While I was drafting up this blog, I decided I didn’t want to talk about population, the volcanoes and elevation, and all that boring-ish stuff. You can find Panajachel, Guatemala facts on Wikipedia.
We wanna talk about the good stuff here!
Panajachel Guatemala is one of the most spectacular villages around Lake Atitlan. Sitting on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world surrounded by volcanoes and lush mountains, you won’t be disappointed, er, at least I don’t think so.
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Moving to Panajachel Guatemala
So moving to Panajachel Guatemala was never on my bucket list. It still honestly blows my mind that I even landed there.
When I decided to start my life over again and move to Panajachel, Guatemala, International Living was my go-to source for information on it.
A tea leaf reader suggested Guatemala (I’m not even joking), but I was on my own to find a place to live there. After reading about all the pretty lake towns, it was Panajachel I decided upon because it really does have so much more to offer than the other smaller towns around Lake Atitlan.
You can read more about the other lake towns at International Living. It’s a great resource.
Panajachel Guatemala It Is!
Before I start, you should know that I came down here on a song and a prayer without doing much research at all. Remember, I had someone else choose the country for me, and Guatemala it was.
Yup, I kid you not.
Though I did read a bit on IL about it, I hardly spent any time at all doing further research. I liked what I read and was prepared to take a chance.
Anyway, I bought a one-way ticket….the rest is history.
I found an animal rescue organization where I volunteer. The weather, for me, is perfect. My Spanish is getting better. I still practice every day. Finding your way around is ridiculously easy, and if you ever get lost, there’s always a gringo or a local to help you.
It has everything you need, sort of, with two grocery stores, a couple of gringo stores, plenty of pharmacies, and other stores. Walmart is a short-ish two-hour drive away (depending on your means of transportation, that is).
Things To Do in Panajachel Guatemala
- climb a Panajachel volcano
- go ziplining (this is spectacular!)
- visit ruins
- go on chocolate/coffee tours
- jump on a boat and visit other towns around Lake Atitlan
- learn Spanish and do a homestay
There are so many things to do in Panajachel Lake Atitlan. Being bored is never an option.
Let’s talk about some basics and then move on to the things you should know before you come here.
Is Panajachel Guatemala safe?
I always felt extremely safe in Panajachel and never felt threatened. Not by humans, anyway. Critters are another thing.
Just like anywhere you go, even in your own city, you must use common sense.
You know, the usual:
- don’t get into cars with strangers
- don’t walk in dark places alone
- don’t leave your wallet or purse unattended
- don’t leave your drink unattended
These are some of the cautions you would exercise, period, no matter where you live.
Panajachel is a lovely small indigenous town, and no one here wants to hurt or harm you. The locals rely mostly on tourism for their economy. Why would they want to hurt you?
They don’t. You’re totally safe here!!
So many of my friends were concerned when I first told them I was moving to Guatemala. “Oh, Iva it’s not safe and has a high murder rate”.
Yes, it does. What they don’t realize is that the high murder rate is due to husbands killing their wives. Sad but true. Other murders are gang/drug related (in the bigger cities).
Panajachel Guatemala Weather
It is AH-MAZING all year round. Temperatures daily are between 22-28° C. Mornings and evenings are fresh, with only a light sweater or jacket required.
But let’s not forget the rainy season, which can be obnoxious sometimes. During the rainy season, which is May-October, you can expect the rains to start pouring down around 2 in the afternoon until early evening. Generally. Some days it’s a light rain, other days, it’s torrential.
It doesn’t necessarily rain every day, either. Usually in July, there is a 3-week break from the rain, and it’s sunny, warm, lush, and green. Heavenly, really.
So the mornings are still beautiful, and some evenings it’s still nice enough to get out and enjoy this lovely lake town and all the nighttime street food.
December-February can be slightly cooler (maybe 22-25° ), with the windy season also in full effect. Still, not a bad time to visit! In my opinion, November is the perfect month to visit.
Places to stay in Panajachel Guatemala-hostels, Airbnb, or hotels
So before we get into this, please know that Panajachel isn’t a beach resort-type place. There are several wonderful places to stay, and only a very few (and I mean very few) select luxury places.
I stayed at this amazing place a couple of times, and it’s pretty damn spectacular. If you want peace, romance, luxury, and eco-friendly, too, check out La Fortuna Lake Atitlan. It’s breathtaking beyond belief.
The owners are absolutely amazing peeps too!
We also recently stayed at another ‘so-called’ luxury resort, but we didn’t find it so luxurious at all. Like. At all.
If you are a budget traveler, there are plenty of hostels all around the lake, not only in Panajachel. It’s a quick, easy, and cheap water taxi ride to any of the towns. Some of the other little towns around the lake you may want to visit are:
- San Marcos
- San Pedro
- San Juan
- Santa Catarina
- San Antonio Palopo
- Santa Cruz
- (and a few others I can’t spell or pronounce!
If you go to Google, you can find a map of Lake Atitlan so you can see all the little towns yourself. You’ll also see how easy it is to just hop on a boat and head to any of them!
All towns are lovely and have their own vibe and feel.
There are usually plenty of Airbnbs to book, depending on the time of year you are going.
No matter what your budget is, Panajachel Guatemala has exactly what you are looking for…and then some. Like the things we are going to discuss below.
