Panajachel Transportation

  • Tuk-tuks parked near the lake
    Tuk-tuks parked near the lake
    by toonsarah
  • Tuk-tuk in Pana
    Tuk-tuk in Pana
    by toonsarah
  • Our ferry to Santiago (on the right)
    Our ferry to Santiago (on the right)
    by toonsarah

Most Recent Transportation in Panajachel

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    Boats on the lake

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 31, 2010

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    Our ferry to Santiago (on the right)
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    The pleasantest way to travel from village to village around the lake, and for most of them the best way too, is by boat. There are two types of boat available – the public ferries and those for private hire. Naturally the former are cheaper but they don’t go to every destination (we couldn’t find one for San Antonio Palopo, for instance) and another disadvantage is that they don’t run at scheduled times but instead wait until full before leaving. We waited about 30 minutes in a boat as it gradually filled up before departing for Santiago Atitlàn. It wasn’t a problem for us as we had all day to explore and quite enjoyed bobbing about gently as our fellow passengers boarded, but if you’re pressed for time you might want to pay the extra for a private boat that will leave immediately.

    You’ll have no problem finding a boat. As soon as you start to approach the lakeside you’ll be accosted with cries of “Lancha? Boat? Santiago?” Try to resist the first person who approaches you, and make your way to the main docking area where you’ll be able to chose between several offers and (if looking for a private boat) negotiate the best deal. There’s also a board here displaying the fixed prices for ferries to some of the other villages so you can see what you should be paying – but remember, a private boat will cost more.

    We paid 175 Q for the two of us for the return trip to San Antonio Palopo, having negotiated the price down from the first-quoted 175 Q each way. The boatman asked us to pay 100 Q on arrival in San Antonio and the balance on the return trip, which seemed fair. He agreed a return time with us and was prompt in coming to pick us up. Although it would have been cheaper to travel in the pick-up trucks that make the journey by road, we enjoyed the 15 minute boat ride each way and liked the fact that we arrived at the bottom of the village, despite the steep uphill climb needed to reach the church at its top.

    Going to Santiago by ferry was much cheaper at 25 Q per person each way – even though the journey took twice as long (not allowing for the 30 minute waiting time). One advantage of the ferries is that you don’t have to buy a return ticket, simply turning up at the dock when you want to go back. If it’s your first time here you probably won’t know how long you’ll want to stay in a particular village (we over-estimated for San Antonio so had to wait for our ride).

    By the way, you can also book a tour on the lake, visiting several villages in the one day. That would be the best option if you only have one day to spare but we decided to spread our visits over the two days we had in Panajachel so the individual boats were better for us.

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    Tuk-tuks

    by toonsarah Written Dec 31, 2010

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    Tuk-tuks parked near the lake
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    Pana is very walkable, especially if just sticking to the main tourist area, but if you fancy a change or feel the need of a lift, a tuk-tuk is the answer. These auto-rickshaws seem to be in almost constant motion through the streets of the town – down Calle Santander to the lake, along a short stretch of lake-front, and back up the parallel street (Santander being one-way) to start again at the top. You can hail an empty one as it passes, or find them lined up in a couple of strategic places, most notably at the turning point on the lake front (near the Atitlàn Hotel) and near the junction at the top of Calle Santander.

    We only once took a tuk-tuk, when we wanted to get from the “locals’ area” of the town back down to the lakeside quite quickly. We were charged 10 Q (I’m sure we could have haggled that down a bit but it’s so little we were happy to pay) and after a bumpy downhill ride were very soon at our destination.

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    Getting to Panajachel

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 31, 2010

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    Lake Atitl��n from the road above Pana

    Panajachel was the second stop on our trip to Guatemala and we had pre-booked a transfer from Antigua with STP, the tour company whose praises I have sung on my Guatemala page. Actually, our planned second stop was Santa Catarina Palopo, a village a few miles from Panajachel, but when Jorge, our driver, picked us up from the hotel in Antigua he explained that STP had reserved a room for us at a hotel in the town itself and recommended that we went there instead. Apparently the hotel in Santa Caterina had been badly damaged by Hurricane Agatha in May 2010 and was still undergoing repairs. A couple visiting two weeks previously had found themselves to be the only guests and were not comfortable there. We were very pleased to agree to the alternative found for us and indeed concluded that we would prefer in any case to be closer to the “action” in Panajachel.

    This was not to be the last we would hear of Hurricane Agatha on our journey, and certainly not the last we would hear from Jorge, who proved to be quite a talker – something he acknowledged and apologised for! To be honest though, we enjoyed his almost constant running commentary on the journey, as it was lively and informative. He covered the history of Guatemala, ancient and modern; Mayan handicrafts and way of life; hurricanes and floods; chicken buses and mad drivers; crops, crime and culture – and more!

