Panajachel is a small town located on the North shore of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. Panajachel (also called Pana or Gringotenango) is one of the major tourism areas in Guatemala. The sunsets from Panajachel are without question the best on the lake and the local market offers some of the freshest and cheapest produce around. Backpacking Guatemala? Panajachel is a real backpackers paradise. Author Daphne lived 5 months in this beautiful town and would like to share all her Pana knowledge and Pana tips with you. This travel guide to Panajachel, Guatemala, includes information on guesthouses, villas, hotels, attractions and advice on travel, restaurants, nightlife and more.
How to get to Panajachel, Guatemala?
Most people visit Panajachel from Antigua, Guatemala or San Pedro La Laguna. The ride to Lake Atitlán from Antigua scales innumerable hills, valleys, and mountains. Since most chicken bus drivers take tight turns at blood-curdling speeds, I recommend you booking a shared shuttle service. It is good to keep in mind that the chicken buses are faster, but not as safe as the shuttle buses. The shuttle services are usually more expensive, GUA -> PANA Q 165 and ANT -> PANA Q100, in comparison with the chicken buses, GUA -> PANA Q 30 and GUA – >PANA Q 40, but are more comfortable and most important, more safe!
When departing from Antigua, a shared shuttle will drop you within 2-6 hours (depending on the traffic and number of passengers) off in Panajachel. When traveling from Guatemala, it will probably take around 4-7 hours to reach Panajachel.
The common way to get to Panajachel from the other villages around Lake Atitlán, is by catching a small ferryboat (launcha) for about Q25 / $3.30. As the boat thudded across the choppy water, you can enjoy the beautiful landscape of lake Atitlán which is ringed by three extinct volcanoes and a ridge known as Indian’s Nose.
How to get around in Panajachel, Guatemala?
The most efficient way to get around Panajachel, Guatemala is by tuk tuk. A single ride only costs you Q5 or Q10 ($0.65 – $1.30). You can also jump in the back of a collective pickup truck and drive around the town or go by foot.
What to do in Panajachel, Guatemala?
There are plenty of amazing things you must do in Panajachel, Guatemala. This article includes 20 amazing activities that you must do in Panajachel. Examples are taking a weaving class with Maya Traditions Foundation, learning Spanish, wandering one textile shop after another, learning about chocolate at the ChocoMuseo, visiting the local market, or joining a fisherman on lake Atitlán.
Where to eat in Panajachel, Guatemala?
Most restaurants in Panajachel serve “gringo food” and some also serve authentic dishes. Below you can read about my favorite restaurants in Panajachel where I had some of the best meals I’ve had in Guatemala:
Great places for dinner in Panajachel:
This place, just located before the Jucanya bridge, serves traditional tacos, gringas, quesadillas, and burritos at a very reasonable price. I can really recommend the vegetarian gringas.
Cheros Bar Pupusería
This Pupuseria sits at the top of Calle Santander. The pupusas, tortillas stuffed with e.g. cheese, chicken, spinach, and more, taste delicious. The is a live kitchen experience in the restaurant, so it can become pretty warm inside. The cocktails are really strong. If you want value for your money, you can eat here delicious and drink cheaply.
At this restaurant, you can eat pizzas at a more reasonable price. I almost went weekly to this place to enjoy a good plate of pasta, pizza, or lasagna. When you cannot finish, you can take it home in a doggy bag. I really recommend this restaurant. Try the vegetarian lasagna!
Circus Bar serves one of the best pizzas in Panajachel and is also very overpriced. The delicious pizzas are pretty big. Friendly staff and service.
Great places to have lunch in Panajachel:
Deli Jasmin and Deli Llama de Fuego
Two must visits when traveling in Panajachel! Deli jasmin has a lovely garden atmosphere and all their dishes are made from high quality foods and are very tasty! Deli Llama de Fuego is a nice option for dinner. They have some really good day offer, for example the tasty and reasonable priced curry.
This place is great for lunch and afternoon snacks. I love their cinnamon rolls and chocolate cake. They also have some really nice small sandwiches that are prefect for an afternoon snack. The cafeteria is located at the start of Calle Santander on the left, and has a tiny outside patio with around five tables. The staff was always cheery and smiling.
A Malaysian Chinese woman runs this peaceful restaurant. It is located on the right side of Calle Santander in a little indoor square with amazing plants and quiet music. Since the place has free WiFi and is very quiet, I often worked there for university. All dishes can be made vegetarian and vegan. She has gluten free soy sauce, too! I can really recommend the vegetarian burger. One of the best I tried in Panajachel. Chinitas is a must!
