A group of boats on the water next to the docks at Panajachel the best place how to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan

How to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan

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Lake Atitlan is an amazing lake in Guatemala that is a must-visit for any traveler in this fascinating country. Most travelers will arrive in Guatemala City which is a sprawling chaotic place. It can be a little overwhelming if you are not an experienced traveler so it is good to know how to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan before you arrive.

Short on time? Book a shared shuttle (most popular option) here 🚐

7 Ways to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan:

  1. Shared Shuttle
  2. Private Shuttle
  3. Private Driver
  4. Uber
  5. Rent a Car
  6. Book a Tour
  7. Chicken Buses

Where is Lake Atitlan in Guatemala?

Lake Atitlan is located in the central highlands of Guatemala. The largest city on the shores of Lake Atitlan is Panajachel and this is where most travelers will first arrive.

There are many towns located around the shores of Lake Atitlan. They all have very different atmospheres and will suit different travelers.

Read here: This is Lake Atitlan’s most colorful town!

A map showing where Lake Atitlan is located in Guatemala
Map of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
  • San Pedro is the backpacker/party hub
  • San Marcos is full of yoga and spirituality
  • San Juan is a colorful Mayan town that is great for learning Spanish

Whatever town you choose to stay in you will want to first arrive in Panajachel. From Panajachel, you can take a water taxi to any town around Lake Atitlan.

Lake Atitlan Facts:
1. Lake Atitlan is Guatemala’s largest lake and is the crater of an extinct volcano
2. It is up to 340 meters or 1115 feet deep
3. Around 380,000 people live on the shores of Lake Atitlan
4. In the 1950s PANAM and American Airlines suggested introducing bass to the lake to attract fishermen and increase tourism. So PANAM dropped fish in the lake from planes! It sounds insane but it really happened. The introduced fish then destroyed the wildlife in the lake and many local species became extinct 🤯

1. Book a Shared Shuttle

💰 30 USD
⏱️ 4-5 hours
🚐 Book a shared shuttle here

In Guatemala, it is popular to book shuttles when traveling as a tourist. Guatemala does not have many traditional bus companies because most locals travel by Chicken buses.

Chicken buses are cheap and fun but they can be incredibly crowded, uncomfortable, and have crazy drivers with a death wish.

If you book a shuttle you know the shuttle will have a set number of people and that you will get space for your luggage and yourself.

For me, the biggest negative of shuttles is that they are often very slow. They usually take a long time to pick everyone up and can make stops along the way to drop people off.

However, they are the easiest way to travel and are very popular amongst backpackers trying to keep costs low.

If you are looking for a trustworthy company I recommend GuateGo. They run various transport routes throughout Central America and have a great booking site.

Another option with good reviews and a decent price is Xocomil Tours. They offer pickups from Guatemala Airpot to Lake Atitlan at 5:30 am, 10:30 am and 2 pm.

You will pass through Antigua to pick up and drop off passengers which will make the journey longer. However, you can request a direct shuttle but it will cost more.

Shared shuttles are a great option if you are looking to keep costs down but do not mind sharing with others.

Book your shared shuttle here 🚐

Fishermen boats on Lake Atitlan Guatemala one of the main transport options

2. Private Shuttle from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan

💰 200 USD
⏱️ 2.30 hours
🚐 Book a private shuttle here

A far more comfortable way how to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan is by private shuttle. This is a much more expensive option but it will be faster as it will not stop to pick up other passengers. Plus, you have the whole shuttle to yourself.

You can book private shuttles on Viator. They are highly rated and cost 200 USD for 1-2 people, 210 USD for 3 people and 220 USD for 4 people.

So a private shuttle from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan is a great option if you are traveling in a group. Because it gets cheaper the larger your group is.

Book your private shuttle here or here 👇

A grey stone church with green hills in the background at San Juan La Laguna in Lake Atitlan Guatemala
Main square of San Juan La Laguna

3. Hire a Private Driver

💰 165 USD
⏱️ 2.30 hours
🚙 Book a private driver here

Another comfortable way how to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan is to hire a private driver if you don’t mind splashing out.

