Top Things to do in Panajachel
A destination once favored by intrepid backpackers and enthusiasts of the hippie, bare-bones lifestyle, the scenic Cakchiquel village of Panajachel has been transformed into a contemporary vacation escape favored by visitors of all budgets and tastes.
As the largest city on the lakeshore, Panajachel is the gateway to breathtaking Lake Atitlán. “Pana,” as its most commonly known, offers a wealth of dining, shopping and tour options, not to mention stunning views of three major volcanoes -- San Pedro, Toliman, and Atitlán -- from anywhere along the lakeshore.
Below, you’ll find our recommendations on tours, local attractions and fun things to do during your stay in Panajachel. For assistance with arrangements, please consult our front desk staff.
Get a bird's-eye view of the lake and volcanoes from a tandem rig. It departs from several different takeoff points on the volcanic hillsides surrounding Lake Atitlan.
Experience the rush of high-altitude freshwater diving, which is slightly more challenging than open-water diving at sea level. Most dives take place in 30 to 35 feet of water. On a particularly clear day, you might even see underwater ruins and relics as well as volcanic steam vents. Certification courses are also offered. Remember that because of altitude and decompression, divers must stay in the area for at least 18 hours after diving.
Off Road Tours
The rugged back roads and mountain trails around Lake Atitlan are well-suited to two-wheel travel, whether by mountain bike or off-road motorcycle. Several tour operators and a couple of rental agencies offer guided tours.
La Cueva Maya or "The Maya Cave"
From here, the view of Panajachel, Guatemala and Lake Atitlan is beautiful. The cave still serves as a ceremonial site for those who practice indigenous religions in the Maya villages uphill from town. Smoky and filled with the fragrance of incense, the mysterious site can be reached via a short, local bus ride from town and a brief scenic hike.
While Calle Santander is lined with shops selling everything from beaded jewelry to fresh Guatemalan coffee, more authentic goods can be found in the Artisan Market. This is where you’ll discover vibrantly colored hammocks, local crafts and artwork as well as handmade peasant dresses, sombreros and purses all adorned in brilliantly hued Mayan dyes.
Built in 1948, Casa Cakchiquel was one of the first hotels on the lake. According to legend, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Ingrid Bergman and other intellectuals, artists and writers enjoyed the house in its heyday. Today, the building has been restored and features a fair trade store, rotating exhibits and a vintage photo and postcard gallery.
Museo Lacustre de Atitlan
For a brief history of Lake Atitlan and its people, head to the Museo Lacustre de Atitlan. Here, you'll find a handful of informative displays tracing the history of the region back to pre-colonial times.
Atitlan Natural Reserve
Hike the trail that loops through a small river canyon, crossing suspension bridges and passing a butterfly atrium and enclosures of spider monkeys and coatimundis. For the more adventurous, the complex contains a zipline tour, where you can glide through the forest canopy courtesy of a series of cables, a helmet and a very secure harness. There's also a private beach for a bit of post-adrenaline rush relaxation.
These five- to six-hour boat tours depart in the morning and make stops in San Pedro La Laguna, Santiago de Atitlan and San Antonio Palopó. As soon as the boat lands in each town, you'll be met by local touts and tour guides offering to show you around. For example, in Santiago de Atitlan, you’ll receive offers to take you to see Maximón. In Santa Catarina Palopó, you can be taken to see some beautiful weaving.