Panajachel and the surrounding villages are rightly considered among the best places to shop for handicrafts. The high proportion (90%) of Maya living here, and the high numbers of visitors, combine to create a shopping frenzy! Naturally the quality of goods on offer varies, but it is generally good to very good, and with negotiation prices can be kept very reasonable.
What to buy: There’s quite a range on offer even though many of the stalls and shops sell similar goods. Textiles are deservedly one of the favourite purchases and you can get everything from a cheap but pretty scarf (I bought several as gifts) to a hand-woven traditional huipile. Several shops sell paintings in the typical Guatemalan naive style – its bright colours don’t particularly appeal to me but again prices are reasonable if this is your sort of thing. There are hammocks, sun-hats, key rings, bags, wallets and glasses cases galore. In Santiago we saw large colourful hangings, some lovely wood carvings and pretty decorations fashioned from tiny glass beads; in San Antonio there’s a good pottery co-operative.
What to pay: As I said, negotiation aka haggling is the order of the day, although at the same time you need to be conscious that this is how these people make their living and a small discount for you could be a more significant matter to them. Some prices we paid:
~ two small scarves for 70 Q the pair (were quoted as 45 Q each)
~ a large scarf for 50 Q (starting price 80 Q)
~ sun-hat for 40 Q (starting price 45 Q
~ woven glasses case for 20 Q (so cheap I didn’t haggle)
~ glass bead Christmas decorations at 2 for 50 Q (were 30 Q each)
~ glass bead quetzal key-ring for just 5 Q (again, no haggling – and I got a lovely photo of the seller as well!)
The last three purchases were in Santiago Atitlàn.
Dina's makes their own chocolate bars and truffles. They have milk and dark varieties, some mixed with different fruit flavors. They also have a collection of souvenir items but the real attraction is the chocolate. We bought a dark chocolate orange bar and it was to die for! Prices are very reasonable.
What to buy: Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!
There are many shops along Calle Santander that have locally made Mayan crafts. It is impossible not to see the brightly colored textiles, purses, bags, etc. This "mall" that extends off of Calle Santander is a collection of stalls with such items. If you aren't able to make it to the huge market in Chichicastenango, this is a good place to buy your souvenirs and gifts for family and friends. Be sure to check out all of the stalls and compare prices before buying as some have the same products. Quality can vary as well so check out potential purchases carefully. And don't be afraid to ask about washing instructions. Above all be sure to bargain for your purchase. It's totally expected and quite a fun experience!
What to buy: Textiles, masks, t-shirts, carved wood items. Most anything you weren't able to purchase on a trip to Chichicastenago.
What to pay: Depends on what you're looking for but it's all pretty cheap and reasonable.
This tiny village is know for its beautiful blue ceramics. Visit the small shop brimming with vases, plates, cups, bowls, mugs, and all types of lovely giftware at bargain prices. I bought as much as I could carry.
The shop was closed when we arrived, but a passerby alerted the shopkeeper who hurried to open for us.
Beautiful handmade articles line the main street. Everywhere you look there are glorious colors.
What to buy: You can buy purses, bags, scarves, blouses, table linens and much, much more.
What to pay: You must bargain. Prices will be from a few pennies to $100 or more for the highest quality handwork.
Calle Santander is lined with shops day and night. In fact, after visiting the more famous market in Chichicastenango, I'd have to say that you'll get just as many bargains here in Pana. Ryan bought a huge rug that the merchant was asking 1500 Q for and he ended up getting for 400 Q. Between the two of us, we bought some leather goods, some handbags, tee shirts, rugs, hand-carved musical instruments and a few other things. You should always try to shave about 50% off when bargaining.
Music stand in downtown Panajachel. Special was not the stand itself but the discovery of certain aspects of the guatemalan music vocabulary.
What to buy: Music CDs with local compositions. I went though one, two than three disks. Believe me there was no much difference. If you are not buying the music for its special sound(mostly due to the use of marimba) you'd better not buy it because it could quickly become a bit boring/monotonous when listened to.
What to pay: US5-7
What to buy:
It appears that every day is Market Day in "Pana.You will find more permanent shops with textiles and artifacts here that in other places I have reviewed.
What to pay: We found prices to be a bit higher here that at ChiChi. Negotiating for items in boths and from street vendors is still the norm. I have even traded items in a permanent shop.
These weavers were set up at the entrance to the Villa Santa Catarina, a beautiful hotel. See my hotel tip for more information. My only mistake was that I didn't buy everything!