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With a backdrop of volcanoes and the sparkling Lake Atitlán, Panajachel is a South American beauty spot. Adventurers can paraglide or kayak on the lake, while culture seekers can learn more about the Mayan heritage at its core, from watching shamans conduct ceremonies to taking in the traditional clothing worn by locals. The backbone of the town is a bustling centre filled with street food vendors and goods made by the indigenous people from villages nearby.
Hostels in Panajachel are found encircled by tropical greenery or next to the lake. You can opt for a little luxury in hostels with private en-suite rooms or, for a more authentic experience, in a homestay with a Maya family. They’ll cook you Guatemalan food and show you their time-honoured way of life. You can also book a Panajachel hostel with a chilled vibe where you can take yoga classes, get a massage or sunbathe by the pool. Most Panajachel hostels have free Wi-Fi and a few offer a free breakfast.
Panajachel itself is quite small so you can reach most places in town by foot. The main strip, Calle Santander, is home to daily markets and places to eat. To the south of Panajachel you’ll find a cluster of restaurants and bars that look out over the horizon. On the outskirts is the Atitlán Nature Reserve. Here you can venture onto its hiking trails to uncover waterfalls, coffee plantations and animals such as spider monkeys.
This region is full of exciting things to do, like canoeing beside the lake’s three volcanoes and biking to scenic spots around the waters. You can immerse yourself in the culture with a weaving lesson at the Maya Traditions Foundation or making local dishes at a cooking class. There’s also the town’s chocolate museum where you can find out about Panajachel’s history of cacao production and try your hand at making some sweet treats. At night, the fun continues with vibrant bars playing live music.
From Guatemala City you can catch the bus to Panajachel – the journey takes about 3 hours. From Antigua, it's just over 2 hours. If you’re visiting from some of the other towns, hop on the boat. From Santiago Atitlán, it’s a 30-minute ride. There are tuk-tuks to help you get around and private shuttle buses to transport you to nearby cities like Jaibalito, San Marcos La Laguna and San Pedro La Laguna.