Tourist-friendly region is known for its Spanish-language schools.
PANAJACHEL, Guatemala — The boat zips across the water starting early in the morning, picking up local villagers and dropping them off at various points around the lake. A few passengers wear traditional Mayan dress in a kaleidoscope of colors, heading to the town of Panajachel in hopes of selling their handmade crafts to tourists.
Located in Guatemala’s Western Highlands, Lake Atitlán is a tourist-friendly area rich in the Mayan culture. There are more than 20 Mayan ethnic groups in Guatemala, and the Lake Atitlán area is home to a handful of them, most notably the Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel people.
Each of the towns and villages surrounding the lake is known for something different — for example, textiles, ceramics or holistic therapies. The area is also known for Spanish language schools, with options for students to live with local families.
If you go
The Lake Atitlán region is about 70 miles from Guatemala City, home to the nearest major airport. Visitors can rent cars or take a bus from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlán. Small public boats known as lanchas transport people to the different villages around the lake for anywhere from 10 to 25 quetzales, which is equivalent to about USD $1.30 to $3.25. Note that Guatemala is in the region affected by the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
Panajachel is the main town and where many visitors start their trip. Several other towns and villages surround the lake and are accessible by foot, tuk-tuk — three-wheeled taxis — or lanchas (public boats) across the lake.
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Panajachel, known as Pana, is home to several restaurants featuring local and international cuisine, coffee shops, street food vendors and more. The town’s main street, Calle Santander, is where visitors can shop for textiles and artisanal pieces handmade by indigenous people from around the lake. During the day, the street is lined with vendors who set up shop, selling bags, wallets, scarves, coffee, jewelry and other items.
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