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.