I’d heard such wonderous things about Lake Atitlan. People I met reinforced this idea that I just couldn’t leave Guatemala without seeing it for myself. So with a free day, I left at 5:30am on a shuttle bus from Antigua to Lake Atitlan’s gateway town, Panajachel.
Antigua at 5:30am
The two and a half hour ride was brutal. Constant turns of left and right then left made my stomach do flips. In addition, the shuttle we were in was uncomfortably warm and I had nothing in my stomach to keep it distracted from the winding roads. By the time I jumped out of the van, I was barely holding myself together.
The bus dropped us off on a road that made a dead end into the lake. Our first glimpse was gorgeous, but quickly tainted with calls of people trying desperately to sell us boat rides.
Using my HERE Maps app, we made our way back to the main road that led to the heart of Panajachel. Throughout the day, it seemed like there was just more and more I didn’t like about Panajachel. One thing after another just made me realize that Panajachel is definitely not my favorite place.
The place is dead before 9am
We located the cafe that I’d heard about from several different blogs, but it turned out that it wasn’t open until 9am. We had an hour to kill, and quickly learned that almost nothing was open before 9am- So what exactly was the point of leaving Antigua so early?? If you’re going to Pana, don’t even bother getting the earliest bus. There will be nothing to do when you get there.
There are SO many stray dogs
This one followed us for a bit…
I mean, there are stray dogs just about everywhere. But for some reason, Panajachel had a crazy amount of them. And more stray dogs meant more stray dog poop. You’ll always want to watch your step.
Good luck finding a free public bathroom…
Its not uncommon to visit a place and have to pay to use some of the public bathrooms. But in Panajachel? There are only ones you have to pay for. Your other option is to stop at a restaurant and buy something, then ask to use their bathroom.
…And free wifi
The only place we found wifi in Pana
In Antigua, it seems like the place is littered with restaurants and cafes with free wifi. Granted, you have to purchase food or drink, but that’s pretty normal. In Panajachel we only found one cafe that advertised its free wifi and ended up spending over an hour there, because there was not much else to do.
Markets have the same ol’ stuff
If you’ve already been shopping in Antigua, the market in Panajachel will not impress you. It’s got pretty much all of the same stuff you’ve seen and had the chance to buy. I didn’t end up buying anything in Pana because I’d already gotten all the Guatemalan souvenirs I needed.
I’m a bit spoiled
When you’re used to lakes like this, it’s hard to be impressed…
Okay, okay I’ll be honest with everyone here. While I found the lake, nestled at the foot of the volcanos, quite lovely, it wasn’t as breathtaking and remarkable as people made it sound. I’m guessing it’s because I grew up in Michigan and beautiful lakes are just a part of life for me.
So there you have it. I visited Panajachel, Guatemala and just didn’t enjoy it. I suppose that’s the thing about travel though- there will be things you like and things you don’t. I’m just glad I got the opportunity to see the lake and that I’m able to say, “Nah, it’s not for me.”
But hey, give it a go for yourself and let me know if I missed something important that could have turned my experience around! Perhaps I’ll have to give it another try…