Discover Panajachel and its lakeside charm

August 2, 2019

by Amelia Rivera Barreto

Panajachel is the largest and busiest town in the shores of Lake Atitlán with hundreds of local and foreign tourists, many hippies, tuk-tuks, businesses, stray dogs and street vendors. It might very well sound like a materialized nightmare, but Panajachel has its charms that can make many fall in love with it.

If you walk towards the lake shore, the first charm becomes evident. The wonderful views of the volcanoes and Lake Atitlán make anyone fall in love immediately. Plus, the town itself has an unexpected cosmopolitan feel due to the many waves of foreigners who have arrived, attracted by the “magic” of the lake. So much that is has been nicknamed “Gringotenango”, the place of Gringos.

In and around Panajachel you can find all kinds of lodging options, restaurants with local and international cuisine, cafés, bars and connections by boat to the rest of the lake and by land to the rest of the country. From Panajachel it is easy to organize day trips to the lake and surroundings and enjoy the town’s quirky but buzzing nightlife if you want. Many use Panajachel as gateway to Lake Atitlán, but it all depends on what each visitor wants to get from Panajachel.

Discover Guatemala’s Mayan cultures in Panajachel

Despite having the nickname “Gringotenango”, Panajachel has a Cakchiquel majority and through its streets you can listen to people speaking Cakchiquel with each other, selling handcrafts and textiles and some wearing traditional clothing from the towns around the lake. What makes Panajachel even more interesting is that it is a meeting point of Mayan cultures, as it can be seen in the passages of Tinamit.

Tinamit is a handcraft and textile market on the main street, Calle Santander, where merchants arrive with products from all over Guatemala. There is a lot of competition, making it a great place to practice your bargaining skills or develop them. Besides the coming together of different traditions, it is very interesting to look at the way the products adapt to the needs of the market without losing its essence and style. You will see the latest backpack and handbag models with Mayan textiles, iPhone or iPad cases, etc.

Places to eat in Panajachel

You can eat very well in Panajachel. The culinary scene in Panajachel has been growing over the last couple of years, but some institutions still remain after a few decades such as Circus Bar, La Deli, Guajimbos or Casablanca. There is a bit of everything for everyone and all budgets, taste buds and diets.

In order to try some local food, you can venture into the market where you can try local corn on the cob (it is special), tortillas fresh from the comal, fresh regional cheeses and all kinds of fruits from around Guatemala. It might seem tempting to eat in some of the carts you see around, but if you are not a local your intestinal flora will most likely not be prepared for it and you don’t want to spend the rest of your trip hugging the toilet.

Experience Lake Atitlán’s nature

When you drive down Panajachel on any of the roads that lead to it you will most likely get a small taste of the forest, but it is never the same as diving into it. Plus, Panajachel is blessed to have places like the Reserva Natural Atitlán just ten minutes away from the town center by tuk-tuk. In this private nature reserve you can walk along nature trails in the middle of a high altitude rain forest and look at spider monkeys, coati mundi, hundreds of bird and insect species and walk along its quiet lake shore which will make you forget you are only 10 minutes away from the buzzing town.

Besides the Reserva there are other places you can visit if you want to cross the lake by boat, but this is one of the gems that we have in the vicinity.

The best coffee in Panajachel

In Panajachel and surroundings good shade-grown coffee is not just harvested, but also prepared and enjoyed. I personally have a favorite and I believe the place is still not as well-known, which is a blessing for those of us who know about it. The place is called Café Loco, crazy coffee, and it is managed by two Korean experts in coffee. They have all the equipment and knowledge necessary to make the best espresso or any type of coffee you might order. It might sound a bit exaggerated, but if you try it you will agree. I did not even know coffee could be that good.

Other than Café Loco, in Panajachel it is easy to find good coffee to drink and also to buy, beans or ground. After all, Guatemala has very good coffee and Lake Atitlán has many coffee farms with good coffee. You could also visit some of them around Panajachel.

Zip-line or paraglide in Lake Atitlán

Some more than others need a good dose of adrenaline and Panajachel has enough options for those addicted to it. From Panajachel you can go paragliding with companies such as Águilas en Vuelo which have professional pilots and lots of experience flying over Panajachel. The views you can get paragliding are absolutely amazing, but not all of us have the guts to paraglide.

For those of us who still want to get some adrenaline rush but perhaps a bit closer to the ground, there are also the zip-lines at the Reserva Natural Atitlán. These circuits go through canyons and travel through and over the treetops in the San Buenaventura Valley giving you some amazing views of Lake Atitlán. If you prefer to relax and not worry about braking, you can also do them with a guide and enjoy the experience.

Where to sleep during your visit to Panajachel

Once again, Panajachel has something for every budget and style. In Panajachel you can find cheap hostels like Mario’s rooms or nicer hotels like La Posada de Don Rodrigo or the iconic Hotel Atitlán. For your lodging choice Booking will always be your best friend, but do not hesitate to shoot me a message if you plan to come to Pana and want a local’s opinion on where to sleep. There is definitely a bed to suit your trip.

Leave a Comment...


August 9, 2019

Que buen artículo ! Gracias por la información tan completa.

Patricia Fonseca

August 9, 2019

Excelente Article!!

Martha Yepes

August 9, 2019

Excelente artículo!