Panajachel – Gateway to Atitlan Lake
From Antigua it was onward and upward. Or at least northward. The road between Antigua and Panajachel, The Gateway to Atitlan Lake, is traveled frequently by locals and tourists and the number of shuttle services running between the two towns reflects that. It was easy as pie to arrange to have a shuttle pick me up at my hostel and whisk me the two hours to Pana, as the small town is more often called. The last 20 minutes of the trip are beautiful, as the road winds down the side of the mountain with a crystal clear 180 degree view of the lake and the volcanoes that surround it.
There are several small towns around the lake that have guesthouses and hotels and each town has its own vibe and attracts its own unique tribe of visitors. Pana serves as the transportation hub and since I was only going to stay a night or two I decided to just stay in Pana and take the water taxi around for a day trip.
Sidenote: For anyone planning a visit to Lake Atitlan, I found this guide to the different towns compiled by Goats on the Road pretty useful.
Lake Atitlan is such a gem! It’s one of the few places I’ve re-visited that I feel hasn’t changed a bit. The waterfront is such a special place and a wonderful place to sit and reflect, and watch the reflections! The volcanoes that surround the lake are nothing short of majestic and it is a place that is 100% peaceful. So peaceful, in fact, that for one short millisecond, you can almost forget that Trump is running for president.
I suspect there are a lot of small, hidden paradises in Pana and around the lake which I have yet to discover but I’m feeling pretty sold on the one I found: Utz Jay, a guesthouse just a block away from the main drag that has small, budget-friendly cabins and a beautiful garden and breakfast. Pana can be a loud town and a bit obnoxious with all the tourist touts so having a little haven to call home that is somewhat removed from the noise is key to enjoying this little pueblo on the lake.
The public water taxi runs in a semi-circle around the lake stopping in each town as well as at any private dock, by request. The taxis then return in the same semi-circle, making it very easy to use it as a hop-on hop-off service. While I did get off the boat in 3 different places for a look around, the fun was really in the boat rides. I enjoyed just being in the boat, bumpy as it was, watching people get on and off, going about their day. People use the water taxis to go to school, to work, to sell their wares or shop for supplies in another town and for just about everything. As I started my journey around the lake I immediately recognized the hostel where I had stayed back in 2007 (La Iguana Perdida) as well as the classic La Casa del Mundo where family and friends have stayed. There are beautiful homes tucked into the hills around the lake to spot and folks out kayaking and fishing to watch.
My stop at the lake was pretty quick but entirely enjoyable. This was my first visa run to Guatemala and I hope I’ll have another in the near future. It was wonderful to be back in Guate!!! Oh, and fear not!! I stuck to my theme and found some Burmese Noodles to enjoy while in Pana!