Panajachel – or Pana, how it is fondly abbreviated by the Guatemalans – is the biggest town around the Atitlan Lake. It is also the most busy and touristy village, which led to uncontrolled and aimless construction of buildings: Restaurants, huge hotels, bars, shops and small vendors squeeze together in the city center. In the opinion of the majority, this resulted to a rather ugly outcome. However, Pana has an excellent transport connection and the best tourist amenities on offer, which also includes a vibrant nightlife at the weekend.
Walking down the main commercial street Calle Santander, you will encounter many restaurants, cafés and bars, but also the typical souvenir shops and small boutiques with more exclusive handmade fashion or jewellery. The tourism industry is mostly dominated by ladinos (half Mayan half European) and North American expats, offering natural and vegetarian food as well as a more European and north american cuisine. As far as your eye can reach, you will also see Mayan artisans setting up their stalls, where they sell their art and handicraft. It is also worth to have a look at the small artisan market in Calle Santander.
The busy and jam-packed commercial street leads directly down to the lake. Standing on the viewpoint, looking over the lake with the volcanoes in the background, you will finally know why Pana and the Atitlan Lake are such a famous tourist destination. You can stroll along the waterfront and enjoy the vista, eat in one of the restaurants or sit down at the public beach. Here you will also find small boats and the ferries which will bring you across the lake. Pana is also a good starting point for hike or bike tours along the lakeside. You can easily reach the villages Santa Catalina Palopó and San Antonio Palopó on a day trip. Another typical Mayan village in the mountains is the small, homey village Soloá, which is only a short bus ride from Panajachel.
Panajachel is well connected by public bus and has the port where the ferries arrive.