You can book a private driver on Welcome Pick Ups or Daytrips.com. Both of these websites are international companies that will connect you with a local driver. Your driver may be a taxi driver. But they will be vetted by the website in advance.

I have personally never used either service but they have good reviews online. As with any service like this, there is a slight chance of things going wrong. But the vast majority of customers seem to be very happy.

Book your private driver here 🚙

Tip: An interesting feature of Daytrip.com is that you can pay to add stops to your journey. For example, if you are traveling from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan you can add a 75-minute stop in Antigua for 26 USD. It is a cool option if you feel like breaking up your journey.

The famous Catalina arch in Antigua Guatemala

4. Take an Uber

💰 160 USD
⏱️ 2.30 hours
🚗 Book an Uber here

It is possible to catch an Uber from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan but probably not the best option and easiest option.

From online forums I have read people have said that can be quite hard to get a driver to accept the ride. This may be because Uber is setting the price too low for drivers.

But if you want to risk it you can pull out Uber on arrival and try to get a ride. It should cost you around 160 USD which is about the same price as hiring a private driver. So when you take that into account it is much better to pre-book a driver.

Book an Uber here 🚗

A street full of colorful street art in San Juan La Laguna Guatemala
The streets of San Juan La Laguna

5. Rent a Car

💰 15 USD per day
⏱️ 2.30 hours
🚗 Book a private car here

If you like to have your own transport then the best way how to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan is to rent a car. But I only recommend driving if you are confident.

The roads of Guatemala are chaotic and there are some crazy drivers. But if you are confident it will give you the ultimate freedom to explore the country.

The cheapest place I found to book a car in Guatemala online was on Economybookings. You can rent a car for 15 USD per day and pick it up from Guatemala City Airport.

Book your cheap rental car here or here 👇

A couple sitting on some rocks next to the water at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
The beautiful waters near San Marcos

6. Go on a Tour

Another option to get transport from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan is to go on a tour. Many tours are departing in Guatemala City and visiting multiple towns around the Lake. Optional you can also choose to start or finish in Antigua.

Book one of the most highly-rated tours here:

A woman sitting in on a wooden boardwalk painted in bright colors and in the shape of a boat with Guatemalan people in it

7. Catch Chicken Buses (How we got from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan)

💰 60 Quetzales (8 USD)
⏱️ 5-6 hours

🚌 3 buses

Taking a chicken bus is the cheapest and the most adventurous way how to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan.

There is no traditional commercial bus from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan. So if you want to take a bus you will have to jump on a Chicken Bus. They look like this 👇

A colorful Chicken bus driving down a cobblestone street one of the best ways how to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan

How to Catch the Bus from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan

Catching the Chicken bus from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan is not easy or comfortable. But it is a good option if you want to save money and have a sense of adventure.

To catch the Chicken bus from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan we first went to this spot in Guatemala City. Our Airbnb host told us this was the safest place to catch a Chicken bus.

I am sure there are other places to catch the bus from but this is where we went. You will see a McDonald’s next to a main road. Simply wait by the main road for a bus to go by.

The helpers on the bus should be yelling out ‘Pana’ which is short for Panajachel. You can also wave down buses and ask if they go to Pana.

Tip: Try and sit at the very back of the bus as there is usually space behind the back seats to put your bags. If you do not put them at the back you will either have to put the bags on your lap or have them put on the roof 🎒

A group of people sitting inside a Chicken bus one of the cheapeset ways how to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan

Route: Guatemala City – Los Encuentros – Solola – Panajachel

The first Chicken bus should take you all the way to Los Encuentros for 50 Quetzales (6.5 USD) in about 3 hours.

Remember to always expect the unexpected on Chicken buses. You could be told to get off and change buses in other towns along the way.

At Los Encuentros the bus will stop and the helper should take you to your next bus. This bus brings you to Solola for 3.5 Quetzales (0.5 USD) and takes 30 minutes.

In Solola you will need to take a bus to Panajachel which is parked next to the main square. This bus should cost 5 Quetzales (0.65 USD) and takes another 20 minutes.

