The busiest and most built-up lakeside town, Panajachel ('Pana') is the gateway to Lago de Atitlán for most travelers. Strolling the main street, Calle Santander – crammed with travel agencies, handicraft hawkers and rowdy bars, dodging tuk-tuks all the way – you may be forgiven for supposing this paradise lost.

Heading to the lake, though, gives a better idea of why Pana attracts so many visitors. Aside from the astounding volcano panorama, the town's excellent transportation connections, copious accommodations, varied restaurants and thumping nightlife make it a favorite destination for weekending Guatemalans.

Pana is an unexpectedly cosmopolitan crossroads in an otherwise remote and rural vicinity. This makes for a convenient transition into the Atitlán universe – but to truly experience the beauty of the lake, most travelers venture onward soon after arrival.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Panajachel.