Wildlife spotting, trekking in the Guatemalan highlands and a 16th-century church make this lakeside town a magnet for outdoor types and cultural enthusiasts.
Panajachel is a town on the shores of Lake Atitlán, in Guatemala's western highlands. Volcano scenery, wildlife, nightclubs and Mayan culture and traditions, means there is always something to see and do here.
Enjoy a scenic walk along the lake shore or for something more strenuous, hike to the top of one of the volcanoes surrounding the lake. The Atitlán Nature Reserve to the north of the town is a good place to see butterflies, monkeys, raccoons and other wildlife. Walk through its oak forests, coffee groves, along nature trails and by a waterfall. Take the opportunity to fly above the tree tops on a zip-line tour, then cool off on the sanctuary’s private beach. Book a hotel room or camping space if you want to stay at the reserve for more than one day.
Then turn your attention to some of Panajachel’s cultural attractions. See lots of examples of indigenous folk art at La Galeria. The gallery also showcases local and international contemporary art. Stop off at the Casa Cakchiquel for its indigenous crafts shop and the exhibition of old photographs of the area. The cultural center was once a hotel and locals will tell you about famous former guests such as the writer Aldous Huxley and Che Guevara.
While Panajachel is more developed than many other towns around Lake Atitlán, you can still find several historic buildings. They include the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, built by Franciscans in the 16th century. Parts of the original structure remain to this day.
In the evening, head for Calle Santander, the main street where there are numerous bars and restaurants serving local dishes. There is always plenty on offer for those missing the flavors of home. Partygoers are catered for in Panajachel's discos.
Panajachel can be reached by bus from several cities including Guatemala City and Antigua. If you are in a rental car, follow the Pan-American Highway. Accommodation for all budgets can be found throughout the town.
The combination of natural beauty, historic architecture and indigenous culture make Panajachel a great spot for a vacation.