The bus will drop you at the far end of town in Panajachel so you can either walk into town for about 20 minutes or take a tuk-tuk.

Tip: When you are on Chicken buses try and keep an eye on how much everyone else is paying. The guys taking the money are usually honest but it is always good to have an idea.

Lake Atitlan Water Taxi

Once you arrive in Panajachel you have made it from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan. But if you are staying in another town on Lake Atitlan you will need to take a water taxi.

There are two areas on the waterfront in Pana where you can catch a water taxi. They are marked here and here on Google Maps.

We caught water taxis from both locations multiple times and as far as we could see both charge the same prices.

Tip: There are public and private boats leaving from these areas. So make sure you get on the public boat as a private boat is much more expensive.

A boat on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala with some green mountains in the background

Lake Atitlan FAQ

We have answered here some of the most frequently asked questions related to how to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan. Still in doubt? Ask away in the comment section at the end of this blog post!

How far is Lake Atitlan from Guatemala City?

Lake Atitlan is 115 km or 70 miles from Guatemala City.

How far is Lake Atitlan from Antigua?

Lake Atitlan is 80 km or 50 miles from Guatemala City.

Where do you fly into for Lake Atitlan in Guatemala?

The best place to fly into Guatemala to visit Lake Atitlan is the International Airport called La Aurora in Guatemala City. There is no direct flight to Lake Atitlan.

How do I go from Lake Atitlan to Guatemala City?

The same way as you choose to go from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan. You can either book a shared or private shuttle, hire a driver, try to take an Uber, rent a car or catch Chicken buses which is the most uncomfortable way but the cheapest and most fun!

How do I get from Guatemala City to San Pedro Lake Atitlan?

The best and most scenic way to get from Guatemala City to San Pedro La Laguna is by shared or private shuttle, Uber or taking Chicken buses to Panajachel. From there you catch the water taxi to San Pedro.

Is Lake Atitlan worth visiting?

Absolutely! Lake Atitlan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Guatemala for good reason. There is so much Mayan culture to see and every town around the lake has something unique to do. We stayed 2 weeks in San Juan La Laguna and loved it.

Can you swim in Lake Atitlan?

Yes! The best spot to swim at Lake Atitlan is at the Nature Reserve in San Marcos. The water is crystal clear and there are diving boards for jumping in and sunbathing. The best months to swim in Lake Atitlan are in the high season from November to May when the water is warmer and clearer due to less rain and higher temperatures.

Is Lake Atitlan safe?

Yes! In general Lake Atitlan is a safe place to visit. However, it is not completely safe in all areas and sometimes you will have to be wary of your safety. This is usually only if you do hikes that go into the hills away from town.

Unfortunately, this is a problem all over Guatemala. If you look up reviews of hikes you will often read from people who were robbed on the track. So before you go ask at your accommodation how safe it is and whether you need a guide.

Should I spend more time in Antigua or Lake Atitlan?

We spent 2 months in Antigua and 2 weeks at Lake Atitlan and loved it. Both places have many unique things to see and do and deserve at least a few days in either destination.

I recommend spending more days at the Lake than in Antigua or an equal amount as there are many cool towns to visit around the Lake while Antigua you could see in one day.

If you are short on time you could spend 3 days in Antigua and 3 days at the Lake to see the highlights of both places and track Acatenango Volcano.

A woman holding a stick while on a hike on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
Hiking along the Lower Mayan Trail

Now you know how to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan!

Lake Atitlan is an amazing place and a must-visit destination in Guatemala. It has such a special atmosphere and we hope to be back there one day.

We hope this blog post helps you enjoy your travels in Guatemala. Bookmark this page for later, leave a comment below or say thanks with a coffee here 💛


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Hi, I am Allan, a travel, health and fitness fanatic from New Zealand. I'm a former lawyer who turned into a full-time nomad in 2020. For the last 4+ years I've been traveling the world. I'm always on a hunt for good food, activities on a budget and workouts on the go. I hope you find my tips helpful and get inspired to travel more!

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