8 Interesting Facts About Panajachel Guatemala
Even though, in my opinion, it is heaven on earth, it’s not for everyone. Like any place on the planet, there is bad that comes with the good. If you can handle the bad, and take it all with a grain of salt, then you’ll be just fine.
1 If you’re a dog lover, don’t come here
There are many dogs roaming the streets all day and night. They are, for the most part, homeless, sick, hungry, and dirty. They are very skinny; they lay around on the sidewalks, flies buzzing all around them.
Yes, it’s pretty sad, actually. If this is going to make you cry and become extremely upset, don’t come down here. You will never want to leave your house.
In most neighborhoods, no matter where you go, you will hear dogs barking all night. Every night. Bring earplugs.
Unless you wish to come down here to help! Then you’ve come to the right place. There are a few volunteer rescue missions that do their best and are more than happy to take on volunteers.
You can follow me on my dog channel on Instagram here and see what kind of work I do in my spare time.
2 If you’re a dog hater, don’t come down here
Read #1 again, but the twist to this whole stray dog situation is that there is dog poo EVERYWHERE!! You are constantly side-stepping dog poo. You want to look up to see where you are going and look at different things, but then you have to look down so you don’t step in fresh poo.
Look up, no wait, oops, look down. Oh damn. And don’t forget the endless barking. If you don’t like dogs, you will not be able to handle or tolerate the barking. You’ve been warned.
Ya, if you don’t really like dogs, just stay home (and if you don’t like dogs, we can’t be friends).
3 It’s very poor down here
Poor like you see on TV. Ya, the TV isn’t kidding. It’s just like that.
You will be bombarded continually by vendors trying to sell you their things, and, I might add, their things are very beautiful!! Some of the vendors send their very young children after you to tug on your heartstrings, and trust me, it tugs.
If you don’t like being harassed by street vendors constantly, this might not be the place for you, but remember, they are all just trying to support their families. This is their job.
There are people begging for money on the streets. You pretty much can’t avoid it unless you just stay inside. If none of this bothers you and you don’t mind handing out a dollar or two to help poor people, you’ll be just fine here.
4 It’s very, very beautiful down here
The culture, the mountains, the lake, the volcanoes. It’s all very breathtaking.
Everywhere you look, you see beauty. The ladies in their native dresses, the cute little tuk tuks, all the colors of the clothes, blankets, tapestries, wall hangings, etc., and the surrounding mountains.
So much beauty in Guatemala. Who knew?
The sunsets are gorgeous, and the sunrises are too. The people are beautiful (the guys are hot!). There really is so much beauty here!
5 There are things you will miss from home (if you plan on staying)
I’m a purse candy fanatic. Sweet tarts are always in my purse. Well, they used to be. Not anymore.
The purse candies they have here are crap. I brought my own huge tub of Coconut oil, though it is available here, it is very expensive.
There are many first-world things you are going to miss because some things are next to impossible to get here. If you can live without ‘your things,’ you’ll be ok here. You might like this fun article:
It’s certain foods you miss, radio stations, driving your car, going to your gym, and using a washer and dryer. Things like that that we take for granted. I brought down as many things as I could to make it always feel homey.
You may even miss the ‘normalcy’ of life in the first world. It’s anything but normal in Panajachel Guatemala. It’s amazing, to be honest.
6 You may get ripped off
Learn how to negotiate prices. When you go to buy something, the vendor will start at a stupidly high price because you’re a tourist. Start low and work your way up to the middle somewhere.
If you don’t know Spanish before you come down, at the very least, learn your numbers so you don’t get taken advantage of while purchasing things.
The Italian in me comes out hardcore when it’s time to buy things. Many of my friends will ask me to go shopping with them so that they get a good price. Ya, I’m ruthless. You should be too.
7 It’s pretty easy to get around
Between chicken buses, tuk-tuks, water taxis, pickup trucks, and private shuttles, transportation is super simple and really affordable. Though the chicken buses can be quite dangerous ( yes, many have rolled over, and many have died), I’ve never minded taking one to get to the next town up the hill.
You really just say a prayer before you go.
And because the town is relatively small, you can walk just about anywhere you want to go! And besides, walking is great exercise! For real.
There are plenty of expats/tourists to mingle with at any of the local bars. And there are many, many bars. Nightlife is definitely a thing there.
8 It’s really loud here
Between the dogs barking, the celebrations that go on randomly that only the Guatemalans know why, the trucks with their huge blaring speakers selling or announcing something, the church services (and bells), the bombas (it’s not as scary as you think) and the fireworks/firecrackers…
Ya, it’s pretty constant.
Horns blaring, dogs, speakers, party boats, the man in the market with his handheld speaker yelling about Jesus Christ, if you can handle constant random noise, you’ll be fine here. Bring earplugs.
One Final Note to Mention About Panajachel, Guatemala
Many go for a short visit and never leave. It’s that beautiful.
The way of life is very simple, easy, and laid back. With perfect weather, lovely people, and gorgeous landscape, why would you want to leave?
One more thing to mention is that renting an apartment or house is super affordable. Another reason why people don’t leave. Food, transportation, and accommodations are all very affordable.
Who doesn’t love the word affordable? Anyone on a tight budget can come here and hang out for a month or longer.
I had a beautiful one-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, secured, with TV and cable, stunning view of the lake and volcanoes for…wait for it…. a measly $312 CDN. Hell-O!!
Ya. So my final warning about Panajachel Guatemala, you just may never leave. But if you do, you’ll be back. Everyone always comes back.
Peace and Love!