Great places to have ice cream or coffee in Panajachel:
Still hungry after lunch or dinner, or just looking for a nice guilty snack? Go for the best ice cream in town at Dolce Gelato. Every week they have a different assortment of ice flavors.
This Korean-run cafe is heaven for coffee connoisseurs. I spent a lot of time enjoying all the different (ice) coffees on their menu. The cafe has a membership card and great youthful staff! A must stop if you love good coffee and good company in Panajachel!
Other places that are well-worth a try; Restaurante Hana (Japanese), Chez Alex (Guatemalan typical meals), Guajimbos (mixed kitchen).
Where to party in Panajachel, Guatemala?
Panajachel is together with San Pedro La Laguna the party town of lake Atitlán. There are several bars where you can have some late-night drinks. Most bars are open till 00.00 – 02.00 am. If you really like to go partying long, you should go to the capital; Guatemala City. In Panajachel, I can really recommend Café Moka, cocktail bar Simoneta, and Restaurante Atlantis for a nice party.
I often stopped at café Moka for an evening drink or to play pool. This place is on the second floor and is overlooking Calle Santander. It is a lively and refreshing place and has a covered open air balcony. If you’re sick of all the people and tuc-tucs, come here to relax with a drink and shoot some pool. The cafe has super cute decor and two pool tables. They also serve coffee and food. One of my favorite hangouts in Panajachel (also during Halloween).
Simoneta Mixology Cantina
A cool bar set slightly back from main strip. Simoneta Mixology Cantina is famous for its awesome mixology of cocktails. There is often great music and a good all-round vibe. They have nice offers like
Situated at the end of the main drag, Restaurante Atlantis is a quiet place during the day to have pizza, fish and chips or burgers, which are all pretty good quality, but slightly more expensive than other places. In the evening, you can have some drinks at the bar and dance on their dance floor.
La Palapa is a nice and cozy place where you can have lunch and dinner during the day, and some drinks during the night. Some nights they have special events like karaoke.
Circus Bar is not only a great place to have some pizza or pasta, but also to have some late-night drinks. Almost every evening live musicians will play some great songs. The cocktails are a bit overpriced, but do taste grate.
Where to stay in Panajachel, Guatemala?
In Panajachel, Guatemala you can find plenty of accommodations for every budget, ranging from $350 or more per night down to $10 per night, per room.
Villas Balam Ya $$$
Set on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Villas B’alam Ya offers a private dock area, free kayaks, a hot tub, and a complimentary breakfast. Each villa has a balcony with views of the lake. Villas are surrounded by gardens, offer free WiFi, have a kitchen with a fridge, microwave, coffee maker and toaster. This place is definitely one of the best places to stay when traveling to Panajachel! Note; this villa is slightly outside the center of Panajachel located.
Hotel San Buenaventura de Atitlán $$
Hotel San Buenaventura de Atitlán grounds are set right on the edge of Lake Atitlan, just outside Panajachel, making it peaceful, without the sounds of traffic. The organic gardens and forest of the hotel for sure is a welcome change from everything. When walking towards the reception, you will be treated to songs of beautiful birds. The gardens are impeccable and beautiful, the rooms/apartments are spacious, clean, and charming, the food is delicious, the pool and complimentary services are great, and the staff is warm, friendly, and very helpful. I would have no hesitation in recommending this hotel to travelers who are looking for a beautiful and peaceful place around lake Atitlán to unwind.
Panajachel homestay with Doña Virgina $
I have stayed around five months with Doña Virgina and just love her place. Doña Virginia has been hosting travelers, students and volunteers for more than 10 years in Panajachel since her husband passed away. Her house is cozy with plants and hammocks in every corner. Doña Virginia lives together with her two 20-year-old daughters and dog Oso. Downstairs is the kitchen, dining area and living room. The 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom are right up the stairs and are private just for guests. The rooms are extremely clean and comfortable. She can prepare home cooked meals for you or learn you how to prepare traditional food. This for sure will be a great experience!
Interested in staying with Doña Virginia? View her home directly on Airbnb.
I hope this information can help you prepare and enjoy a visit to Panajachel, Guatemala. I am sure you will enjoy Panajachel as much as I did. If you have been to Panajachel and know any other good things to do, food to eat, hang out places or general advises to other travelers, please let me know in a comment! I would love to hear about it.
This article is part of the GPSmyCity iOS app. You can download it, read this article offline and obtain travel directions (by foot, car or bicycle) to the places mentioned in this article. Click here to download it.
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