Panajachel

Pana at lake side

Panajachel is in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Panajachel, or Pana as it is widely known is a small town on the North shore of Lake Atitlán. Pana is a small town with a booming tourist industry. With the exception of possibly Antigua, Panajachel is one of the major tourism areas in Guatemala.

Get in

Chicken buses from Guatemala City leave approximately every hour, from 6AM to 4PM, and cost only a few dollars US. However, the ride is long, and it can be quite uncomfortable if the bus gets crowded (which it almost certainly will).

Alternatively, you can take a bus to Los Encuentros, and change there. A bus from Los Encuentros to Sololá costs 2Q and from there you can take another to Panajachel, for 3.50Q

Many tourist agencies will arrange tourist buses transport to Panajachel. A minibus from Antigua to Panajachel is USD $12 per person each way, though some among the number of agents offering the service could charge USD $20-25.

Adrenalina diagonally across from the post office (oficina de correos) has a good reputation.

Get around

Atitlan lake and Tolimán and Atitlán volcanoes, viewed from Pana's dock

Panajachel itself is quite small, and you can walk practically anywhere within 20 minutes. Small three-wheel taxis (or tuk-tuks) continually circle the few streets, and cost 5Q for any destination in Panajachel, 10Q if the ride requires going off the delta (uphill), for example to the Nature reserve (3 people negotiated a ride back for only 20Q).

Private shuttle boats ("lanchas") to other cities around the lake, such as Jaibalito, San Marcos La Laguna, San Pedro La Laguna, etc., leave regularly from the "embarcadero" at the foot of the main street, Calle Santander. The cost is about 15-30Q one way (5-15Q for Central Americans). The larger public ferries are cheaper (25Q for foreigners) but they only go to Santiago Atitlan (from foot of Calle Rancho Grande, east of Santander) and San Pedro (from foot of Calle del Embarcadero, west of Santander).

Boats to Santiago Atitlan leave from another dock every 30 mins, and take around 25 mins to cross the lake. It costs 25Q, although locals pay less. To get to the dock, go to the end of Calle Santander, turn left and go until the end of the road, then turn right.

There is no bus station yet, but chicken buses, taxis and shuttle buses congregate at the intersection of Calle Principal and Calle Santander. Fletes (Toyota pickups) can be found near the market. They are the cheapest way to get to nearby towns. They are a great way to meet the indigenous people, who are their best customers. Chicken bus to Solola costs 5Q (Dec 2011) & 20Q to Xela (gringos charged 30Q along with eye-to-eye lies that it's the normal price for everyone; Dec 2011).

See

Do

You can also volunteer for free with Mayan Families (www.mayanfamilies.org). The organization provides support to Indigenous and Ladino Guatemalans through education scholarships, emergency food and medical services, donations, etc. You can install new stoves, teach preschoolers, translate, cook food for their Elderly Feeding Program, help sort donations and more! In addition to the aforementioned volunteer opportunities, Panajachel has a number of other Non-Governmental Organizations that accept volunteers on a no-fee basis. A couple of these include: Thirteen Threads (www.thirteenthreads.org), Mayan Traditions, and Estrella de Mar.

Buy

Mayan boys, girls, women & men walk the streets of Pana from morning until night selling authentic Mayan good such as textiles, paintings, jewelery, clothing, accessories & even nuts. They can be quite hard sellers and will VERY often approach people dining inside of restaurants along the main roads (Calle Santander especially). It is common to be approached a dozen times while eating. It is quite off-putting, as sometimes a refusal will result in a begging appeal for money to buy food. Usually a very firm 'No thanks' will do the trick. Prices of the goods offered seem to compete fairly well with shops selling similar goods in Pana. If you see something you like it is still highly recommended to haggle. Try and pay around half to two thirds of the original asking price, as a guide.

If you're interested in buying traditional Mayan clothes or textiles, the towns around the lake are great places to do so. The quality of textiles here is significantly higher than in most other places of the country. The best quality goods are found in Santiago Atitlan, on the south side of the lake.

Eat

(Note: Before choosing a restaurant and/or hotel stop by the Nature Reserve and pick up their list of hotels who have joined the recycling collective. Please boycott those places that have not, as Pana has a huge pollution problem. This includes Pana Rock)

Towards the bottom of Calle Santander and near the bus stop on Calle Principal there are a number of street vendors selling Tacos, Sweetcorn, Sweet nuts and other snack foods. These are a good cheap option for the budget traveller. The "food court" is on Calle Santander, in front of the elementary school (big curved roof), across the street from the Mayanet internet cafe. Street vendors an be found there all hours of the day and evening.

Drink

In Pana it is almost a tradition (at least for Guatemalans) to drink and walk up and down the Santander street with a "Litro" in their hands. A "Litro" is a 1 liter bottle of beer. Usually Gallo or Cabro brand. But you can get virtually any drink you ask for.

While you may still drink in the streets in Panajachel, it is no longer as common; only during certain festivities or special events will the party spill out in to the street.

Pana Rock Cafe - Buy a cubetazo of your favorite beer (or peruse the extensive drink menu), meet some locals and listen to Latin Rock or a live band with an ambiance unrivaled by any bar in the country.

Planeta Le Du - Very chill, stop here to grab any variety of great drinks.

Sleep

As you might expect from a regional tourist hub, Panajachel has a range of accommodations at all price levels. Some hotels outside Panajachel proper are also listed in the Nearby section.

Nearby

Go next

Chichicastenango has a famous market every Thursday and Sunday.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, February 23, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.