Pana has become a center for tourist trade and offers a base for visitors who want to explore the area as well as serving as a base for those who want to cross the lake to see other towns and villages.
Things to Do in Panajachel, Guatemala
As mentioned, tourists have begun flocking to Pana and its population has grown in recent decades too.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that there are lots of things that keep them coming to this popular area!
1. Lake Atitlán
Lake Atitlán sits in the Guatemalan Highlands in the Sierra Madre mountain range.
The lake is believed to be the deepest lake in Central America and is renowned for being one of the most beautiful too.
Famous explorers have described it as such, including Aldous Huxley and German explorer Alexander von Humboldt.
“Atitlan is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.”Aldous Huxley, Beyond the Mexique Bay, 1934.
A visit to Panajachel would be impossible without at least marveling at Lake Atitlán’s beauty from the shore.
However, no visit to the town would be complete without exploring its waters by boat.
There are many tour operators and sailing trip options available from the town.
Boat trips include a boat ride to Santa Catarina Palopó – a charming village with colorful houses and traditional Mayan culture. You can also shop for local handicrafts here.
2. Natural Reserve Atitlán
Just 30 minutes’ walk from the town you’ll find the Reserva Natural Atitlán with its waterfalls, butterflies and coati (an animal that’s a member of the racoon family!).
There are also ziplines and trails with hanging bridges to explore!
Kids will enjoy the play parks and spotting the wild animals. You can even stay here in their accommodation or by camping.
If shopping and handicrafts are your thing, Panajachel has its own market.
The market is quiet with only a few people selling their wares, but it is a great way to really get to know the locals and find out more about the town and the culture.
The market stalls offer a range of goods including:
- Huipils – Pronounced “wee-peels,” huipils are traditional embroidered tunics or blouses worn by indigenous women in Central America. The garments are an integral part of the cultural identity of many of the indigenous communities in Guatemala. Many of the huipils for sale are also second hand.
- Tzutes – Pronounced “tsoo–tehs,” these garments are multi-functional. They are used as carrying clothes to transport produce, goods and even babies! They are tied into a bundle with the items carried on the person’s back or head. They are also used as headscarves and are sometimes used as offerings in traditional Mayan rituals and ceremonies.
- Cortes – Pronounced as you’d expect, are off-cuts of fabric from the textile industry.
4. Sample the Local Delights
A trip to a new town or city would not be complete without trying some of the traditional foods and drinks!
Here are a couple of places that come highly recommended:
- Why not stop for a coffee and a treat at San Miguelito Café
- Have a taste of real Guatemalan food at Live PanaRock
If you happen to be in Panajachel at certain times of the year, you may be lucky enough to witness some of the town’s fascinating festivals.
- Feria de San Francisco – The “Feast of St Francis” is dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Panajachel. It takes place in early October. There are religious processions, church services, music, dance, decorations, carnival rides and games, artisan markets and copious amounts of food and drink.
- Independence Day – Celebrated on September 15, the Guatemalans really go out all with celebrations. Patriotic fever reigns supreme with parades, decorations, fireworks, music and dancing.
- Corpus Christi – Celebrated on the 9th Sunday after Easter Sunday, Corpus Christi is a popular celebration in Panajachel.
Places to Stay
Take a look at our suggestions:
- Hotel Atitlán – This rustic-style hotel offers extensive gardens and panoramic views over the lake with an outdoor pool, hot tub and even its own botanical garden. (Compare the prices on expedia.com and booking.com)
- Hotel Jardines del Lago: With a beautiful setting on the shore of Lake Atitlán, Hotel Jardines del Lago has a terrace with stunning lake views and its own eco-swimming pool within the lake itself. (See prices on expedia.com and booking.com)
- Dream Boat Hostel: For hikers, cyclers and those who prefer a community feel, the Dream Boat Hostel has great city views, a restaurant, bar and shared kitchen. (See prices on booking.com)
Final Thoughts on Panajachel
Whether it’s a quick stop-over or a longer visit, Panajachel takes you right into the heart of Guatemala’s nature and culture.
With hanging bridges, ziplines and a stunning lake to explore, you’ll be sure to find something to do here that piques your interest!
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