    The journey took longer than it normally would – about three hours rather than two. That too was due to Agatha; stretches of the main road had been washed away in the storm and were still (in November) under repair, so we had to take a back road and approach Panajachel from another side. As we came into the town we saw some of the effects of the hurricane for ourselves as the town’s football stadium had been half destroyed and nearby houses had tumbled into the river.

    Driving through the town Jorge explained a little of its layout to us and pointed out a couple of recommended restaurants and bars. At the end of the main street, Calle Santander, we arrived at our hotel where, as a final gesture, Jorge secured one of the coveted lake-view rooms for us. Thank you Jorge!

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    Panahachel to San Cristobal

    by mongo2 Written Apr 10, 2008

    From Pana.to Los Encuentros[via Solola]1 hour,Los Enc.to Huehuetenango[4 hours],Huehue.to La Mesilla[Mexican border}2 hours,La Mes.to Comitan {2 hours]Com.to San Cristobal[3 hours]Factoring in waiting time,be sure and leave Pana.EARLY in the morning,and you should make San Cris.by nightfall.

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    Ferry

    by Hopkid Updated Jul 5, 2007

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    If you're staying in another village around the lake you might take a ferry to get to Panajachel. We stayed in Pana but used the ferry to get to Santiago Atitlan. One of my lasting memories of our trip was the young man yelling out "Panajachel, Pana!" in an effort to attract more passengers for our return ride from Santiago Atitlan. The ferry is really more like a launch and depending on the size will hold from 20 to 40 passengers. The fare is a whopping 25 quetzales (USD 3.00). The price will vary depending on from/to where you are coming/going.

    Be aware that the rides can be pretty rough in the late afternoons if the xocomil (wind) kicks up.

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    Chicken Buses

    by Hopkid Written Jul 3, 2007

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    The chicken buses are so named due to the animals that can sometimes be brought on board as cargo. These are mainly transformed school buses from the U.S. and Canada and still have the familiar high-backed seat benches with no seat belts that we all grew up riding...well at least those of us who went to public school in the U.S. However the buses have been painted various colors and given names that are painted on the top of the windshield and sometimes along the side of the bus. Names like Carmencita, Roxana, and Sanjuanera. These are one of the main forms of transportation between cities in Guatemala and are very convenient and cheap. That said I don't think I can imagine taking a 4-8 hour trip on one of these but the 20-minute ride to from Pana to Solola was very doable.

    There are at least two persons working on each bus: the driver and the person who takes your money. After they've gotten as many passengers on as possible, the bus will set off and the other person will walk down the aisle to collect everyone's fare. If you aren't in a town but need a ride, you can always flag down a bus when it comes by. Simply hold your hand out with the palm facing down and your arm extended out towards the street and wave it up and down. The bus will stop and let you on.

    Riding the chicken bus is a great experience. I think we were the only non-locals riding the bus.

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    Tuk-Tuk (Taxi)

    by Hopkid Written Jul 1, 2007

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    A recent phenomenon in Guatemala, these three-wheeled taxis have helped boost the economy in Pana and other towns that have imported them from India. Rides cost a mere 5 quetzales, 10 Q if you're going up the hill towards Solola for any length including going to the Hotel Atitlan or the Reserva Natural Atitlan. They're small and can hold up to three in the back seat and one up front with the driver. They are fast, cheap, and really fun!

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    Boats

    by acemj Updated Jun 27, 2005

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    Traveling around the lake is best and most convenient by boat. You can catch boats that serve Santiago Atitlán, the eastern shore, and some lake tours from the Barceló del Lago, at the end of Calle del Rancho. There's another dock at the end of Calle del Embarcadero where you can catch boats to San Pedro la Laguna, Santa Cruz and all towns in between. Most rides are on large, tourist-oriented ferries, but you can also catch smaller, faster boats called lanchas, although you'll pay a bit more for the speed and relative privacy. Most of the tours will take you to San Pedro, Santiago Atitlan and San Antonio Palopó and will take most of the day (6-8 hours) and will cost only around 50- 70 Q, depending on how good you are at negotiating.

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    Pickup truck

    by acemj Updated Jun 27, 2005

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    Well, here's one way to get around Panajachel. When Ryan and I decided to go paragliding off of a mountain above Santa Catarina Palopo, we ended up catching a ride in the back of a pickup with some locals. It wasn't comfortable, but it was a cool experience and it was cheap!

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    In conquistadores' foot steps by bus

    by Assenczo Updated Apr 27, 2005

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    Trips to Panajachel can be easily arranged by one of the many travel agences based in Antigua Guatemala. The plethora of the offers is such that the customer has a lot to choose from in terms of prices and routings. The typical mode of transportation is minivan(people carrier). They leave you at the final destination and pick you up at the end of the day. No hussle of figuring out which local bus does the same thing and whether you have to change buses or not. Simple and efficient.

    Related to:
    • Budget Travel

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