Panajachel an Indigenous World
Panajachel is a charming town situated in the Guatemalan highlands. The natural environment is breathtaking in its beauty and its people are warm and inviting. It also serves as a portal into an ancient, indigenous world that will give you a taste for what life was like before the Conquistador’s arrival.
Spectacular view of Lake Atitlan
Panajachel is situated in the Guatemalan highlands, offering a spectacular view of not only 3 towering volcanoes, but also Lake Atitlan, described as the most beautiful lake in the world by Aldous Huxley.
It was first inhabited by the Spanish in the late 1500’s after a long and bloody battle on the shores of Lake Atitlan. Soon after a church and monastery were erected in Panajachel and the town became a religious center, intent on converting the native peoples to the Roman Catholic faith. The same church is still standing there today.
A Rich, Indigenous History
Long before the Spanish conquistadors arrived, and well after Guatemala became its own sovereign nation, Panajachel was populated by Mayans and other indigenous people. Although their numbers have dwindled across the ages, they have still managed to stave off assimilation, and many of them still possess a culture and a craft similar to the ones of old.
Inside of Panajachel, you can find many of the native peoples set up in local market stalls, peddling amazing fabrics, intricate handicrafts and little pieces of an ancient history.
The portal to Lake Atitlan
In fact, Panajachel – known as the portal to Lake Atitlan – is also known as the portal to an indigenous world. For across the lake, secluded and far away, small villages of the native peoples still survive, and they still live their lives in much the same way now as they did centuries ago. There are about a dozen of these villages to explore, but three of them attract more visitors than the others – Santiago Atitlan, Santa Catarina Palopo and San Antonio Palopo. Each of these three villages is famous for their local women weavers and their home-spun costume and garb.
But you don’t have to venture across Lake Atitlan to have a good time in Panajachel: you just have to leave your hotel. You can rent a motorcycle, car or bike and set out to explore the countryside on your own. Or, you can hire a tour guide to learn about some of the lesser known sights, attractions and local history. Even some of the local hotels and resorts offer special trips and tours and chances to discover unique national landmarks and treasures.
Lake Atitlan, with its deep sapphire water and crystal clear visibility is also a popular scuba diving destination. If you don’t have your gear with you, or you need scuba diving lessons, don’t worry there’s a local scuba shop there to set you up with everything you need.
Or, if you’d prefer to spend your time on land, Panajachel has some really wonderful shopping opportunities. The city is freckled with markets and vendors, boutiques and stalls, each brimming over with beautiful souvenirs and local craftsmanship.
Once you’ve finished exploring, diving or shopping, the chances are that you’ll have worked up a ravenous appetite. And if you’re looking for good food, then you’ve certainly come to the right place. Panajachel is practically famous for its small restaurants and cafes complete with delectable dishes and a warm, friendly atmosphere. Some restaurants have live music at night. You can find anything from exotic international dishes to delicious local cuisine.
Learn the Language
What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of Guatemala and Central America than to spend you time learning the local language, Spanish? Panajachel offers several Spanish schools, including the city’s only Mayan owned and operated Spanish school. These aren’t your everyday schools either. Here, you’ll find one-on-one intensive language classes featuring impressive and quick learning as well as affordable prices. You’ll be speaking Spanish, almost fluently, in no time at all.